TWO Afghans accused of converting to Christianity, including a Red Cross employee, could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer has warned.
Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, told AFP.
“They are accused of conversion to another religion, which is considered a crime under Islamic law. If proved, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment,” Mr Quraishi said.
He said Sayed, who works for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) had already confessed and there was “proof” against Shah.
The ICRC’s spokesman in Kabul, Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, confirmed Sayed’s arrest and said the detained man had worked for the organisation since 1995.
Farnoudi said ICRC representatives had visited Sayed in prison “in accordance with its mandate”.
“During such visits, the ICRC has met Mr Musa (Sayed) several times and intends to visit him in future,” Mr Farnoudi said.
Sayed and Shah were arrested in late May and early June, days after local television broadcast footage of men reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and being baptised, apparently in a house in Kabul.
The government launched its own investigation and suspended two aid groups, Norwegian Church Aid and Church World Service of the US, after the television program reported the two men were proselytising, which is illegal in the devoutly Islamic country.
Several Afghan MPs have expressed their anger over the case, with one from western Herat even calling for the men to be dragged from their homes and publicly executed.
The Afghan constitution, adopted after the fall of the hardline Islamic Taliban in late 2001, forbids conversion to another religion from Islam and in theory can sentence those found guilty to death. But Afghanistan has not executed anyone for the crime in recent history.
The last conversion case to be tried in Afghanistan is believed to be that of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man arrested in 2006 for converting to Christianity. He was eventually released and granted refugee status in Italy, after a wave of international human-rights protests.