02/25/2011, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN

Christian in prison for apostasy secretly released in Kabul

Sayed Mussa risked the death penalty for leaving Islam and embracing Christianity. Perhaps the man has already been smuggled out of the country. For months Western diplomatic have sought to secure his release. Another Christian convert still in prison.
 Kabul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An Afghan man who converted to Christianity was freed from prison, where he had been held for nine months, and may have been secretly smuggled out of the country this week. Sayed Mussa, 46, ran the risk of a death sentence for apostasy. His release came after months of discreet diplomatic efforts between the Afghan government and western representatives in Kabul.

Sayed Mussa, married and father of six children, worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross before his arrest. He was released on February 21 from Kabul Detention Centre after the judges had found that there was insufficient material to pursue the charges. This according to Gen. Qayoum Khan, prison director.

It is unclear whether Sayed Musa is still in Afghanistan, or whether he has already left the country. Some relatives, including his wife, say they have heard nothing from him. Diplomats, the U.S. embassy in the first place, refuse to confirm news of his release, and say they will continue to keep the case Mussa, and others like it, under observation.

Gen. Qayoum Khan said that Mussa was brought to court offices last Monday, after the prosecutor sent a letter to the prison, which said there was no evidence against him, and that he was to be released.

Sayed Mussa was arrested in May 2010 after a local television station showed some Westerners baptizing Afghans, and other Afghans who were praying in a secret Christiangathering. Local sources, on condition of anonymity, say the Afghan government has been under massive pressure for his release, and was uncertain, because it feared the reaction of radical Muslims. Some believe Mussa could have reneged on his conversion, before being released. Mussa was one of at least two Afghans in prison on charges of apostasy. Another, Shoaib Assadullah Musawi is in prison since November 2010 in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, accused of having given a Gospel to a friend. The Afghan constitution guarantees freedom to practice religion, but ambiguously leaves the option to courts of referring to the Shari'a on many issues, including conversion. 
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