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Afghan judge says courts will not bow to outside pressure in Christian convert case

[JURIST] Afghanistan Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada said Thursday that Afghan courts will not bow to outside pressure in the case of Abdul Rahman [JURIST report], who has been jailed for converting to Christianity and who could face the death penalty [JURIST report] under Islamic sharia law [CFR backgrounder] if convicted of apostasy. Mawlavizada said that the "judiciary will act independently and neutrally" and said that the court's will follow the country's constitution [text], but stressed that Afghanistan [JURIST news archive] is an Islamic country. Mawlavizada said that a court will begin to consider Rahman's case in the next several days and noted that if a court sentences Rahman to death, the sentence would have to be upheld by Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile].

The case has drawn international outcry and has caused problems for Karzai, who depends on the support of international troops [NATO ISAF website] to maintain stability in the country. President Bush on Wednesday called the case "deeply troubling" [transcript], saying he was concerned "that a country we helped liberate would hold a person to account because they chose a particular religion over another." Bush said that the US would use its influence to "remind [Afghanistan] that there are universal values." Reuters has more.

5:36 PM ET - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday that he had received assurances from Karzai that Rahman will not face the death penalty. According to Harper, Karzai assured him that the situation would be resolved "in a way that fully respects religious rights, religious freedoms and human rights." AFP has more. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, called Karzai Thursday to seek a "favorable resolution" of the case. AP has more.

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