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Afghanistan high court clashes with parliament over Christian convert release

[JURIST] Chief Justice Mawlavi Fazel Hadi Shinwari of the Afghanistan Supreme Court [Wikipedia backgrounder] on Thursday asserted the independence of the high court in response to criticism from members of Afghanistan's parliament for the release of Abdul Rahman [Wikipedia profile], the Afghan man who faced the death penalty [JURIST report] for converting from Islam to Christianity. Shinwari said that the parliament could not interfere with the court's rulings and that the court would continue to perform its duties free of influence from the newly-created legislature. On Wednesday, Parliamentary speaker Mohammed Younis Qanooni said that Rahman's release violated Afghan law and called for authorities to prevent Rahman from applying for asylum in other countries [JURIST report]. Qanooni also told reporters that a letter was sent to the Interior Ministry on behalf of the entire parliament demanding Rahman not be allowed to leave Afghanistan, although ministry spokesperson Yousif Stanikzai denied that any letter had been received. Nevertheless, the court has some supporters in parliament as MP Shukria Barikzai echoed Shinwari's contention that the Supreme Court is an independent office that cannot be compelled by the legislature. The Khaleej Times has more.

Rahman was released earlier this week [JURIST report] amid political pressure from Western nations [JURIST report] to put an end to the Christian convert's highly-publicized detention. Just hours after Qanooni's comments on Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile] confirmed that Rahman arrived in Italy and would be granted political asylum. Reuters has more.

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