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International brief ~ Afghan citizen faces death penalty for converting to Christianity
International brief ~ Afghan citizen faces death penalty for converting to Christianity

[JURIST] Leading Monday's international brief, an Afghani man is on trial for criminal charges punishable by death related to his conversion from Islam to Christianity over 16 years ago while working for a Christian aid organization in Pakistan. Abdul Rahman has been charged with converting to a "false religion" under Afghanistan's criminal law, which incorporates Islamic Sharia [CFR backgrounder] as binding on all Afghan citizens. If convicted, Rahman could face the death penalty for false conversion and blasphemy. Trial judge Ansarullah Mawlazezadah told reporters that he felt the Afghani draft constitution [official text] was "perfect" in allowing the prosecution and that Rahman would be offered a chance to recant his faith before facing a punishment that could include death by hanging. Rahman's case received official notice after his family denounced him as a Christian during a custody hearing concerning his two children. The case is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan [government website] since the fall of the Taliban regime, and has sparked tensions between conservative Islamic elements of society and more moderate groups calling for a non-Islamic judicial system. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Afghanistan [JURIST news archive]. The London Times has more.

In other international legal news …

  • Government officials in Japan have warned that the current perception of UN reform [JURIST news archive] of the Security Council [official website] has convinced Japan that any attempt to expand the number of permanent members on the Council is highly unlikely. The US has already expressed its belief that Japan should receive a permanent seat on the current 15-member council, but warned that it too failed to see any formula for reform that would garner the necessary approval. UN Charter amendments require the approval of the General Assembly and the Security Council and are subject to the veto authority of the five permanent members. Japanese officials said a final decision is expected this weekend after discussions with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of the United Nations [JURIST news archive]. The Japan Times has local coverage.
  • The leading opposition political party in Thailand [government website] has filed arguments with the Election Commission of Thailand [official website] alleging it has proof already of attempts by the administration of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [official profile] to commit election fraud, nearly two weeks before the currently scheduled emergency elections. Thai Democrats, who are planning to boycott the elections on allegations of government fraud, have submitted reports detailing attempts by the government to hire individuals to stand as candidates for small opposition parties in an attempt to give the April 2 elections more legitimacy in the eyes of observers. The elections are necessary to refill the parliament seats dissolved by Shinawatra [JURIST report] after continued protests of his administrations policies led to civil unrest in Thailand and an aborted attempt at impeachment [JURIST report]. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Thailand [JURIST news archive]. BBC News has more.
  • The International Media Support (IMS) agency and the Federation for Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) [advocacy websites] issued a joint statement Monday warning that the current status of the right to free speech in Nepal is continuing to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Nepal has been under severe press restrictions since the removal of the democratic government [JURIST report] last February by Nepalese King Gyanendra [BBC profile]. The statement also detailed the ongoing battle by lawyers representing various journalistic entities in Nepal to challenge the freedom of press restrictions as contrary to the 1990 Nepal constitution. The announcement was made to coincide with the beginning of a week of protests about journalistic freedom in Nepal entitled "International Advocacy Mission for Press Freedom in Nepal." JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Nepal [JURIST news archive]. has local coverage.