Afghan convert: execution could be near
WASHINGTON (BP)--An Afghan man in jail for converting from Islam to Christianity says in a handwritten letter that he has been beaten and likely faces the death penalty for his conversion -- and he is requesting that people follow his case.
The letter from Shoaib Assadullah, 23, was smuggled out of prison and posted on International Christian Concern's website. According to ICC, Assadullah was arrested Oct. 21 in Mazar-e Sharif after he gave a Bible to a man who turned him in. During a Dec. 28 court hearing Assadullah was given one week to recant Christianity or face the death penalty, but the U.S. and other governments put enough pressure on Afghanistan authorities to spare his life, ICC reported. He is in prison in Mazar-e Sharif.
Assadullah believes his life is still in danger.
"My case is supposed to be sent to the court shortly, because the prosecutor has the right to hold a case only for 30 days," he wrote, alluding to his Dec. 28 court appearance. "The court's decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the criminal code which says, 'If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to the Islamic Shariah law.'"
Assadullah is the second of two Christian converts whose cases have made worldwide headlines. Said (or Sayed) Musa, an Afghan man who was arrested in May and threatened with execution for becoming a follower of Christ, was released in February following international pressure on the Afghan government. Many Christian leaders in the U.S. have expressed concern that Christians are still being persecuted in Afghanistan, a country that was supposedly freed from radical Islam by the U.S.-led military coalition.
"Not only has my freedom been taken from me, but I [am] undergoing severe psychological pressure," Assadullah wrote. "Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened to death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti government prisoners who are in jail."
Assadullah also says his mother died "from the grief" of her son facing the death penalty, and that he was not allowed to attend her funeral.
He concluded his letter, which was written to no one specific, "I request that you follow my case."
ICC asked concerned citizens to call the Afghanistan embassy in the U.S. (202-483-6410). The embassy's web address is www.EmbassyOfAfghanistan.org.
Following is the full text of Assadullah's letter, as translated into English:
"My name is Shoaib Said Assadullah. I am 23 years old. For the last four months I have been imprisoned in Qasre Shahi prison, Mazar-e Sharif for the crime of apostasy, which means I've changed my beliefs.
"Not only has my freedom been taken from me, but I [am] undergoing severe psychological pressure. Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened to death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti government prisoners who are in jail.
"These assaults on my human dignity have affected me negatively, close to the point of death. On the other hand, the court has delayed their decision so that my apparent psychiatric problems will be cured. I do not think this is possible in prison.
"My case is supposed to be sent to the court shortly, because the prosecutor has the right to hold a case only for 30 days. The court's decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the [Afghan] criminal code which says, 'If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to the Islamic Shariah law.'
"Furthermore, my mother died less than a month ago from the grief that her beloved son was jailed with the threat of the death penalty over him. The authorities did not even allow me to attend the funeral ceremonies and pay my respects to her. This is against Clause 37 of in the [Afghan] law regarding prisons.
"Not seeing my mother for the last time was more painful than anything else. I would like to add that freedom is a gift from God. This means that we have to respect human freedom and dignity. Clause 24 of Afghan Constitution says, 'Human freedom and dignity is an unalterable right. The government is committed to respect and protect human freedom and dignity.'
"Article 3 of the [U.N.] Universal Declaration of Human Rights is violated if the Afghan government does not respect Articles 18 and 19.  Article 3 of Declaration of Human Rights says: 'Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.' Simply stated, if Sharia law is implemented in my case, the Articles 1, 2, 3, 18 and 19 of the Declaration [of] Human Rights will be violated.
"I request that you follow my case.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.
 Article 18 says "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." Article 19 says "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."