Afghan Authorities Block Lawyer from Visiting Jailed Christian

by | Dec 10, 2010 | Charisma Archive

Second suspect accused of ‘blasphemy’ is government informant, accused
says.
A Christian in
Afghanistan facing “apostasy” charges punishable by death is still without legal
representation after authorities blocked a foreign lawyer’s attempt to visit him
in prison, sources said.
 
A Christian lawyer from the region who requested anonymity travelled to
Kabul on behalf of Christian legal rights organization Advocates International
two weeks ago to represent 45-year-old Said Musa (alternatively spelled Sayed
Mossa). Authorities denied him access to Musa and to his indictment file.
 
“If a man is not entitled to define his own beliefs, and to change those
ideas, under the existing constitutional order of Afghanistan, then how is this
government more moral than the Taliban’s?” the lawyer said in an e-mail to
Compass.
 
After several court hearing postponements, Musa appeared before a judge on
Nov. 27 without prior notice. Rejecting the case file as deficient, the judge
sent it to the attorney general’s office for corrections, according to the
lawyer. The lawyer said he has deduced that the file was missing a formal
indictment and other “incriminating” evidence.
 
The legal expert said that according to Afghan law, Musa is entitled to see
a copy of the indictment and review the evidence against him, but authorities
have denied him both rights. If the prosecutor does not present the court with
an indictment within 15 days of arrest, the attorney said, an accused person has
the right to be released. Musa has been in jail since May 31.
 
Suspicious Second Suspect
The prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, said two
men, Musa and Ahmad Shah, were accused of conversion to another religion,
according to Agence France-Presse. But Musa’s letters from prison and other
sources indicate that Shah is a government informant posing as a Christian.
 
Musa and Shah appeared before the judge on Nov. 27 “shackled and chained”
to each other, according to a source who was present. Though Shah, who was also
arrested six months ago, has denied he is a Christian, the prosecutor said there
was “proof” against him. 
 
Musa and the other sources claim that Shah is an informant posing as a
Christian in order to damage him and other Afghan Christians. They claim that
Shah allegedly sent images of Christians worshiping to the country’s most
popular broadcaster, Noorin TV, which aired them in May.
 
The broadcast appeared on an Afghan TV show called “Sarzanin-e-man,”
or “My Homeland,” hosted by Nasto Nadiri, 27, an outspoken opponent of the
government and a parliamentary hopeful. Noorin TV station is opposed to the
government and does what it can to “embarrass” it, a source said.
 
The broadcast put in motion the events that got Musa arrested, sources
said. The hour-long TV show sparked protests throughout the country against
Christians and a heated debate in parliament. In early June, the deputy
secretary of the Afghan Parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, called for the
execution of converts from Islam.
 
Many converts to Christianity left the country, according to sources, and
many were arrested, though the exact number is unknown.
 
Musa was concerned about the public outcry against Christians and went to
his employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC),
to request personal leave the morning of May 31. Authorities arrested him after
he left the building, and his family could not locate him for nearly two months.
 
The Christian suffered sexual abuse, beatings, mockery and sleep
deprivation because of his faith in Jesus in the first months of his detention.
Last month, after quiet diplomatic efforts, authorities transferred him to the
Kabul Detention Center in the Governor’s Compound. There have been no reports of
mistreatment since he was transferred.
 
The lawyer who tried to visit him said that all Afghans in the country are
assumed to be Muslims, and this assumption is deeply ingrained in the culture.
The result is lack of justice for the “deviants,” he said.
 
“It is the greatest shame on a family, clan and the nation, that someone
would consider to leave Islam,” the lawyer told Compass. “I [saw] the face of
the attorney general literally darken in distaste when he realized we came to
assist this man who committed such a shameful offense. Therefore there are no
‘rights’ Christians can claim.”
 
The lawyer said that from the perspective of the court, if Musa continues
to stand for his faith in Jesus, he will certainly be found guilty of
“apostasy,” or leaving Islam.
 
Though no one knows when a court hearing will take place, monitors expect
it could be any day and, as before, could come without warning. Musa is still
looking for an Afghan lawyer that will agree to defend him in court.
 
In his latest letters from prison, Musa asked Christians to continue to
pray for him and Afghanistan and “not give up.”
 
An amputee with a prosthetic leg, Musa worked for the ICRC for 15 years,
fitting patients for prosthetic limbs. He stepped on a landmine when serving in
the Afghan Army, and his injury required the amputation of his right leg below
the knee, according to World Magazine.
 
Married and the father of six young children, Musa has been a Christian for
eight years.
 
Another Christian in Prison
Another Afghan Christian is in prison for his faith, sources said. Shoib
Assadullah, 25, was arrested on Oct. 21 for giving a New Testament to a man who
reportedly turned him in to authorities.
 
Assadullah is in a holding jail in a district of Mazar-e-Sharif, in
northern Afghanistan. Sources said his family has been unsuccessful at procuring
his release despite paying bribes to officials. As in Musa’s case, because of
the sensitivity of the charges, no lawyer has agreed to defend him. Assadullah
has not reported any mistreatment while in prison.
 
He has stood before a judge at least once since his arrest. The judge asked
him what faith he followed, and Assadullah told him he was a Christian, said a
source who requested anonymity. 
 
Although Assadullah’s family has tolerated his new faith, they are not
pleased with it, the source said, and a few days ago his father disowned him.
Assadullah became a Christian about five years ago.
 
“He wants others to know that he is not frightened, and that his faith is
strong,” the source told Compass. “He is desperately missing having a
Bible.”
 
Assadullah asked that people pray that Afghan believers would stay strong
in their faith, the source said.
Musa and Assadullah are the only known Christian converts from Islam in
prison in Afghanistan, and both face probable apostasy charges punishable by
death under sharia (Islamic law), which is still applied in the
country.
 
Last month, in its 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, the U.S.
State Department reported that respect for religious freedom in Afghanistan
diminished in the last year, “particularly for Christian groups and
individuals.”
 
The constitution states that Islam is the “religion of the state” and that
“no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of
Islam.” The report stated that conversion from Islam is understood by Islamic
clergy, as well as many citizens, to contravene the tenets of Islam.
 
Nevertheless, the country has signed the UN Universal Declaration of Human
Rights stipulating religious freedom, including the freedom to change one’s
faith. The nation’s constitution also provides a measure of religious liberties
under Article 2, but Article 3 limits the application of all laws if they are
contrary to the “beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.”
 
Another source who requested anonymity said the proceedings against Musa
and Assadullah typify the intolerance and abhorrence inherent in Islam toward
open-mindedness and progress. He said that the only sentence possible would be
death, and that if Musa were freed his only recourse would be to leave the
country or be killed.
 
The source voiced exasperation toward the international community and
defenders of human rights for not speaking up for the Christians in prison.
 
“We try as much as we can to push things in order to reveal this unfair
situation, knowing that Afghanistan is a signatory of the Human Rights
Convention,” he said. “But this serious failure of human rights is more or less
accepted as a case ‘so sensitive’ that nobody wants to really fight against.”
 
According to the state department report, estimates of the size of the
Christian community in Afghanistan range from 500 to 8,000.
 

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