Thursday, June 21, 2007

Abdul Rahman and the rule of law in Afghanistan

A longer entry on Rahman is at Wikipedia. Although a limited religious freedom is granted by the Afghan constitution in this case the courts applied a type of Sharia law that demands the death penalty for apostasy. That this type of law is obviously at loggerheads with anything one might consider as falling under the rubric Canadian values one wonders why we are defending such a law. This is the sort of law that the Taliban could applaud. Officials who blather on about democracy and the rule of law of course ignore these matters. Recognising them might cause cognitive dissonance.

Abdul Rahman (Persian: عبدالرحمن) (born 1965) is an Afghan citizen who was arrested in February 2006 and threatened with the death penalty for Apostasy from Islam when he converted to Christianity. [2] On March 26, 2006, under heavy pressure from foreign governments, the court returned his case to prosecutors, citing "investigative gaps."[3] He was released from prison to his family on the night of March 27.[4] On March 29, Abdul Rahman arrived in Italy after the Italian government offered him asylum.[5]

Abdul Rahman's arrest and trial brought international attention to an apparent contradiction in the Constitution of Afghanistan, which recognizes both a limited form of freedom of religion and the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, which mandates the death penalty for an apostate. The case attracted widespread international condemnation, notably from the United Kingdom and the United States, both of whom led the campaign to remove the fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001 and are the main donors to Afghanistan.[6]

[edit] Arrest and trial
In February 2006, after a custody dispute concerning Abdul Rahman's daughters, members of his family reported him to the police.[12] He was arrested after police discovered that he possessed a Bible.[13]

Legal experts say Abdul Rahman's case existed because of contradictory laws in the Afghan Constitution recognizing both freedom of religion and the Hanafi school of sharia law. Article 130 of the Constitution of Afghanistan enables prosecutors to charge him for apostasy "in accordance with the Hanafi jurisprudence." The text of the article says:

In cases under consideration, the courts shall apply provisions of this Constitution as well as other laws. If there is no provision in the Constitution or other laws about a case, the courts shall, in pursuance of Hanafi jurisprudence, and, within the limits set by this Constitution, rule in a way that attains justice in the best manner.[14]

Prosecutors asked for the death penalty for Abdul Rahman, calling him a "microbe."[12] Prosecutor Abdul Wasi demanded his repentance and called him a traitor: "He should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed." The Afghan Attorney General was quoted as saying that Abdul Rahman should be hanged.[15]

Afghan judge Ansarullah Mawlawizadah holds the Bible found with Abdul Rahman.Abdul Rahman's judicial proceedings, which began on March 16 and became widely known in the international press on March 19, were overseen by three judges in the public security tribunal of Kabul's primary court. Ansarullah Mawlawizadah, the chief judge in the case, said that Abdul Rahman would be asked to reconsider his conversion: "We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him." [16]

Ansarullah Mawlafizada also said "the Prophet Muhammad has said several times that those who convert from Islam should be killed if they refuse to come back, Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity. That is why we have told him if he regrets what he did, then we will forgive him".[17]

The judge added more: "If [he] does not repent, you will all be witness to the sort of punishment he will face."[18]

When facing a possible death sentence, Abdul Rahman held firm to his convictions: "They want to sentence me to death and I accept it… I am a Christian, which means I believe in the Trinity… I believe in Jesus Christ." [19]

After his arrest, authorities barred attempts by the Associated Press news agency to see him, and he was unable to find a lawyer in Kabul willing to represent him.[8]

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