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Afghan convert Abdul Rahman may be safe in Italy, but many of his fellow believers in his home country are not. Several other Christians have been subjected to police raids on their homes and places of work in the past month, as well as to telephone threats.

In mid-March, as international protests over Rahman's trial increased, one young Afghan convert to Christianity was beaten severely outside his home by a group of six men. The gang finally knocked the man unconscious with a hard blow to his temple. He woke up in the hospital two hours later but was discharged before morning.

"Our brother remains steadfast, despite the ostracism and beatings," one of his friends said.

Afghan prosecutors decided in March that Rahman, a convert from Islam to Christianity on trial for apostasy, was not mentally fit to stand trial. They dismissed the case against him, and the high-security prison holding Rahman released him March 27. Some Muslim clerics had threatened to tell their followers to kill the Christian if the courts did not execute him. But Rahman arrived safely in Italy on March 29, according to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Islamist militants have captured and murdered at least five Afghan Christians in the past two years for abandoning Islam. But Rahman's case was the local judiciary's first known prosecution for apostasy in recent decades.

News of Rahman's case did not break until March 16, but police arrested Rahman in February. According to an Ariana TV newscaster, Rahman was asked in court, "Do you confess that you have apostatized from Islam?" The defendant answered, "No, I am not an apostate. I believe in God." He was then questioned, "Do you believe in the Qur'an?" Rahman responded, "I believe in the New Testament, and ...

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May 2006

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