Dispatches > News

Remembering captives

Afghan Christians linger in jail

Issue: "After the revolution," Feb. 26, 2011

British advocacy group Barnabas Fund announced a petition drive on behalf of Sayed Musa, the Afghan Christian jailed in Kabul since a May crackdown on Christian converts from Islam-after "high-level talks involving U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and representatives of the French and German governments have failed to move Afghan President Hamid Karzai to act on his behalf." International director Patrick Sookhdeo said Musa's plight "can be seen as a test case for how Western governments are going to respond to the treatment of converts to Christianity in the Muslim world."

The former Red Cross worker, who is 45 and a father of six, was held in a cell where he was tortured and sexually abused until Western pressure helped to get him moved last October (see "Justice delayed," Dec. 18, 2010). But since that time he has been unable to obtain legal representation and has reportedly been repeatedly coerced into renouncing Christianity.

Musa (whose name is often transliterated as Said Mosa or Mossa) is not the only Christian Afghan authorities have jailed. Shoaib Assadullah, 25, was arrested last October in Mazar-e-Sharif after giving a New Testament to another Afghan. Like Musa, he has been threatened with the death penalty for apostasy unless he returns to Islam, but has not been brought to trial or allowed counsel.

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Apostasy is a crime punished by death under Islamic law. After a report on Musa's case appeared in the Sunday Times of London in early February, rumors circulated that Musa could be sentenced to death and hanged within days. A source in Kabul who has visited Musa told me, "fortunately it was only a threat once again."


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