Monday, February 14, 2011

Execution trial of Afghan convert is illegal

Said Musa's arrest violates
Afghanistan Constitution says
In early December 2010, we introduced you to Said Musa, an Afghan citizen and 15-year employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, Afghanistan. Said was arrested on May 31, 2010, for converting to Christianity from Islam and has been imprisoned ever since.

Said, 45, was arrested after a television station in the capital city of Kabul broadcast images that allegedly showed Westerner Christians baptizing Afghans. Since the May 2010 telecast, Said has remained in Kabul Detention Center and suffered sexual assault and torture with apparently no access to a lawyer to defend him.

Last week, an Afghan judge told Said he had days to reconvert to Islam or be executed.

On Saturday, The Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance reported that Said’s trial violates the Constitution of Afghanistan (2004) and must be stopped.

“The arrest of Said in the first place and the subsequent demands for death for apostasy violate at least three provisions of the Constitution of Afghanistan, leave aside the illegality of the inhuman treatment meted out to him in the prison,” said WEA-RLC Executive Director Godfrey Yogarajah.

Article 130 of the Constitution states that courts can rely on the Shariah law as per the Hanafi jurisprudence only within the limits of the Constitution and only if a “pending” case does not relate to any provisions in the Constitution or any other law, Yogarajah said.

A case can be pending only is it is first registered under a law, but apostasy is not a crime recognized in the Constitution or any other statutory law, Yogarajah pointed out.

Additionally, Afghanistan is a signatory (1983) to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The three clauses under Article 18 of the ICCPR state:
  1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
  2. No one shall be subject to coercion, which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
  3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
While Article 3 of the Constitution says that no law can be contrary to “the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam,” this is a contradiction the earlier constitutions of the country had since 1923. But after the inclusion of Article 7, which carries a pledge to abide by international conventions, in the 2004 Constitution, the interpretation of Article 3 needs to be reformulated in light of the glaring contradiction, said Yogarajah.

The addition of the provision of Article 7 in the 2004 Constitution was surely not without a purpose, and nor was it an oversight. It was indisputably added to increase the nation’s commitment and compliance to international standards of civil rights.

“Calls for the death of an alleged apostate by extremist elements are understandable, but when the administration seeks death penalty for a convert by the misuse of the vagueness in laws, it raises serious concerns,” said Yogarajah.

Said, whose wife and six children fled to Pakistan after his arrest, is the first trial for apostasy that has reached near execution since the Taliban’s fall. But it is hoped and prayed that the administration of Afghanistan will do nothing that will denote an utter failure of the new regime as well as the international community.

Please pray for Said Musa and his family!

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