December 2, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. (ANS) -- A human rights agency has learned that the trial of an Afghan Christian arrested for converting from Islam has been temporarily rejected after the judge ordered that unknown corrections be made to his file.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reported in a news release that the case is on the meeting agenda of General David Petraeus and President Hamid Karzai scheduled for Wednesday.
ICC said Sayed Mossa was arrested as part of a nationwide crackdown against Christians after video footage of Muslim converts to Christianity being baptized was aired on Afghan network Noorin TV. After two previous postponements of Mossa's trial, his case was rejected by the judge on September 27.
"The judge had ‘rejected' the file containing the indictment. We understand this to mean that the judge ordered the Attorney General to effect some correction of what is on file," explained a lawyer with Advocates International (AI) who recently arrived in Afghanistan to defend Mossa.
ICC said the AI lawyer added, "In terms of Afghan law, Sayed is entitled to receive a copy of the indictment and to peruse the evidence, if any, on file, so as to file affidavit(s) countering any damaging allegations therein. Sayed had not received such a document, and our own enquiry at the Attorney General had no success."
Since Mossa's arrest, ICC said, he has not been formally charged, given equal protection or legal representation. The only lawyer willing to defend him has been denied the right to represent Mossa in court.
"Afghan law only allows legal representation in court of Afghan citizens by fellow citizens," ICC reported the AI lawyer said. "This is indeed the law, but it is misapplied as it does not abrogate the right to consult any lawyer of your choice."
The attorney continued, "While we are doing all we can to see Sayed our brother receive a more fair trial, we believe the charges should be withdrawn altogether. The right to choose who and what to believe is the most basic of rights, after the right to life. It is outrageous to think that Afghanistan, a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which not only enshrines this right, but also spells out in Article 18 the right to change your religion, should allow a misguided Attorney General to proceed with the prosecution of a suspicion on apostasy."
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, in a news release, "Sayed Mossa has been denied the right to a foreign attorney. Currently, we are working to find an Afghan lawyer willing to defend him. However, if his trial resumes before the international community intervenes, he again may be without legal representation in court. Afghan court officials have said that his punishment may very likely be the death sentence."
Clay continued, "It is time for the international community to condemn President Karzai's administration for allowing a human rights violation of this magnitude to occur. Is this what NATO and the ISAF are fighting for in Afghanistan? If the world is silent, and Mossa is executed, Mossa's case - which exemplifies the freedoms of all Afghans - will always be remembered among the darkest blotches of the U.S.- led war initiative to liberate Afghanistan."
ICC is a human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide.
Copyright 2010 ASSIST News Service.