KABUL, Afghanistan, AP -Hundreds of people protested in Afghanistan on Monday against a court’s decision to drop a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity, while an official said discussions were underway to determine when he would be released.
Officials said the case was dropped Sunday partially because of concerns that Abdul Rahman is mentally unfit to face trial. The move also followed strong pressure from Western governments.
Prosecutors have said they want doctors to examine Rahman, but they have not confirmed that he would be released. Prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari said state attorneys were working on the case Monday and an announcement would be made later in the day. He declined to elaborate.
An Afghan official closely involved with the case told The Associated Press that the 41-year-old would be released, but authorities were debating how and when it would be done.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, had earlier said that a decision may be made by Monday and that Rahman would not have to remain in jail while prosecutors investigate whether to bring another case against him to the courts.
Rahman is being held at Kabul’s notorious high-security Policharki prison. He was moved there Friday after inmates at a police detention facility reportedly threatened him.
A warden at Policharki said Rahman was still at the jail Monday, detained in a concrete cell by himself.
Muslim clerics have threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.
Monday’s protest ended peacefully about two hours after it started in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, said police commander Nasruddin Hamdrad. The protesters chanted “Death to Bush!” and other anti-Western slogans, while the police stood guard.
Authorities have barred journalists from seeing Rahman. But on Sunday, officials gave an AP reporter an exclusive tour of Policharki, which houses some 2,000 inmates, including about 350 Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
Prison warden Gen. Shahmir Amirpur said Rahman had been asking guards for a Bible but they had none to give him. “He looks very calm. But he keeps saying he is hearing voices,” Amirpur said.
A senior guard said inmates and many guards had not been told of Rahman’s identity because of fears they might attack him.
But Amirpur vouched for the prisoner’s safety. “We are watching him constantly. This is a very sensitive case so he needs high security.”
Rahman’s case set off an outcry in the United States and other nations that helped oust the hard-line Taliban regime in late 2001 and provide aid and military support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. President Bush and others have insisted that Afghanistan protect personal beliefs.
A Supreme Court spokesman, Abdul Wakil Omeri, said the case had been dismissed because of “problems with the prosecutors’ evidence.” He said several of Rahman’s relatives testified he is mentally unstable and prosecutors have to “decide if he is mentally fit to stand trial.”
Rahman was being prosecuted for converting to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He was arrested last month after police discovered him with a Bible.