Afghan minister rejects German criticism

Afghanistan's economy minister rejected criticism in Germany of the trial of a man accused of converting from Islam to Christianity, according to an interview published Wednesday, and said a death sentence in the case is unlikely.

Abdul Rahman, 41, went on trial last week before a Kabul court. He was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian. The conversion is a crime under Afghanistan's Islamic laws, and a death sentence is possible.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said he views the case with "great concern." A senior opposition politician, Rainer Bruederle, told the Bild daily Wednesday that "if Afghanistan does not quickly modernize its legal system, Germany must think over its help for Afghanistan."

Afghan Economy Minister Amin Farhang was quoted as telling the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily that the "heated and emotional reaction of German politicians is exaggerated and has caused annoyance among Afghans."

Farhang argued that prosecutors were obliged to investigate after his family accused him, "that is Afghan law."

"Of course fanatics demand the death penalty in such cases, but it is very unlikely that it will be imposed on Rahman," he was quoted as saying.

Rahman once worked as an aid worker in Pakistan and also has lived in Germany, according to his family.

His trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam should take there four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime, reports the AP.


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