Christian convert seeks asylum overseas as Afghans protest case dismissal

An Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity has appealed for asylum in another country, the United Nations said Monday.

Afghan officials could not immediately confirm that Abdul Rahman had been released after the case against him was dismissed Sunday, but the U.N. statement appeared to confirm growing speculation he was being freed.

"Mr. Rahman has asked for asylum outside Afghanistan," U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards said. "We expect this will be provided by one of the countries interested in a peaceful solution to this case."

The announcement came hours after hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting "Death to Christians!" marched Monday through an Afghan city to protest the court's decision to toss out the case.

Rahman was arrested last month after police discovered him with a Bible and put him on trial last week for converting 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He had faced the death penalty under Afghanistan's Islamic laws.

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. U.S. President George W. Bush and others insisted Afghanistan protect personal beliefs.

The international outrage put Karzai in a difficult position as he also risks offending religious sensibilities in Afghanistan, where senior Muslim clerics have been united in calling for Raham to be executed.

While officials said the case against Rahman was dropped, prosecutors also said earlier Monday they were still examining whether he was mentally fit to stand trial.

Deputy Attorney General Mohammed Eshak Aloko earlier told that the 41-year-old may be sent overseas for psychological treatment if a medical examination that started Monday concludes that he is insane, reports AP.

O.Ch.