KABUL/AMSTERDAM (Worthy News)-- An Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity has been released, a well-informed Christian aid and advocacy group confirmed Thursday, February 24.
Netherlands-based Open Doors said Said Musa has been able to flee Afghanistan. It did not provide more details amid security concerns. The group cautioned that another Christian convert, Shoib Assadullah, was not yet freed from prison.
Musa, 45, was detained in May after a local television network aired footage of Afghans being baptized and participating in prayer gatherings. The broadcast led to a nationwide crackdown against Muslim converts to Christianity.
In a letter smuggled out of his prison in the capital Kabul and published earlier by Worthy News Musa had appealed to "the international church of the world and...President Brother [Barack] Obama and to the head of [International Security Assistance Force] ISAF in Afghanistan" to rescue him from his current jail.
He also asked Christians to pray for him, amid concerns he would be executed. Leaving Islam is still a capital offense in Afghanistan, although the strict Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.
Musa's release came weeks after the ChristenUnie (ChristianUnion) party told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte it would only back a planned Dutch police mission in Afghanistan if the government pressured Afghanistan to release Christian converts and improve religious rights.
The ChristianUnion's support was needed to receive a parliamentary majority for the controversial mission in Afghanistan's Kunduz province.
In a parliamentary debate last month, Rutte pledged he would do everything in his power to prevent executions of Christian converts and his cabinet announced an expert would join the police force to investigate possible religious rights violations in the fragile nation.
It was unclear whether the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had played a role in his release. Musa said he worked 15 years as a physiotherapist for the ICRC's orthopedic center in Kabul, before his arrest.
ChristianUnion legislator Joël Voordewind described Musa's release as "great news" and said the Netherlands should offer the man political asylum and protection. "I hope that the other detained Christian convert [Shoib Assadullah] will also be released."
In a letter dated February 17, Shoaib Assadullah described his imprisonment and expressed little hope that he would be released soon. “Not only has my freedom been taken from me, but I am undergoing severe psychological pressure,” Assadullah wrote.
“Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened with death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti-government prisoners who are in jail.These assaults on my human dignity have affected me negatively, close to the point of death.”
Assadullah was arrested on October 21 in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif for giving a Bible to a man who later reported him to local authorities, Christians said. Voordewind made clear that the Netherlands should continue to pressure Afghanistan's government to end the detentions of Christian converts. "Only in that case can we continue to support the Dutch police mission in Afghanistan," he said.
Despite reported persecution, there may be as many as 10.000 Christian converts in heavily Islamic Afghanistan, according to some Christian rights activists. Other issued figures range from as few as 500 to 8,000 Christians in a country where openly expressing Christian views can reportedly lead to killings by officials, militants or family members, Worthy News monitored.