Iran | Death Penalty According to Shariah Law

Chapter III of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran contains provisions related to the rights of the people.  In this Chapter, Article 22 states: “The dignity, life, property, rights, domicile, and occupations of people may not be violated, unless sanctioned by law.” However, the number of crimes punishable by death in Iran is among the highest in the world. Charges such as “adultery, incest, rape, sodomy, insulting the Prophet Mohammad and other great Prophets, possessing or selling illicit drugs, theft and alcohol consumption for the 4th time, premeditated murder, moharebeh (waging war against God), efsad-fil-arz (corruption on earth), baghy (armed rebellion), fraud and human trafficking” are capital offences.[1] Many of the charges punishable by death cannot be considered as “most serious crimes” and do not meet the ICCPR standards.[2] Murder, drug possession and trafficking, rape/sexual assault, moharebeh and efsad-fil-arz and baghy are the most common charges resulting

Afghan Officials Say Jailed Convert Is Free

Under international pressure, government officials in Kabul, Afghanistan, say they have freed an Afghan man who had been jailed since May and faced the prospect of the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.

The release of the man, Sayed Mussa, 46, follows months of quiet diplomacy between the Afghan government and United States Embassy officials in Kabul, who along with members of Congress and other foreign embassies had sought the former aid worker's release.

Mr. Mussa, a married father of six who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross before his arrest, was released Monday from Kabul Detention Center after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence to go forward with the case, said Gen. Qayoum Khan, the detention center director. But there were conflicting accounts about the terms of his release. A senior prosecutor involved in the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was released only after agreeing to return to Islam.

It was also not immediately clear where he was taken or if he even remains in the country. Some of his relatives, including his wife, said they had not heard from him.

An embassy spokeswoman would not confirm his release and declined to talk about the case, saying only that the embassy continued to monitor Mr. Mussa's case and others like it.

General Khan said Mr. Mussa was released Monday and turned over to the attorney general's office.

"We got a letter from the attorney general's office which said we do not have any proof against this man and his detention needs to be removed," General Khan said. The attorney general's office did not return phone calls Thursday.

Mr. Mussa was arrested last May after a television station in Kabul broadcast images that it claimed showed Westerners baptizing Afghans and other Afghans praying at private Christian meetings. The broadcast stoked fears of proselytizing brought on by the influx of foreigners since the American-led invasion in 2001. Some lawmakers have publicly declared that converts should die.

A senior prosecutor closely involved with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said last month that the government was under heavy international pressure to release Mr. Mussa. But how to release him without upsetting hard-line conservatives in the government and among the public was presenting a challenge, the prosecutor said.

On Thursday, however, the same prosecutor said Mr. Mussa was released only after finally agreeing to return to Islam.

"Mr. Mussa said in front of everyone in high court that 'I made a mistake converting to Christianity and I want to return back to Islam,' " he said, adding that "we worked with Mr. Mussa for a long time to convince him to return back to Islam."

The prosecutor said he did not know Mr. Mussa's current location.

Mr. Mussa was one of at least two Afghans being held in cases that underscore the contradictions and limits of religious freedom in Afghanistan nine years after the end of the Taliban's rigid Islamic rule. The other, Shoaib Assadullah Musawi, who has been jailed in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif since November after being accused of giving the New Testament to a friend, is still being held, a court official said.

Afghanistan's Constitution, established in 2004, guarantees that people are "free to exercise their faith." But it also leaves it open for the courts to rely on Shariah, or Islamic law, on issues like conversion. Under some interpretations of Shariah, leaving Islam is considered apostasy, an offense punishable by death.

Mr. Mussa's cousin-in-law, Said Yaseen Hashimi, said he visited Mr. Mussa at the jail on Monday but when he returned the next day he was told Mr. Mussa had been released the night before.

In a phone interview from Pakistan, Mr. Mussa's wife, whose full name is not being used out of concern for her safety, said she had not heard from her husband and did not know if he had been released.

"I am very concerned about him," she said. "I don't know how he might have spent the time in prison in this cold winter season. Even if he is released I don't know where he might be now. Or maybe he is in one of the foreign embassies for protection."

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 25, 2011
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