Yesterday evening, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that her office was very deeply concerned over the developments in the case, and that she has raised the issue in the strongest possible terms with President Karzai. Secretary Rice went on to say that there is no more fundamental issue for the United States than freedom of religion and religious conscience. She noted that this country was founded on that basis and it is at the heart of democracy. These comments were made after our letter was delivered to the President, the Secretary of State, the Afghanistan Ambassador and the representatives of President Karzai.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan also said yesterday that the White House is maintaining close contact with government officials to make sure that religious freedom is protected. We pointed out in our letter that the Afghan Constitution specifically adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for protection of religious liberty and religious freedom. McClellan stated, The actions of the government violate universal freedoms of democracy, and also clearly violate the Afghan Constitution, which, in it, talks about the rights of individuals to worship freely. Freedom of worship, tolerance, and freedom of expression are a foundation of democracies. This was the precise language we put forward in our letters and legal positions. President Bush has gone on to state specifically that he expects the Afghan government to honor the universal principle of freedom. He stated that he was deeply troubled by the developments in the case.
Our international offices are working with European Parliament members; and I was notified yesterday that our Slavic Center for Law & Justice in Moscow issued formal letters of complaint to governmental embassies of Afghanistan in Moscow, as well as with Russian officials. As you can see, the American Center for Law & Justice, the European Center for Law & Justice, and the Slavic Center for Law & Justice are totally engaged in this important matter. We will keep you posted as things develop.
For those just tuning into this story, Id like to give you a quick synopsis of the case:
This Wednesday, March 22, our offices around the globe activated to come to the aid of a 41-year-old man named Abdul Rahman, who is facing the death penalty for becoming a Christian. In a case that is now the first of its kind under the new constitution of Afghanistan, which was ratified in 2004, Abdul Rahman is being charged with leaving the faith of Islam for Christianity. Under Sharia law, this is a crime punishable by death. Abdul stood on trial last Thursday and confessed to having converted to Christianity 16 years ago while working as an aid worker in Pakistan. The trial was one day long and the Judge is expected to issue a ruling within the next two months. Importantly, the Judge has given interviews to the press and one of his most significant quotes states, We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law. Its an attack on Islam. The President and other diplomats in Washington have begun to put some pressure on Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
We have prepared a comprehensive memorandum of law that will be circulated both to U.S. Congressmen and Senators as well as Members of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, France. We have also sent letters to President Bush, President Karzai and the Ambassador to the United States from Afghanistan. Under the Afghanistan Constitution, specifically, Article 7 states: (1) The state shall abide by the UN Charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan has signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Under the UNs Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides the strongest language in defense of Mr. Rahman, Article 18 states: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.