AFGHANISTAN: Said Musa released from prison

Said MusaSaid Musa, the Afghan Christian who had been sentenced to death for apostasy, has been released from prison and has left the country.

A source in Afghanistan stated that Said was released last week and left the country on Monday 21 February, but the exact date of his release was not clear. Further details of Said’s release remained confidential in order to protect him and his family, who still remain in danger. An amputee with a prosthetic leg, Said is married with six young children.

Said’s release follows weeks of intensive diplomatic pressure. Diplomats from the USA and Italy visited Said in prison last week and offered him asylum. After the diplomats left, Said was taken to another room where three Afghani officials again tried to make him recant his faith. They promised to release him from prison within 24 hours if he did so. He refused and was sent back to his cell.

“I told them I cannot follow Islam,” he wrote in a letter. “I am Jesus Christ’s servant. They pushed me much and much. I refused their demands.”

A source in Afghanistan praised the efforts of the international community: “We feel that the release reveals that when many, many people come together trying to enforce justice, in some case like for our friend Said Musa, good things happen, even though it looks impossible.The voices of the people outside Afghanistan who put pressure on the Afghan government and on the international diplomats have been heard.”

When local churches and international bodies advocate for the persecuted in faith, the source added, “they have the power to change things.” He expressed frustration, however, over the slow process for releasing Musa, who had been in prison since 31 May 2010, and over lack of human rights and religious freedom in Afghanistan.

“All this battle during nine months against the government reveals a worse situation than ever about freedom of religion,” said the source. “It is very sad and discouraging, after almost ten years of help from the international community.”

A second Christian, Shoib Assadullah, aged 23, remains in prison in Afghanistan and there are continuing fears for his life as he also is facing the death penalty for apostasy. (Compass Direct/International Christian Concern)