By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A disabled Afghan man jailed since May for his Christian faith was to face an Islamic court Sunday, November 21, without legal representation and amid fears he may be executed for converting to Christianity, trial observers confirmed.
Said Musa, 45, was detained May 31, after the local Noorin TV network aired images of Afghan Christians being baptized and worshiping. There were also other arrests in May and June during a crackdown on Christians, but Musa is currently the only known Christian facing a court case in Afghanistan, rights activists said.
Converting to Christianity became national news following the Noorin TV broadcast and ignited a heated debate in the country’s parliament and senate. In June, the deputy secretary of the Afghan parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, called for the execution of converts.
Leaving Islam is still a capital offense in Afghanistan, although the strict Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.
In a handwritten letter smuggled out of his Kabul prison, Musa made clear that he is set to appear before a judge without legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [want to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man’, he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me…I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.”
Christians said they fear Musa might be made an example to show that Sharia, or Islamic law, remains the law of the land.
In his letter, seen by BosNewsLife, Musa 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.
It was unclear whether the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had visited him. Musa said he worked 15 years as a physiotherapist for the ICRC’s orthopedic center in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, before his arrest.
He explained that he was captured in May after a spy told government officials that he headed a home church.
Musa made clear he is concerned about those staying behind, his wife and six children. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled as she can not speak.
Musa himself is an amputee, dependent on a prosthesis for one of his legs. Despite his own disability, he wrote how a prosecutor and other Afghan judicial officials allegedly refused to protect him after he declined to pay a bribe. Authorities have even encouraged the abuse from fellow prisoners, Musa said.
“The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad [things] with me [because of] my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me [with] wood…hands [and] legs [and] put some things on my head.” They also, “mocked me [saying] ‘He’s Jesus Christ’, spat on me [and] nobody let me sleep night and day. Every person spat on me and beat me,” Musa wrote.
“My prosecutor has told something wrong to the judge because he asked [for] money but I refused his request.”
Yet, Musa did not ask to be released but to be “transferred” to another prison. He said he is ready to suffer for Christ and to speak about his faith with others. “Please, please you should transfer me from this jail to a jail that supervises the believers…I also agree…to sacrifice my life in public [where] I will tell [about my] faith in Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, [so] other believers will take courage and be strong in their faith,” he wrote.
But, “For [the] sake [of] Lord Jesus Christ please pray and immediately help me and rescue me from this jail. Otherwise, they will kill me [here] because I know they’re very very very cruel and hard hearted,” he added.
His trial comes a day after the NATO military alliance and Afghanistan agreed to end the international combat mission against the militant Taliban and affiliated groups by the end of 2014. NATO countries would continue to offer support and training for Afghan forces following an operation that claimed lives of both Afghan and international troops.
There has been international concern however that the NATO support has not led to the improvement of rights of minorities, including Christians. “It fills us with great sorrow that after all the lives that have been spent in Afghanistan that this injustice can go on in the public square,” said Ann Buwalda, the executive director of Jubilee Campaign USA, a major Christian advocacy group following the case.
In a statement to BosNewsLife, Buwalda said the group had urged its supporters to pray that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai releases Said Musa.
It is not the first time Christians face execution in Karzai’s Afghanistan. In 2006 Italy granted asylum to a Christian convert, Abdul Rahman, who faced the death penalty for “abandoning Islam.”
Despite reported persecution, there are at least 10,000 Christian converts in heavily Islamic Afghanistan, said rights groups in recent years.
Following is the handwritten letter from Said Musa. Click on the letter to enlarge. Names and some facts have been deleted for security reasons.