â€œJoelâ€ to be new name of Abdul Rehman. Exiled Afghan convert thanks Italy, Pope for asylum
31 Mar 2006
Mar. 31 (CWNews.com) - Abdul Rahman arrived in Italy on March 30, flourishing the Islamic court order for his execution on apostasy charges, the AGI news service reports.
Rahman had faced the death penalty on charges of apostasy after converting from Islam to Christianity. He was released when the government of Afghanistan-- under heavy international pressure-- ruled that he was mentally unfit to stand trial. Because of continued fears about his safety in Afghanistan, where Islamic leaders insisted on his death, he asked for asylum in the West, and was promptly welcomed by Italy.
The Afghan exile-- who now asks to be identified as Joel, the name with which he was baptized-- thanked Pope Benedict XVI and the people of Italy for their efforts to secure his released. Rahman said that he will look for work in Italy, and hopes never to visit Afghanistan again.