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Australia to lobby Afghanistan over convert's -

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(generated from captions) Jane Hutcheon, Lateline.

Australia will lobby the Afghan Government in an effort to prevent the possible execution of an Afghan man who is facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity.

The 41-year-old has been charged under Sharia law after his relatives informed authorities that he rejected Islam to become a Christian 16 years ago. Geoff Thompson reports. Religious tolerance, Taliban style -

the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan being blown apart in 2001. More than four years after they were driven away, this is the Afghan capital, Taliban-free.

Two successful democratic elections prompted the US President to praise Afghanistan's freedom-inspiring form when he visited Kabul earlier this month. That inspiration will cause others to demand their freedom and, as the world becomes more free, the world will become more peaceful.

But an extraordinary new legal case suggests this is still a country capable of brutal intolerance. Abdul Rahman faces the prospect of execution

for deserting Islam and converting to Christianity in a refugee camp in Pakistan 16 years ago. "They want to sentence me to death and I accept it," he says, "but I am not a deserter and I am not an infidel.

"I am a Christian, which means I believe in the trinity." Afghanistan's new constitution says that no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam. Kabul prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Abdul Rahman because they say sharia law condemns Muslims to death if they reject Islam and refuse to reconvert.

TRANSLATION: According to Article 130 of the constitution of the country, we ask the court to sentence the defendant to severe punishment, meaning the death penalty. Alexander Downer says Australia will be lobbying the Afghan Government. Yes, absolutely lobbying them. I think it is a matter of some concern. The Foreign Minister and others agree

that Australians will wonder why Australian troops are now fighting for a country

which supports executing people because of their beliefs. Whatever the circumstances of this case, we don't want somebody to face execution full stop, but secondly we don't want someone to face execution or be punished just for their religion. Look, I think it's very chilling.

I think every Australian will be deeply shocked that our troops and American troops went in to overthrow the Taliban, to remove, I guess, a regime like this. The US and European nations have also appealed

to the Afghan Government to pressure its conservative judiciary to support religious freedom. Abdul Rahman's individual case is shaping up to be a major test

of Afghanistan's democratic credentials. Geoff Thompson, Lateline.