Monday, 27 March 2006

Australian PM acts on Afghan death penalty case

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has spoken out against the possible death sentence for Abdul Rahman, the Christian facing possible charges for apostasy in Afghanistan.

This is the first time John Howard has publicly opposed the death penalty for a non-Australian.

On 24 March, John Howard told Melbourne radio station 3AW that he would make a personal protest to the President of Afghanistan. Press reports today said that Mr Howad had written to the President.

"When I saw the report about this I felt sick, literally," John Howard said on Friday.

"It was an appalling thing that we are fighting, we are putting the lives of Australian soldiers on the line and this sort of thing is allowed. I mean this is outrageous.

"The idea that a person could be punished because of their religious beliefs and the idea they might be executed is just beyond belief. So I am very unhappy about it," the Prime Minister said.

Australia currently has troops stationed in Afghanistan.

He said he would be writing to the President of Afghanistan to reinforce the objections already raised by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

"There can be no justification of any description for this," he said.

"I would have the same level of anger if the person were under threat because he became Jewish or Islamic or whatever. It's got nothing to do with the identity of the religion, it's the principle."

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