Watchdog: Said Musa Released from Afghan Prison, No Longer on Death Row
Said Musa, the Afghan Christian who was facing the death sentence for converting from Islam, has been released from the prison in Kabul, a Christian persecution watchdog reported Thursday morning.
"I got confirmation today that he is out of the country," Aidan Clay, International Christian Concern's, told The Christian Post Thursday.
"It's done. He's out," he said of Musa.
Clay told CP that his source, who is a good friend of Clay and Musa, called him today to let him know a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had contacted him on Feb. 21 informing him that Musa has been released from prison.
"It was a very tense situation. The U.S. government and others didn't want anything to go wrong. Everything needed to be done very, very quietly because of the political ramifications that it could have had," Clay told CP.
The source, which Clay asked not to be named, has visited Musa in prison and has been helping on the diplomacy side on Musa's behalf, according to Clay. Most of the letters that Musa wrote were addressed to this source, he said.
"I'm so thankful to the Lord that he is free and know it was a concerted effort on the part of so many people," the ICC source in Kabul said.
"The Lord has allowed us to take part in this momentous event and I praise Him that it has ended with the freedom of Said Musa. Through Said's letters, he spoke publicly to the world a powerful testimony of his faith and perseverance."
The exact date of Musa's release is still unknown. The Christian Post contacted another persecution watchdog following the case but a representative said they are not aware of Musa's release.
When asked whether anyone has seen Musa after his release, Clay told CP that no one he knew saw the 45-year-old Afghan Christian since his reported release. Musa's current whereabouts are also unknown.
Clay told CP that he stands by the accuracy of his source's reporting.
"They are the only sources who have known everything about this case from the beginning. We have walked this road together almost since the time of the arrest. I don't question the accuracy of the info as, like I said, they visit Said routinely and speak with him on the phone," said Clay.
According to Clay's source, Musa wrote a letter dated February 13, saying he was visited by representatives of the U.S. and Italian Embassies offering him asylum.
In the letter, Musa said that after the foreign representatives left the room, he was visited by three Afghan officials who told him that he would be released within 24 hours if he wrote a statement declaring that he regretted his conversion to Christianity.
"I laughed and replied, 'I can't deny my Savior's name,'" Musa wrote in the Feb. 13 letter. "Because my life is just service to Jesus Christ and my death is going to heaven [where] Jesus Christ is. I am a hundred percent ready to die. They pushed me much and much. I refused their demands."
Musa was then transferred back to his prison cell, according to the letter relayed to ICC.
News of Musa's imprisonment and looming death sentence for charges of apostasy has recently garnered widespread media attention. Several influential Christian pastors and leaders this past weekend took to Twitter to appeal to President Obama for the jailed Afghan's release. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, sent a letter Monday to the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Musa's behalf.
In a statement Thursday, Clay commented on the concerted effort toward Musa's release.
"It has been encouraging to see the international community, including churches, reporters and government officials in Europe and North America, work together for the common goal of freeing Said. Many sleepless nights, prayers and tears have paid off," he stated.
In speaking to The Christian Post, Clay claimed, however, that Musa never took the death threats seriously.
"There's a lot of media reporting recently that Said Musa was given a few days to recant his faith or possibly be executed," said Clay.
"It wasn't a threat. It was the media working on a lot of rumors that were going around. Said was threatened in that way but he never took it seriously."
The Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., declined to comment on Musa's situation or story.
Clay said that they are trying now to switch the media attention from Musa to another Afghan Christian who is facing the same charges for apostasy that Musa was rescued from.
Shoaib Assadullah, 23, was arrested for giving a Bible to a man who later reported him to authorities, remains behind bars, reported ICC. He has spent the past four months in prison.
In a letter dated February 17 and obtained by The Christian Post Thursday, Assadullah wrote that his case is expected to go before a judge shortly since the prosecutor can only hold him for 30 days.
"The court's decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the criminal code which says, 'the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to the Islamic shariah law,'" wrote Assadullah, who is imprisoned in northern Afghanistan. Apostasy is a crime punishable by death under shariah law.
Assadullah also highlighted in his letter that freedom is a gift from God and that "we have to respect human freedom and dignity."
In the letter, he also cited Clause 24 of Afghan Constitution, which says, "Human freedom and dignity is an unalterable right. The government is committed to respect and protect human freedom and dignity."
Despite news of Musa's release, Clay said in the statement that the battle for religious freedom has not yet been won.
"We still have a long road ahead before we witness religious freedom in Afghanistan," stated the ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East.
"We must remain vigilant and keep the public and diplomatic pressure alive by continuing to shout with one voice for Shoaib Assadullah until together, we can also celebrate his release."