- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

ROME (Agence France-Presse) — The kidnappers of an Italian photojournalist in Afghanistan offered yesterday to release him in exchange for the return of an Afghan Christian convert living in Italy, an Italian online newspaper reported.

The PeaceReporter Web site said the kidnappers had made the demand via the Italian nongovernmental organization Emergency by telephoning a security worker at a hospital run by Emergency in Lashkargah, southern Afghanistan.

“We want this issue resolved before the end of Ramadan,” PeaceReporter quoted them as saying.

Abdul Rahman, 41, fled to Italy in late March and was given political asylum after being arrested and put on trial in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity.

Islamic Shariah law, on which the Afghan Constitution is partly based, dictates that converts to another religion be sentenced to death unless they revert to Islam.

Mr. Rahman was freed in secret after the Afghan supreme court suspended its case against him, saying it had doubts about his mental stability.

That decision caused an outcry among hard-liners in Afghanistan, but it reassured Kabul’s Western allies, who had put unprecedented pressure on the new democratic government to honor freedom of religion.

Italian news photographer Gabriele Torsello was kidnapped Thursday.

On Monday, he phoned Emergency’s office in Lashkargah, in the volatile southern province of Helmand, to say he was all right.

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