White House Defends Its Efforts for Afghan Christian

Along with the President’s impassioned statements, the Bush Administration is doing other things to try to save the life of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity.

The President’s top spokesman would not rule out use of “back channels”—that is, behind-the-scenes and covert communication to Afghan officials—to stop the possible death sentence on Rahman.

At this morning’s briefing at the White House, I asked Press Secretary Scott McClellan: “Is the administration doing anything—say, through back-channels—aside from the President’s statement to try to save the life of the man sentenced to death in Afghanistan for his Christian beliefs?”

“Yes,” replied McClellan, “Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice spoke with Foreign Minister Abdullah yesterday. We have let the Afghan government know how we feel about this. We are in constant contact with the Afghan government to let them know we are against this. It violates the universal concept of freedom of religion that democracies hold dear, and it violates the Afghan constitution. It’s deeply troubling to people who fought and sacrificed for freedom.”

Later, Deb Orin of the New York Post asked a follow-up question about rumors that Mr. Rahman might be pardoned by the government on the grounds of being mentally unstable. McClellan said, “I’m not going to speculate on that” and “we continue to work with the government of Afghanistan.”