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Aid Workers to Stand Trial in Afghanistan for Proselytizing

BY Admin  August 29, 2001 at 5:30 PM EDT

Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil said, ”After the investigation is completed, the case will go to court and the court will decide according to Shariat,” or Islamic law. There was no indication as to when the investigation would be completed.

U.S. officials say they will try to ensure a fair trial, although the United States does not officially recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.

Australian diplomat Alastar Adams said diplomats would want to attend the Islamic trial if it does take place.

The Taliban’s announcement followed a second visit to the detainees by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which delivered wool blankets to the site where the foreigners are being held and said they were in good health.

The two Americans, four Germans and two Australians were arrested along with 16 Afghan aid workers for preaching Christianity to the devout Muslims, who constitute the vast majority of the destitute country. Proselytizing by a foreigner is a crime punishable by jail or expulsion. Conversion to Christianity, however, is punishable by death.

The aid workers were all employed by the German-based Christian relief organization Shelter Now International.

The ICRC visited the foreigners on Sunday for the first time at the reform school in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul where they are being held. It was the detainees first contact with the outside world since they were arrested more than three weeks ago.

The detained foreigners have since met with three diplomats from the United States, Germany and Australia, plus the father of American Heather Mercer and the mother of American Dana Curry.

Following Monday’s two-hour meeting, the diplomats, who last week had tried unsuccessfully to visit their nationals, reported that the aid workers appeared healthy.

The Taliban, Afghanistan’s hard-line Islamic government, has not revealed where the arrested Afghans are being held, but the delivery of the 24 blankets hints that they may be detained in the same complex as the foreign aid workers.

Neither the Red Cross nor the diplomats have been able to visit the 16 arrested Afghans, who, according to the Taliban, had converted to Christianity.