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AFGHANISTAN AID WORKERS - 2001-08-25


Afghanistan's ruling Taleban says it will allow diplomats and other visitors to see eight foreign aid workers detained in Kabul.

Representatives of the International Red Cross will be the first to visit on Sunday. Diplomats and relatives of the two Americans, four Germans, and two Australians have been issued visas for a Monday visit.

The aid workers for the German-based Shelter Now Agency were arrested earlier this month along with 16 local Afghan staff members on charges of trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. Shelter Now has strongly denied that there have been any attempted religious conversions.

The Red Cross says it will insist that Taleban officials agree to certain guarantees for its visit with the foreign detainees.

In Geneva, I-C-R-C spokeswoman Antonella Notari said today (Saturday) Red Cross officials would insist that they be able to meet with all the detainees separately, without witnesses, and that they be able to deliver messages from their families.

The Red Cross would insist upon making repeat visits for as long as the foreigners are detained, whenever the organization felt it was necessary. Ms. Notari added that the visit with the detainees was necessary to see if they needed medicine or other supplies.

The Red Cross officials will meet tomorrow (Sunday) to discuss their demands with Taleban officials.

There has been no communication with the detainees since they were arrested. Taleban officials say the foreigners have received letters and other personal items, and adds they are in good condition.

Taleban authorities say they issued visas to the diplomats and relatives of the detained workers because they have completed the first phase of their investigation

U-S, German, and Australian diplomats returned to Pakistan earlier this week after spending a week in Afghanistan in an attempt to see the workers.

If found guilty, the foreigners could be sent to jail and expelled from Afghanistan. The accused Afghans face harsher penalties, including death.

The Taleban practices a conservative version of Islam that makes it illegal to convert an Afghan Muslim to Christianity.

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