Afghanistan's Taleban Chief Justice says eight foreign aid workers being tried on charges of preaching Christianity can hire foreign defense lawyers.
Justice Noor Mohammad Saqib told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (today / Wednesday) that the accused have the complete right to defend themselves and, if they choose, they can even hire foreign, non-Muslim lawyers.
Mr. Saqib refused to rule out the death penalty for the Western aid workers. He said they will be punished according to the laws they have broken and that the death penalty is an option.
The Taleban Supreme Court began the trial of the two Americans, four Germans and two Australians on Tuesday. Taleban authorities say the court proceedings will be closed.
The United States says it is pressing the Taleban for diplomatic access to the trial. Pakistan-based U-S, German and Australian diplomats based are in Kabul seeking information about the proceedings. The diplomats say they have been unable to contact Taleban judicial authorities since last week.
The eight Western defendants, along with 16 Afghan nationals, all work for the German-based charitable organization, Shelter Now. They were arrested early last month. The Afghan staff members are to be tried separately.