Western diplomats in Afghanistan are again asking for greater access to Western aid workers standing trial in Kabul for trying to convert Afghans to Christianity.
The diplomats from the United States, Germany and Australia -- all based in neighboring Pakistan -- say the visits are necessary to help prepare a legal defense for the accused, who include two Americans, four Germans and two Australians. The foreigners were working with Shelter Now, a German-based relief group.
The chief justice of Afghanistan's Supreme Court, Noor Mohammad Saqib, said he was awaiting word on how the accused wanted to defend themselves. The trial is in its fifth day.
The Taleban has allowed diplomats and relatives of two of the defendants to visits with the accused, who have been kept in isolation since their arrest by authorities five weeks ago.
On Saturday, the eight aid workers entered not guilty pleas to charges of proselytizing Christianity in a court room in the Afghan capital, Kabul. It marked the first time that the aid workers had appeared in public since their arrest five weeks ago.
Sixteen local Afghan staff members of Shelter Now International, who were arrested with the foreigners, have not been seen since they were charged.
Under Taleban law, the foreigners could face jail terms and expulsion from from Afghanistan if they are convicted on the charges. The Afghan defendants face a possible death penalty.
Meanwhile, foreign reporters and their government-assigned Afghan interpreters today were briefly barred from covering the trial.
The journalists were detained for two hours at the Intercontinental Hotel, where the government has housed them.