The trial of eight foreign aid workers accused of spreading Christianity in Taleban-controlled Afghanistan entered its sixth day Monday.
Taleban judicial officials say they must finish reviewing boxes of evidence before the prosecution and defense can make statements to the court. The officials also say the eight defendants must decide whether to hire attorneys or represent themselves before diplomats and relatives will be permitted to visit them.
The accused - two Americans, four Germans and two Australians - appeared in court for the first time Saturday to enter pleas of not guilty to spreading Christianity. Sixteen Afghan employees of the German-based aid agency Shelter Now also are to be tried separately on similar charges.
The 16 Afghans face the death penalty under Islamic sharia religious law as it is interpreted by the fundamentalist Muslim Taleban. The fate of the foreigners is not clear.
Meanwhile, European Union Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Poul Nielson says the aid workers' case will not be the focus of his upcoming trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr. Nielson told reporters in Brussels today his trip later this week would be to inspect the effectiveness of efforts to relieve the suffering of millions of Afghan refugees displaced by famine, drought and 20 years of conflict. The aid official said E.U. emergency relief was never subject to political conditions.
Some information for this report provided by DPA, AP and AFP