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Diplomats Denied Access To Jailed Aid Workers In Afghanistan - 2001-09-11


The trial of eight Western aid workers jailed for preaching Christianity in Afghanistan has entered its seventh day (Tuesday).

Western diplomats were unable to see the workers Monday, despite repeated requests to the ruling Taleban militia.

Taleban officials earlier had said the aid workers -- two Americans, two Australians and four Germans -- must decide whether to defend themselves or hire lawyers before diplomats and relatives would be permitted to see them. But diplomats from the three Western countries have said they need to consult with their citizens about that very question.

The detained aid workers did not make a decision on Monday. The diplomats have been in Afghanistan for two weeks and have seen the workers only twice.

The accused appeared in court for the first time Saturday to enter pleas of not guilty to spreading Christianity. They are employees of the German-based aid agency Shelter Now. Sixteen Afghan nationals who worked with the Westerners were also arrested and are being tried separately on similar charges.

The Afghans face the death penalty under the Taleban's harsh version of Islamic law. The fate of the foreigners is unclear.

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