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Taleban Promises Fair Trial To Western Aid Workers - 2001-09-30


The Taleban's chief justice says that eight Western aid workers on trial for preaching Christianity in Afghanistan will get a fair trial.

Chief Justice Noor Mohammad Saqib told the aid workers Sunday that U-S threats of an attack on Afghanistan will not affect the court proceedings.

The workers' trial resumed on Sunday in Kabul after a lengthy recess following the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The foreigners have been allowed to hire a Pakistani defense team but little is known about how the trial will proceed. Mr. Saqib gave the eight foreigners three to 15 days to prepare a defense.

The defendants -- four Germans, two Australians and two Americans -- deny all the charges against them.

The Western aid workers are members of an international assistance group called Shelter Now. They were arrested in early August along with 16 Afghan co-workers. The Afghans could face the death penalty if convicted. It is not clear what punishment the foreigners would face if they are found guilty.

Converting Muslims to another religion, including Christianity, is a crime under the Taleban interpretation of Islamic law.

Family members of the eight aid workers say they are in good physical shape but under a great deal of stress.

Meanwhile, the Taleban says it is considering possible espionage charges against a female British journalist who is accused of entering the country illegally, without a visa or passport. Yvonne Ridley, a correspondent for Britain's Express newspapers, and two guides were taken into custody Friday outside the eastern city of Jalalabad.

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