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Aid Workers' Trial On Again in Kabul - 2001-09-30


The trial of eight Western aid workers charged with preaching Christianity in Afghanistan resumed today (Sunday) in Kabul.

Little is known about how the trial will proceed. Reporters are not allowed in the courtroom. The prisoners -- four Germans, two Australians and two Americans -- deny all the charges against them.

Proceedings against the eight were postponed after the terror attacks in New York and Washington, nearly three weeks ago.

The defendants met Saturday with their Pakistani defense attorney (Atif Ali Khan), who says they are in good health.

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, who 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's interpretation of Islamic law.

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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