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Aid workers promised fair trial

Dayna Curry is one of eight Western aid workers jailed in Afghanistan.  

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Eight international aid workers facing Taliban justice have been promised a fair trial despite the threat of a U.S. military attack on Afghanistan, according to reports.

Reuters news agency says the promise came from Taliban chief justice Noor Mohammad Saqib who told the eight: "There will be no discrimination or injustice against you."

Saqib said the eight -- four Germans, two Australians and two Americans -- would be tried on the basis of Islamic law.

"The decision of the court will be based on Islamic justice without taking into consideration (differences) between Muslims and non-Muslims," Reuters quoted him as saying.

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The trial of the aid workers, charged with promoting Christianity, resumed Sunday in Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, after a three-week suspension following the terrorist attacks.

Sunday's session has ended and is expected to resume after defense attorneys put together a defense strategy. The eight have been held by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers since early August.

Prisoners said to be treated well

Western officials have not seen the aid workers since September 1, when some family members were allowed by the Taliban to visit them for the first time since they were detained.

A Pakistani attorney, Atif Ali Khan, who met the prisoners for the first time since the trial began, reported they were being well treated.

There was no word on the fate of 16 Afghan Muslims who worked for the aid agency and were arrested at the same time.

The aid workers were brought to court dressed in traditional Afghan clothes by armed Taliban fighters. One of the defendants, German Silke Duerrkopf, at first did not show up to Sunday's proceedings because she said she was feeling ill.

But The Associated Press reported that the court sent for her at a Kabul detention center, saying her presence was necessary. She subsequently arrived, looking pale.

The chief investigator, Mohammed Umer Hanif, read the charges aloud and recited a list of items that had been seized from the aid workers' offices, including what he said were cassettes and reading material related to Christianity.

The judge gave the defense three to 15 days to study and prepare their case, and they will be permitted to meet with the defendants and look at evidence that was seized at the homes and offices of the defendants, Al Jazeera said.

"This is a very unique case. So the circumstances are going to be very different from any other case they have tried over here," Khan said.

Any sentencing by the chief justice needs to be approved by the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

The other aid workers are Americans Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, Australians Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas, and Germans Georg Taubmann, Katrin Jelinek and Margrit Stebner.

Strict Taliban interpretation of Islamic law forbids anyone from converting Muslims to another religion and the aid workers, members of the Shelter Now International assistance group, could face harsh penalties if found guilty.


• Taliban detains UK journalist
September 29, 2001
• Jackson: No plans to go to Afghanistan
September 28, 2001
• Aid workers trial to resume
September 27, 2001

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