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8 Aid Workers at Taliban High Court

September 8, 2001

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Eight foreign aid workers, including two Americans, arrived Saturday in the Taliban’s highest court for the first time to plead their case on charges they preached Christianity in this devoutly Muslim nation.

Less than a week into their trial, the aid workers were driven to the court in a white van accompanied by a truckload of gun-toting Taliban soldiers. Six of the aid workers were women, all of whom were covered in giant black shawls in accordance with Taliban custom.

The aid workers _ two Americans, four Germans and two Australians _ were arrested in early August and their Christian-based organization, Shelter Now International, was shut down. Sixteen Afghan employees of the group were also arrested, but they are to be tried separately.

Since last Tuesday, the Supreme Court Chief Justice Noor Mohmmed Saqib and 14 other judges have been sifting through boxes of evidence of their alleged proselytizing, including Christian literature translated into local languages. The Taliban’s religious police say they confiscated the materials from Shelter Now offices in Afghanistan’s beleaguered capital.

Saqib has refused to say what punishment could be imposed against the foreign workers, saying to do so would be ``premature.″ The Taliban punishment for an Afghan Muslim who either converts to or preaches another religion is death.

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