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Taliban Sets Deadline on bin Laden

November 9, 1998

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers want evidence of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden’s involvement in terrorist activity by Nov. 20 or ``in our eyes he will be acquitted,″ a Taliban spokesman said today.

Bin Laden has been indicted by a U.S. federal court in the Aug. 7 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 people. The United States has offered $5 million for his arrest.

The Taliban say they won’t turn bin Laden over to the United States, but if the U.S. administration has evidence of his involvement in terrorist activity he will be tried under Islamic law.

About two weeks ago, the Taliban set up a judicial inquiry to investigate allegations against bin Laden and collect evidence.

In the 90 percent of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban, a harsh form of Islamic law is enforced that imposes the death penalty for terrorism.

But so far the judicial inquiry doesn’t have any evidence to back Washington’s claim that bin Laden heads a terrorist network of Muslim militants devoted to attacking U.S. interests worldwide.

``If anyone has any evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in cases of terrorism, subversion, sabotage or any other acts, they should present it to the court before Nov. 20,″ said Abdul Hai Muttmayan, a spokesman for the Taliban religious army.

``If by then there is nothing, we will close the case and in our eyes he will be acquitted,″ he said.

The Taliban army says bin Laden is their honored guest and in Afghan society that guarantees him protection from his enemies.

Washington fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at eastern Afghanistan on Aug. 20 striking suspected terrorist camps believed to be operated by bin Laden, whose loathing for the United States is linked to the presence of U.S. troops in his native Saudi Arabia.

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