Tags: Afghans | Might | Hang | Christian | Aid | Workers

Afghans Might Hang Christian Aid Workers

Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM

"We will punish them according to law," said Taliban Chief Justice Maulawi Noor Mohammad Saqib. "If they are found guilty, they will be hanged."

The accused would be allowed to have foreign, non-Muslim lawyers, Saqib said.

The eight Westerners, including four Germans, two Americans and two Australians, were among 24 members of Shelter Now International arrested Aug. 6. The other 16 were Afghans.

Their trial began Tuesday behind closed doors. They face charges of preaching Christianity in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

There was no information on when they would appear in court, but the court was examining Bibles and other material allegedly seized from the homes and offices of the detainees.

Diplomats who sought a meeting with Saqib to clarify legal procedure were turned away. Saqib said they would be contacted if and when necessary.

In a related development, the Taliban proposed to the United States that the aid workers be exchanged for Muslim prisoners, including the World Trade Center bomber, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is in a U.S. prison, Lebanon's al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported Wednesday.

The newspaper quoted a source close to the banned Egyptian Islamic Grouping as saying the Taliban offer was relayed to Washington via a U.S. citizen of Arab descent living in New York. The unnamed mediator said he received the proposal from a hard-line Egyptian leader living in Afghanistan with strong ties to Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The newspaper said though the Taliban said it was determined to try the eight Westerners, Islamic sources in Egypt said the movement would be ready for a deal that would secure the release of jailed Arab fundamentalists.

In a statement in Cairo, Abdel Rahman's wife, Aisha, appealed to Mullah Omar and President Bush to go ahead with the deal because of her husband's health.

Mullah Omar was expected to have the last word on the fate of the Westerners. No one has previously been tried for preaching Christianity, and this is the first time the Taliban has put non-Muslims on trial. The Afghan defendants were to be tried at a later date.

A ruling earlier this year said Afghan Muslims converting to another religion would be sentenced to death. But a senior Taliban official said Tuesday that any Afghan convicted of converting to Christianity would be given three days to renounce his faith. He would then be spared the death penalty but would still face other punishments for betraying his religion and traditions.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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We will punish them according to law, said Taliban Chief Justice Maulawi Noor Mohammad Saqib. If they are found guilty, they will be hanged. The accused would be allowed to have foreign, non-Muslim lawyers, Saqib said. The eight Westerners, including four Germans,...
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2001-00-05
Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM
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