International News

Trial of Christian Aid Workers to Resume in Kabul

Posted: Saturday, September 29, 2001 at 02:40 AM CT

Related Information 

Assyrian Australian Aid Worker Jailed in Afghanistan

by Wilson Younan, SBS Radio. September 28, 2001.

Wilson Younan, host of SBS Assyrian radio program in Sydney, Australia, interviews Mr. Nimrod Thomas, a successful business and computer engineer residing in Perth, Australia. Mr. Thomas speak`s about his niece, Ms. Diane Thomas, who is currently held captive in Afghanistan.

Interview with Nimrod Thomas

Same as above, alternate audio file.

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A lawyer for eight detained foreign aid workers, including two Americans, who are accused of spreading Christianity in Afghanistan left Pakistan for Kabul Friday on the eve of the next session of their trial, a German diplomat said.

Helmut Landes told Reuters that he had been informed by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban Foreign Ministry that the trial would resume Saturday.

``He (the lawyer) is on his way to Kabul ... he left this morning,'' Landes said.

The foreign aid workers -- two Americans, two Australians and four Germans -- and their 16 Afghan colleagues were detained in early August on charges of spreading Christianity.

They all worked for the German-based Shelter Now International (SNI) aid group, shut down by the Taliban at the time of the arrests.

The group's director, Georg Taubman, in his first appearance in the Taliban supreme court this month, denied the charges, saying they had not converted a single Afghan Muslim to Christianity.

That is an offense punishable by death under strict Taliban rules.

Landes said the Pakistani lawyer, Atif Ali, left from Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, bound for Kabul through the Khyber pass.

Taliban embassy officials said Atif Ali and another lawyer had been issued visas and a letter of safe passage to enable them to go to Kabul.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the lawyer was taking a package of food, medicine, letters and personal items for at least the two American detainees, put together by their parents in Islamabad.

The lawyer had an appointment scheduled with Taliban officials at 10 a.m. Saturday but had received no assurances they would let him visit the detainees, he added.

The Taliban last week moved the foreign workers to what they said was a safer location in the wake of possible strikes by the United States, angry at the Taliban's refusal to surrender Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.

The United States says bin Laden is a prime suspect in the deadly suicide attacks in New York and Washington Sept. 11. President Bush has promised to hunt down bin Laden and punish all those who protect him.

The eight are Americans Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, Australians Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas, and Germans Georg Taubmann, Katrin Jelinek, Margrit Stebner and Silke Durrkopf.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court told Reuters this week that all the eight detainees were well. The status of the Afghan detainees was not known.

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