Aid Workers' Trail In Second Day
CNN.com is reporting that The Supreme Court in Afghanistan has begun a second day of deliberations in the trial of a group of aid workers accused of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.
Eight Western charity workers and their 16 Afghan colleagues from the German-based charity Shelter Now International are facing charges of proselytizing ,which is a capital crime in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban views the crime as an offense to Muslims and to Islam, not just in their own country, but to the faith worldwide.
The trial against the eight foreign workers is being conducted separately from the Afghan workers, at a date that has not yet been announced.
None of the accused has yet been brought to court, yet the trial is proceeding anyway. The trial officials are said to be in deliberations, which may mean that they are examining the materials and information gathered in the investigation which followed the arrests three weeks ago.
There has not yet been any indication that other observers, such as family, reporters or international trial observers will be permitted to monitor the trials. The foreign workers are being tried separately from the 16 national workers who have also been accused. Efforts to arrange for monitoring the trial have been stonewalled.
Taliban authorities have not even given any official word on the procedure of the trial or the legal process they face. Officials have said they did not know how long the trial would take, but did say the accused aid workers would be permitted to hire attorneys if they wished.
"They have the complete right to defend themselves in court. If they want to use a lawyer we have no objection," AIP quoted one official as saying. "They can even bring in foreign, non-Muslim lawyers to defend themselves."
A decree issued by the Taliban's supreme leader early this year set the death penalty for Afghan Muslims converting to another religion. But the punishment for foreigners found preaching Christianity is unclear. The Taliban have previously said the group's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, would have the final say on the fate of the aid workers no matter what the court decided.
The Taliban say they have strong evidence that the Shelter Now staff were involved in trying to convert Afghan Muslims to Christianity but had no proof any conversions were actually made.
Mr Saqib, spokesman for the trial officials, has not said when the aid workers will be called to court.
The BBC is reporting that Mr. Saqib has warned that foreign aid workers on trial in Afghanistan on charges of preaching Christianity could be executed. But the Taleban deputy minister for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice has now said that any Afghan convicted of converting to Christianity would be given three days to renounce their conversion.The BBC's Kate Clark says no one has previously been tried for preaching Christianity as far as Afghans can recall, and this is the first time the Taleban have put any non-Muslim foreigners on trial for any charges. He said they would be spared the death penalty if they repented but would still face other punishments for betraying their religion and traditions.