Taliban Might Hang Christian Aid Workers

NewsMax.com Wires 
Thursday, Sept. 6, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Eight Western aid workers charged with spreading
Christianity in Afghanistan might be sentenced to death, an official said
Wednesday. Reports emerged of a Taliban offer to exchange the detainees for
an unspecified number of Muslim terrorists and other militants imprisoned
around the world.

"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

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

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.

Return to Project Open Book