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Saturday, 29 September, 2001, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Kabul aid workers trial delayed
Darul Tadeeb school/Taleban guards
The eight aid workers have been held at a Kabul school
The trial of eight westerners accused in Afghanistan of preaching Christianity has been further delayed.

Proceedings, which had been due to resume on Saturday, will now begin again on Sunday, Taleban officials say.

This is to allow for legal procedures needed to arrange for the eight accused to be represented by a Pakistani lawyer, Atif Ali Khan, now in Kabul.

The foreign detainees
Heather Mercer, US
Dana Curry, US
Margrit Stebnar, Germany
George Taubmann, Germany
Kati Jelinek, Germany
Silke Duerrkopf, Germany
Peter Bunch, Australia
Diana Thomas, Australia
The two Americans, two Australians and four Germans are now the only foreign aid workers left inside Taleban-controlled Afghanistan.

Proceedings were disrupted after the 11 September attacks on America, when diplomats and relatives left Afghanistan.

On Friday another foreigner was arrested in Afghanistan, British journalist Yvonne Ridley.

The Taleban say they detained her near the eastern city of Jalalabad, for allegedly entering the country illegally.

Washington demands release

Washington has demanded that the Taleban release the eight aid workers unconditionally. That seems unlikely at this stage.

Atif Ali Khan
The lawyer representing the aid workers has arrived in Kabul
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Friday the parents of the two American detainees were in Islamabad and had sent a package containing food, medicine, letters and personal items with the lawyer.

Preaching Christianity is one of the most serious crimes under Taleban law.

However, Taleban officials have said they will protect the westerners in the event of any American attack.

The same honour code which has made it difficult for the Taleban to deport Osama Bin Laden, whom they view as a guest in their country, may well also protect the eight Westerners.

They have now been in custody for almost two months.

The only messages that have reached family and diplomats since 11 September have been via the Taleban foreign ministry.

Sixteen Afghans arrested at the same time have still had no contact with the outside world.

The BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad
"The US has called for their unconditional release"
See also:

13 Sep 01 | South Asia
Detained Afghan aid workers left behind
06 Sep 01 | South Asia
Confusion over Afghan aid trial
05 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'may execute' aid workers
01 Sep 01 | South Asia
Foreign volunteers leave Kabul
27 Aug 01 | South Asia
Jailed Kabul aid workers 'well'
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