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Saturday, November 21, 1998 Published at 09:41 GMT

World: South Asia

Osama bin Laden 'innocent'

The Taleban offered to investigate the bin Laden case

William Reeve reports from Kabul
The Taleban authorities in Afghanistan have declared Osama bin Laden, the Saudi dissident accused of masterminding the east African embassy bombings, innocent.

Afghanistan's Chief Justice, Noor Mohammed Saqib, told the Associated Press news agency no evidence had been produced against him.

"Without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin ... he is a free man," he said.

The Taleban Information Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, said the Taleban had now fulfilled their obligations concerning Osama bin Laden.

However, he said the Taleban had ordered him not to use Afghan soil for any activities against other countries and that he had accepted this.

Mr Muttaqi said that if from now on, any country raised the issue with the Taleban it would be viewed as an illogical excuse for attacking Afghanistan.

Show us your evidence

Earlier this month, the Taleban challenged the United States to provide evidence to back its allegations that the militant Saudi millionaire had masterminded the bombing of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

[ image: Osama bin Laden: alleged mastermind of embassy bombings]
Osama bin Laden: alleged mastermind of embassy bombings
Washington wants to try bin Laden in the United States for his alleged involvement in the killing of more than 250 people in the two blasts.

Shortly after the embassy bombings in August, the US launched cruise missile attacks against what it said were Osama bin Laden training camps in south Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan.

$5m reward

Bin Laden has been living in Afghanistan for several years. He was involved in the fight against the Soviet occupying forces in the 1980s and was considered a hero for his part in this holy war, or Jihad.

He left Afghanistan after the Soviet army pulled out, ending up in Sudan. But moved on again after US pressure on the Sudanese Government.

He returned to Afghanistan, where is believed to have remained to this day, as a "guest" of the Islamic militia.

The American government offered a reward of $5m for his arrest, but the Taleban say that, as a Muslim, bin Laden should be tried in a Muslim country.

"It is not just to try a Muslim man in front of a non-Muslim court," the Afghan foreign minister said.

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