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Death Penalty Possible in Taleban Aid Workers Trial

AFGHANISTAN (voa) – The chief justice of Afghanistan’s ruling Taleban faction says he does not rule out the death penalty for eight foreign aid workers being tried on charges of preaching Christianity.

Taleban Chief Justice Noor Mohammad Saqib made the remarks as judges and Islamic scholars completed their second day of deliberations in the case. He said the western aid workers will be punished according to the laws they have broken. He said the punishment would fit the alleged crime and the death penalty is an option.

Earlier, Taleban officials have insisted that only Afghan Muslims will face the death penalty and the foreigners can be jailed and expelled.

Four Germans, two Americans and two Australians from the German-based aid agency, Shelter Now, are on trial. The proceeding is closed to the public and no one has said how long it could last. The Taleban arrested the foreigners along with sixteen of their Afghan colleagues on August 5 for allegedly trying to convert Muslims.

Chief Justice Saqib said even though it is not common practice in Afghan courts, the judges will have no objection if the accused want to use non-Muslim foreign lawyers. But three diplomats from Germany, the United States and Australia were turned away on Wednesday when they arrived at the court uninvited.

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