A senior Taliban official announced that the foreign aid workers on trial for allegedly proselytizing Christianity will be punished according to Islamic law, possibly including the death penalty. Mawlawi Noor Mohammad Saqib told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press, “If they have broken the law and should be hanged, then we will punish them like that.” The trial began Tuesday behind firmly closed doors and is expected to end with a final word from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who will decide the penalty for preaching a banned religion. Saqib reported that Shelter Now International aid workers will be allowed to defend themselves and to hire non-Muslim lawyers. However, no explanation of the case’s legal proceedings was offered to U.S. diplomats, who arrived uninvited to meet with the Taliban’s chief justice yesterday. The court had also not yet decided whether it would allow independent observers or family members into the trial, contrary to reports given Tuesday. According to the BBC, this is the first time in Afghan memory that anyone has been tried for preaching Christianity, and the first time the Taliban has put non-Muslim foreigners on trial for any charge.
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