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Aid workers' Afghan trial set to resume Sunday

Dayna Curry is one of eight Western aid workers jailed in Afghanistan.  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The trial in Afghanistan of eight Western aid workers, accused of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, has been rescheduled to resume Sunday morning, the workers' attorney said Saturday.

Pakistani attorney Atif Ali Khan briefly visited his clients -- two Americans, four Germans and two Australians -- on Saturday, the same day their trial was initially scheduled to start. Proceedings were delayed one day, Khan said, after he met with the Taliban's chief justice and other judges

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has held the aid workers since early August. Western officials have not seen the aid workers since September 1, when the Taliban allowed some family members to visit them for the first time since they were detained.

Khan said the eight defendants were in good health and eager for their trial to resume.

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"They are good, all of them are well," Khan said. "They were really happy to see us and they would like the trial to proceed."

Khan said he gave one of the detainees some asthma medicine and also gave them letters from their families. He said he expects to spend more time with the aid workers on Sunday.

Regarding their feelings about the court proceedings, Khan said, "They have confidence that the trial will be fair and judicious."

Asked when he expected a verdict in the trial, he said, "It should not be long, but I don't know for sure."

The aid workers are members of the Shelter Now international assistance group. Sixteen Afghan aid workers have also been arrested and charged with proselytizing.

The Taliban's strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids anyone from converting Muslims to another religion.

Their trial was under way when terrorists hijacked four jetliners and attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. The United States accuses the Taliban of harboring suspected terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who has been identified as a "prime suspect" in the attacks.

Diplomats from the United States, Australia and Germany, who had been in the region trying to secure the aid workers' release, left Afghanistan after the attacks because of possible U.S.-led military action in the region.

The parents of the two American aid workers had asked the Rev. Jesse Jackson last week to travel to the area to secure their daughters' release, along with the six others. Jackson said Friday he felt it was not the right time to travel to the region, adding he would "continue to talk with ministers and clergy around the world to work and pray for a peaceful conclusion."


• Taliban detains UK journalist
September 29, 2001
• Jackson: No plans to go to Afghanistan
September 28, 2001
• Aid workers trial to resume
September 27, 2001

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