U.S. asks for legal representation in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, Kyodo - The U.S. State Department on Thursday sent a letter to the Taliban representative in Islamabad asking for legal representation and interpreters for the eight foreign aid workers put on trial Monday in Afghanistan for preaching Christianity.
''The letter asked for a commitment from the Taliban that the detainees would have legal representation and interpreters at the trial and that consular access would be resumed,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a regular briefing. ''So far there has been no response to the letter,'' Boucher said.
The letter was sent from U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain in Islamabad along with the German and Australian embassies to Taliban officials.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's Chief Justice Maulvi Noor Mohammad Saqib earlier said the aid workers from the Shelter Now Organization could be put to death under Taliban laws.
The chief justice said the accused were free to employ foreign lawyers, but that western diplomats would be allowed to attend the proceedings, if decided by the bench.
''Although we understand the courtroom is closed to outsiders, our understanding is no witnesses have been called,'' Boucher said.
Boucher also said the State Department understood that any decision by the court will be reviewed by the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The eight aid workers jailed in a detention center in Kabul for a month, had not received information about their case or their impending trial, Boucher said.
''We would call upon the Taliban to make sure that any proceedings are open and fair,'' Boucher said. ''At this point we really don't have any information one way or the other on what the charges might be...we want to see this case resolved as soon as possible.''
The detainees remain in ''apparent good health'' but the western diplomats have requested a doctor be allowed to visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Boucher said, adding that two parents were able to meet the American women -- Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer for about an hour.
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