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Red Cross to Visit Jailed Aid Workers in Afghanistan Sunday - 2001-08-25

Taleban authorities in Afghanistan say representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross will visit eight jailed foreign aid workers on Sunday. The eight, and sixteen local people, were arrested earlier this month and accused of attempting to convert Afghans to Christianity. Taleban authorities have also agreed to allow foreign diplomats and relatives of some of the aid workers to visit the detainees.

The Red Cross representatives are the first foreigners allowed to visit the aid workers since they were detained.

Taleban authorities are holding four Germans, two Australians, and two Americans, along with 16 local staffers from a German-based aid group, Shelter Now International. Shelter Now officials strongly deny there was an attempt to convert Afghans to Christianity.

Taleban authorities also say they will allow diplomats from Germany, Australia, and the United States to return to Kabul to visit the detainees. Family members now in Pakistan who have applied for visas will also be able to travel to Kabul.

Several days ago, the parents of two detained U.S. women sent a letter to the Taleban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, apologizing on behalf of their daughters for any actions they may have committed to offend Afghan sensibilities.

Taleban authorities say the eight foreign workers can now have visitors because they have completed the first phase of their investigation into whether the aid workers were trying to convert Afghans to Christianity.

There has been no communication with the either the foreign or Afghan detainees since they were arrested, but Taleban officials in Islamabad say the foreigners have received letters and other personal items, and that they are in good condition.

The investigation by Taleban authorities into allegations the group was attempting to convert Afghans to Christianity has been expanded to include other aid groups which Taleban authorities have complained about in the past, for allegedly interfering in Afghan affairs.

If found guilty, the foreign aid workers could be sent to jail and expelled from Afghanistan. The Afghans face a much harsher sentence. If they are found guilty, they could be sentenced to death.