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Afghans Resume Trial of Aid Workers - 2001-09-30

The trial of eight foreign aid workers accused of spreading Christianity has resumed in Afghanistan after a 24-hour delay Saturday to allow for proper paperwork to be submitted to the court.

The eight defendants - two Americans, two Australians and four Germans - were arrested along with 16 Afghans in August on charges of spreading Christianity. They work for the international aid group, Shelter Now.

Shelter Now officials deny the charges.

The foreigners have been allowed to hire a Pakistani defense team, but little is known about how the trial will proceed. There is also no clear indication as to what punishment the foreigners would face if they are found guilty, but the Afghans could face the death penalty.

The sister of one of the Australians on trial appealed to the United States to delay any military strikes against Afghanistan until after the trial. U.S. military action has been threatened unless the Taleban surrender suspected-terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan's president has asked the Taleban to release the eight and Pakistani officials say they raised the issue with the Taleban's leader Friday.