By: Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent ASSIST News Service
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (ANS) — The German based Charity Shelter Now has warned the trial of its eight detained foreign Christian staff members in Afghanistan seems to have been put on hold. "No progress is being made," the evangelical news agency Idea quoted Shelter Now's Chairman, Joachim Jaeger, as saying.
It came as the eight Christians from America, Australia and Germany expressed concern that a stray bomb may hit their detention facility, as the U.S.-led air strikes continued Wednesday, October 31. "Naturally they are still worried that stray bombs may hit their prison," said their lawyer Atif Ali Khan, who has visited them.
However he described them as "in good spirit." Earlier this month one of the German detainees, Georg Taubmann, said that "God is in control of this whole situation." He reportedly wrote in a fax earlier this month that "despite all that is going on, we have a deep peace and have put our trust in Him."
The other detainees have been identified as Americans Heather Mercer, and Dayna Curry, Australians Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas, as well as Germans Georg Taubmann, Katrin Jelinek, Margrit Stebner and Silke Durrkopf.
There is still no word about the circumstances of the sixteen detained Afghan co-workers of Shelter Now, who are expected to face a separate trial. Those familiar with the situation have previously said that the Afghans may face the death penalty for allegedly aiding the Westerners in preaching Christianity in this Moslem nation.
Analysts have suggested that the eight Westerners may be released, but lawyer Khan stressed that this is not possible without a trial. Khan has urged the United States, Australia and Germany to remain diplomatically involved in solving the crisis.
Idea quoted the lawyer as criticizing U.S. President George W. Bush for making the release of the aid workers one of four conditions for a cease fire.
BUNKER HIDE OUT
Afghanistan's Taliban regime has been moving the aid workers to a bunker like hide out, and has suggested it wants to protect the prisoners, ASSIST News Service learned earlier this week. It is unclear however if the bunker may be a potential target for strikes by the U.S. and its allies, who have accused the Taliban of placing military installations near civilian area's including mosques.
On Wednesday, October 31, there were indications that the aid workers would live through another night of heavy bombardments, as more NATO countries became involved in the U.S.-led attacks. The Cable News Network reported that Washington has asked Turkey, a NATO-member country, to send military troops to Afghanistan.
AIR STRIKES INTENSIFY
It came as more air strikes hit front line positions north of the Capital Kabul and the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, amidst concern among aid workers about a growing number of civil casualties and hundreds of thousands nearly starving refugees.
The Taliban has said about 1,500 Afghan civilians have died as a result of the air strikes, the Voice of America reported, adding that the claim could not be independently confirmed.
Assist News Service. Used with Permission.