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Parents See Detained Aid Workers In Afghanistan; Foreigners Could be Released, but Afghans may be Ex
By Stefan J. Bos
Special correspondent for ASSIST News Service
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (ANS)-- Parents of two American women have seen their daughters for the first time since they and 22 other aid workers were arrested August 5th on charges of spreading Christianity in Islamic Afghanistan. The Bakhtar News Agency (BNA) described the visit as an "emotional reunion" between the mother of Dana Curry, and the father of the other woman, Heather Mercy.
"They hugged and wept," said a BNA reporter who was allowed to remain briefly in the meeting Monday, August 27, that reportedly lasted two hours and was also attended by diplomats from the United States, Germany and Australia.
The two American women are among eight aid workers who were detained along with 16 Afghan employees of the German based Christian aid organization, Shelter Now. There were indications Tuesday, August 28, that four Germans, two Australians and two Americans may face expulsion, but diplomats fear that the Afghan workers could be executed under the Taliban regime's strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Analysts say that in contrast to their Western colleagues, the Afghan Shelter Now staff members have no foreign representation. Under Taliban rule the punishment for any Afghan who promotes or converts to Christianity is death, but a foreigner caught preaching the Gospel could face a short prison sentence and expulsion.
"We have not heard any complaints from them," US diplomat David Donahue told reporters after talking with the detainees. "I think all of them looked well, physically and emotionally." Although the diplomats said they found the eight foreign aid workers "healthy and in good spirits", the fate of the 16 Afghan prisoners is still unknown.
"My brother was the gardener for Shelter Now. Everyone is worrying about the foreigners, but I haven't seen my brother since he was arrested. No one can tell me anything," an Afghan told The Associated Press (AP) news agency. AP reported the Afghan did not want to give his name "fearing reprisals from the Taliban authorities."
The Taliban has threatened to continue its crack down against active Christians and aid organizations believed to be involved in preaching the Gospel, including even the United Nations World Food Program.
Western diplomats were expected to meet representatives of the powerful Justice Ministry, which is spearheading the investigation, along with the Taliban's Ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice. The diplomats and parents were also hoping to see the foreign aid workers again this week.