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LEFT BEHIND

Diplomats and family members who had been in Kabul attempting to support the eight aid workers accused by the Taliban of spreading Christian beliefs have left Afghanistan along with all other foreign nationals, with the exception of a few journalists, members of the International Red Cross, and Medicins Sans Frontiere. None of these groups have been involved in supporting the eight.

The charges they face could result in the death penalty if they are found guilty by the Taliban Supreme Court. Their supporters had been unable to determine even whether or not they would receive a meaningful defense, let alone a fair trial.

In any case, the "crime" for which they have been arrested is not a crime at all, not in any sane legal code.

Two American, two Austrialian and four German aid workers were detained on August 5 along with sixteen others, who have since been released. Taliban officials claimed that two of the workers were arrested while trying to convert an Afghan family using computer material.

The workers have said that they were not engaging in Christian missionary work. They were associated with an agency called Shelter Now International.

A senior Taliban official has said that the eight have "confessed to the crime" and asked for a pardon.

Last year, the Taliban introduced a new law calling for the death penalty for Muslims converting to other religions, and for anyone attempting to bring about conversions.

Shelter Now International is an openly Christian aid group, and as such was vulnerable to this treatment.

Insight: On this day of prayer, please remember the eight and their suffering families. The rest of the media seems to have forgotten about them completely. They are SNI country director Georg Taubmann, Katrin Jelinek, Margrit Stebner and Silke Durrkopf, all Germans; Australians Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas; and Americans Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer.

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