The Afghanistan "trial" of eight foreign Christians accused of promoting Christianity is in recess today because Friday is a Muslim day of prayer. It remains unclear what's happening in the trial itself. The New York Times reports that a press conference by foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil began and ended yesterday with commentary on the differences between Christian and Muslim beliefs about Jesus. "We will end this conference by saying, praise be to Jesus Christ, who will eventually come as a Muslim and will follow the teachings of Islam," Muttawakil said. But if reporters got a lesson in religious doctrine, they got less information about the trial. Are the foreigners on trial— two Americans, two Australians and four Germans—facing the death penalty, or 3 to 10 days in prison followed by expulsion? Muttawakil was unclear. The lighter sentence, he said, applies to all who are accused of Christian evangelism. "In this case, there is a difference. This is not just an accusation. There is proof." Other issues remain as murky, reports Reuters. "The Taliban, having originally promised the trial would be open to relatives, diplomats and journalists, have so far denied access to the proceedings. It is thought the defendants have yet to appear. It is also unclear whether the 16 Afghans [also arrested], who are expected to be tried separately, would be called to give evidence."
One item was made abundantly clear at the press conference: it will be much harder for aid organizations to work in the country. "We have been relaxed, but now the NGO's [nongovernmental organizations] will be made to obey the laws," Muttawakil said. These include Taliban approval for every staff worker ...1