Taliban grants diplomats visas, but no detainee access

KABUL, Reuters

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban on Monday issued visas to diplomats seeking to visit eight foreign aid workers detained for promoting Christianity, but said there could be no consular access and no pardon for those arrested.

“The diplomats … can collect their visas today. However, they can only meet the authorities of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, but not the detainees,” Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Mohammad Zaeef, told a news conference in Islamabad:

When asked when the diplomats could meet their nationals, he said: “They have to wait for a while before they can see the detainees.”

Diplomats from Germany, Australia and the United States said they hoped to travel to Kabul on Tuesday to continue pushing for access to the four Germans, two Australians and two Americans detained with 16 Afghans more than a week ago.

“They will not grant us access to the detainees … but we have decided to go to Kabul to press on with getting access to them,” a German embassy spokesman in Islamabad told Reuters.

A meeting of officials of a 15-nation group of Afghanistan’s main donors in the German embassy in Islamabad called on the Taliban to grant consular access and quickly resolve the case.

On Monday, the purist Islamist movement ruled out pardons for the 24 detainees, all of whom worked for German-based relief organization Shelter Now International and who could face possible execution if convicted of converting Muslims.

Late last week, official Taliban media reported that George Taubmann, Shelter’s Afghanistan director, had appealed for a pardon for his group.