Parents of aid workers appeal to Taliban for “compassion”



1. Exterior Taliban embassy
2. Car leaving embassy
3. Western diplomats arrive at embassy in car
4. Diplomats greeted by Taliban officials
5. US, German and Australian diplomats get into car after meeting inside
6. Parents of American Shelter Now workers arrive in car
7. Mother of one of the girls shields face from cameras
8. Parents walk into embassy
9. Parents emerge from embassy after meeting Taliban
10. Father of one of the detainees (red t-shirt) gets into car
11. Car departs
12. SOUNDBITE (English) Taliban deputy ambassador Sohail Shaheen
“Yes, I met with the detainees (in Kabul) and applied for the visas for their parents. I had some personal letters and have forwarded them to the foreign ministry. We have the applications and if we receive any word from Kabul we will convey it to the parents.”

STORYLINE:

The parents of two American women imprisoned by the Taliban on charges of preaching Christianity visited Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad on Thursday.

The mother of one imprisoned woman and the father of the other woman had submitted their visa applications on Wednesday so that they might travel to Kabul in hope of seeing their children.

Three Western diplomats, who returned on Tuesday from Kabul after a week of trying unsuccessfully to see the jailed aid workers, also have submitted fresh visa applications for Afghanistan.

The two jailed American women are in their mid-20s, single and have been identified as Dana Curry and Heather Mercer.

The other six jailed foreigners have been identified as Germans George Taubmann, Margrit Stebnar, Kati Jelinek and Silke Duerrkopf; and Australians Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas.

They all work for Shelter Now International and have not been seen since their arrest more than two weeks ago.

In a letter to Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s supreme leader, who is rarely seen in public, the parents of the American women asked for compassion.

Taliban deputy ambassador to Pakistan Sohail Shaheen said the parents also gave letters to be forwarded to their children.

He added that the letters and the visa application had been forwarded to Kabul.

However, it is unlikely the authorities in the beleaguered Afghan capital will deal with the applications before Saturday because Friday is the Muslim Sabbath, when all offices are closed in Kabul.

In Kabul, the Taliban’s Information Minister Qadratullah Jamal told The Associated Press that no one would be allowed to see the detained workers until the investigation was completed.

Despite reports of a Taliban willingness to let the International Red Cross visit the detained workers, Red Cross officials in Kabul said they hadn’t received any permission.

On Wednesday, a Taliban official outside the vice and virtue ministry in Kabul said the eight foreign aid workers had worn the same clothes for the last four days and had refused to accept a change of clothing.

They also refused to eat one day, he said, but relented when the Taliban brought food from their homes in Kabul.

The Taliban authorities in Kabul have refused to say when their investigation will be completed, but they say it has expanded to include other aid organisations.

The World Food Programme is the only other foreign aid organisation mentioned by the Taliban as possibly being implicated in proselytising charges.

The United Nations agency strongly criticised the Taliban’s allegations as baseless and on Wednesday asked the authorities in Afghanistan to stop making the statements.

Shelter Now International is operated by Vision for Asia, a Christian organisation based in Germany.

The Taliban also say they have confessions from the detained workers.

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