British Journalist Arrested in Afghanistan, Could Be Tried for Spying
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia said Saturday it had arrested a British woman journalist for entering the country illegally and that she could be tried for spying.
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted a Taliban official as saying Sunday Express reporter Yvonne Ridley was being held in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad and her case had been handed over to the Taliban intelligence department.
"She will be dealt with under the country's law," the news agency quoted the official as saying.
A Taliban diplomatic source here told AFP that Ridley had disguised herself underneath a burqa -- a cone-shaped all-covering garment -- to enter the country, and could have been spying.
"When someone enters Afghanistan like this we become suspicious they are spies. This is being investigated," said the source, who declined to give his name.
The charge of spying in Taliban-held Afghanistan carries the death penalty.
"This is a very serious incident and the investigation could take some time," the source said.
But he asserted she would be well treated. "In Afghanistan our women have their full human rights, and their dignity is protected."
According to Taliban officials, Ridley was arrested on Friday together with two guides some 15 kilometers from the Pakistani border, near Jalalabad. She was not carrying a passport or a Taliban visa.
Ever since the crisis triggered by the September 11 attacks in the United States, the Taliban has barred nearly all foreign journalists from the areas of Afghanistan under its control, although many have entered the area occupied by opposition forces.
The fundamentalist regime has also stopped issuing visas to foreigners.
The Taliban has been threatened with US military strikes unless it hands over Osama bin Laden -- the Saudi-born militant blamed by the United States for the attacks in New York and Washington.
The British Foreign Office said Friday it was "urgently seeking clarification" of Ridley's arrest.
"If this report is confirmed, we urge those holding her to treat her well and to resolve this situation quickly," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said -- PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)