A senior Taliban official announced that the foreign aid workers on trial for allegedly proselytizing Christianity will be punished according to Islamic law, possibly including the death penalty. Mawlawi Noor Mohammad Saqib told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press, “If they have broken the law and should be hanged, then we will punish them like that.” The trial began Tuesday behind firmly closed doors and is expected to end with a final word from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who will decide the penalty for preaching a banned religion. Saqib reported that Shelter Now International aid workers will be allowed to defend themselves and to hire non-Muslim lawyers. However, no explanation of the case’s legal proceedings was offered to U.S. diplomats, who arrived uninvited to meet with the Taliban’s chief justice yesterday. The court had also not yet decided whether it would allow independent observers or family members into the trial, contrary to reports given Tuesday. According to the BBC, this is the first time in Afghan memory that anyone has been tried for preaching Christianity, and the first time the Taliban has put non-Muslim foreigners on trial for any charge.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .