Afghanistan Rulers Clear bin
Laden As A 'Man Without Sin'
From Access Atlanta
By Elliott Minor
Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The man the United States has declared its No. 1 enemy is "a man without sin," Afghanistan's hard-line Islamic Taliban militia declared Friday in closing its case against Osama bin Laden.
A three-week inquiry headed by Afghanistan's Chief Justice Noor Mohammed Saqib into allegations that bin Laden is waging a war of terror against the United States ended Friday.
"It's over and America has not presented any evidence," Saqib told The Associated Press in an interview at the Supreme Court building in the Afghan capital.
"Without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin. ...He is a free man," he said. Bin Laden has been living in Afghanistan for years with the permission of the Taliban, who control most of the country.
A U.S. court has indicted bin Laden in connection with the Aug. 7 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 people.
Two weeks ago, Washington offered a $5 million reward for the capture of bin Laden, something the Taliban said was tantamount to encouraging terrorist activity inside their war-shattered country.
Saqib said he waited in vain in his cavernous office, stark but for an ornately carved wooden desk and a bright bouquet of plastic flowers, for American officials to provide evidence of bin Laden's involvement in terrorist activity.
"It is their shame that they have been silent," said Saqib. "Anything that happens now anywhere in the world they blame Osama, but the reality is in the proof -- and they have not given us any."
Bin Laden, a Saudi billionaire who was thrown out of his homeland for advocating the ouster of the Saudi royal family, is believed by the United states to be using bases in Afghanistan to train and finance Islamic terrorist groups worldwide that target U.S. interests and U.S. citizens.
In August, the United States launched a missile attack on eastern Afghanistan against suspected terrorist training camps. Twenty-six people were killed; bin Laden was unhurt.
The Taliban have refused to hand over bin Laden to the United States, saying even more Tomahawk cruise missiles would not persuade them to do so. Taliban commanders who know bin Laden say he is living in mountain camps outside the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar along with his three wives, children and a handful of bodyguards.
Bin Laden first came to Afghanistan in the 1980s, enraged by the Soviet invasion of the Islamic country. He fought alongside anti-communist Afghan guerrillas that the United States also supported.
After the war, he returned home and then moved to Sudan. The Saudi government, fearing his brand of militant Islam, stripped him of his citizenship in April 1994. With Western pressure mounting on Sudan, he was forced to leave in 1995 and returned to Afghanistan.
Bin Laden's self-declared war against the United States began after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to protest the presence of U.S troops in Saudi Arabia, home to two of Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina.