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Taliban stages first public execution since takeover

December 7, 2022

Afghanistan's ultra-conservative Taliban leadership has announced what it says is the first public execution that has taken place since its return to power.

Hangman's knot on a rustic wooden table
Image: Nerijus Liobe/Zoonar/picture alliance

A Taliban spokesman said on Wednesday said a man who was convicted of murder had been executed in public, the first such sentence to be confirmed since the Islamists seized back power.

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada last month issued an order to judges to fully enforce strict Islamic law, pressing ahead with public executions, stonings, floggings, and the amputation of limbs for thieves.

The Taliban has carried out several public floggings since the decree, but the Wednesday execution in Farah, the capital of the province of the same name, is the first to be acknowledged as such by the Taliban.

What the Taliban said

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the order of "quisas," referring to the "eye for an eye" principle of justice in Islamic law — had been implemented.

"The supreme court was instructed to implement this order of qisas in a public gathering of compatriots," Mujahid said. 

The decision to carry out the punishment had been made "very carefully,'' Mujahid said, adding that it had been approved by three of the country's highest courts as well as the Taliban supreme leader.

The man who was executed was identified as Tajmir from Herat province, who was convicted of killing another man and stealing his motorcycle and mobile phone. The offense was said to date back five years.

The Taliban's security forces were said to have arrested Tajmir after the victim's family accused him of the crime, and the Taliban statement said he had purportedly confessed to the killing.

Afghan activist recounts torture in Taliban prison

It was initially unclear what the method of execution had been, although hanging and stoning have been used in the past. Several leading figures were said to have traveled from Kabul to attend. Hundreds of spectators were reportedly present.

Promises of moderation betrayed

When the Taliban ruled the country in the late 1990s up to 2000, it carried out numerous public executions, floggings, and stonings of individuals convicted of crimes in Taliban courts.

When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 2021, in the final weeks of the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, the Islamists promised to be more moderate and allow for women's and minority rights.

Instead, they have curbed rights and freedoms, with new rules such as a ban on girls’ education beyond the sixth grade.

"We've seen despicable videos that have circulated online in recent days," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"This indicates to us that the Taliban seek a return to their regressive and abusive practices of the 1990s," he added.

Rights groups like Amnesty International also reported waves of extrajudicial retribution killings and other persecution of people who had cooperated with the former government in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover.

rc/msh (AFP, AP)