Taliban carry out first public execution since returning to power in Afghanistan

CNN  — 

The Taliban on Wednesday put an alleged murderer to death in the first public execution held in Afghanistan since the Islamist group returned to power.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the man was shot three times by the father of his alleged victim in an execution attended by senior Taliban officials in southwestern Farah province. The man had been accused of stabbing the victim to death in 2017 and stealing a cell phone and bicycle.

The news comes just weeks after the Taliban ordered judges to fully impose their interpretation of Sharia law, including public executions, amputations and flogging – a move that has raised fears of a further deterioration of human rights in the impoverished country.

It is the first public execution since Kabul fell to the Taliban following the withdrawal of US forces from the country in August 2021. During the Taliban’s earlier period of rule, from 1996 to 2001, public executions were common, as were other violent punishments.

Taliban fighters atop a Humvee vehicle take part in a rally in Kabul on August 31, 2021 as they celebrate after the US pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war -- one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. (Photo by Hoshang Hashimi / AFP) (Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images)

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According to the Taliban, the accused had admitted to the killing and the case had been heard by three different courts. Afghanistan’s Supreme Leader Amirul Momineen gave final approval for the execution, the statement said.

The mother of the victim told state-run media agency RTA Pashto that the family had turned down several requests to forgive the alleged killer.

“We said that if we forgive him and he gets released, he would go out and kill someone else’s son. We wanted his punishment to be death so that it could be a lesson for others like him,” she said.

Among the senior Taliban officials present at the execution were the acting chief justice, deputy prime minister, acting interior minister and the deputy governor of Farah province.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a post on Twitter that it “strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and calls on de facto authorities to establish an immediate moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”

Kaheld Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic Law at UCLA and one of the world’s leading authorities on Sharia law, told CNN in November that within the 1,400-year tradition of Sharia, punishments such as public executions had historically been rarely implemented because most Islamic jurists interpreted the law differently to the Taliban.

After seizing power last August, the Taliban had initially attempted to project a more moderate image to gain international support. However, since then it has clamped down on rights and freedoms.

Women in Afghanistan can no longer work in most sectors and require a male guardian for long-distance travel, while girls have been barred from returning to secondary school. Women have also been stopped from entering parks.

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CNN’s Shafi Kakar, Masoud Popalzai, Ehsan Popalzai and Rhea Mogul contributed to this report.