Afghans Say Extrajudicial Execution Was Un-Islamic

Kabul, Afghanistan - Under Shari'a law, death by stoning is prescribed in cases of adultery committed by married men and women.

But Islamic scholars, ordinary Afghan citizens, and even the Taliban say that the recent trial and execution of 22-year-old Najiba in Parwan Province was not carried out according to the rules of Islamic jurisprudence.

That, they say, makes Najiba's death a case of murder -- another crime that is punishable by death under Shari'a law.

Maulavi Hanafi, an Islamic religious scholar from eastern Afghanistan, told RFE/RL that Najiba was killed as a result of an "extrajudicial court" ruling rather than a legitimate Shari'a court decision.

"The true [Islamic] scholars must prevent these extrajudicial courts," he said. "For example, if a crime is committed, there must be evidence provided. Every verdict requires evidence."

A video of the execution, official comments, and media reports indicate that no evidence was presented against Najiba.

Reports have widely attributed the trial and execution to the Taliban, but a spokesman for the Islamist group denies Taliban involvement.

Zabihullah Mujahid says Najiba was executed "according to the decision of the people of the region" rather than under a proper Shari'a court ruling.

Tribal Traditions

Mujahid said in a statement on July 10 that Afghans in provincial regions "sometimes make such decisions without being members" of groups or proper Islamic courts.

The Taliban spokesman said villagers issued the guilty verdict and execution order "according to their tribal traditions," rather than Shari'a law.

Maulavi Sidiqullah Fedayee, a Munich-based Islamic scholar from Afghanistan, agrees,

"Islam has very clear rules," he said. "These clear rules of Islam cannot be changed. Those who implement Shari'a simply on the basis of accusations do not have an adequate understanding of the rules of Islam."

Provincial officials say Najiba's trial, verdict, and execution lasted no more than an hour. There was no appeals process, and the same people who issued the guilty verdict against Najiba also sentenced her.

According to Fedayee, a legitimate Shari'a execution order requires higher standards of evidence, an appeals process, and sentencing by a higher court than the initial trial court:

"In a case of adultery, there must be four witnesses, and these witnesses must testify that they actually saw the woman and a man together engaged in sexual intercourse," he said. "The judge should take all of this testimony to another judge and put all the evidence on the table. It is the second judge who checks that all of these procedures were done properly.

"The second judge must then take all of the evidence to the higher Shari'a Supreme Court. The accused has the right to appeal against the verdicts issued by the lower courts. It is the Shari'a Supreme Court that makes the decision on the punishment."

'Cruel And Unjust'

Many Afghans say the Afghan government needs to expand its presence in rural provincial areas in order to stop executions on the basis of such extrajudicial court rulings.

"The government must prevent these extrajudicial courts because many people are unjustly killed by these extrajudicial courts in a very cruel way," said Kabul resident Khalil Ahmad. "This is happening everywhere."

Samar Gul, a resident of Paktia Province in southeastern Afghanistan, maintains it is wrong for villagers to take the law into their own hands.

"The extrajudicial courts belong to nobody," he said. "We all have to obey our laws and the law must not discriminate between people who are living in urban areas or rural areas. The law must be applied equally."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says Najiba's execution was a "heinous crime." The case has also brought international condemnation since video of the execution was released this week.