Taliban urge world to block Afghan executions

KABUL Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:19am EST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a meeting of the General Assembly on the Culture of Peace at the United Nations in New York November 12, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a meeting of the General Assembly on the Culture of Peace at the United Nations in New York November 12, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Taliban, notorious for summary public executions, urged the United Nations on Thursday to press the Afghan government to stop executing prisoners on death row, citing concern about fair trials.

Afghanistan resumed executions this week after a break of more than a year, with three Taliban sentenced for deadly attacks among nine people put to death in the past few days.

Those executions followed a public outcry over rising crime.

About 120 other people have been sentenced to death and their fate rests with President Hamid Karzai, who has to approve any execution order.

The United Nations and European Union have called on Karzai to halt the executions, citing concern about the standards of judicial fairness.

The United Nations says Afghanistan's law enforcement and judicial systems fall far short of internationally accepted standards.

The Taliban leadership council said it too was worried about fair trials.

"We strongly request the U.N., the EU, the Red Cross and human rights groups to earnestly prevent this barbaric act," the Taliban said in a statement on their website, accusing Karzai's government of corruption.

The Taliban, fighting to overthrow Karzai's pro-Western government, have executed dozens of captured soldiers and civilians since U.S.-led forces ousted the militant Islamist movement in 2001.

During their 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban executed dozens of people, occasionally staging killings in public at Kabul's main sports stadium.

In their statement, the Taliban warned the government against more executions, saying the officials responsible for them would be punished.

The Taliban have stepped up their insurgency over the past two years and crime has increased as security has deteriorated.

Fed up with crime, many ordinary Afghans have called on the government to carry out death sentences.

The Taliban won public support in the 1990s, emerging from religious schools on the Pakistani border and largely wiped out crime as they took over the country.

(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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