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Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghanistan's largest gathering of clerics has called for the revival of strict Islamic law as a way to achieve reconciliation with the Taliban, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

About 350 members of the Council of Ulema, or religious clerics, gathered on August 12 in Kabul and subsequently released a statement in which they appealed to the Afghan government to implement a strict interpretation of Shari'a, or religious, law, including punishments such as death by stoning for adultery and the cutting off of thieves' hands and feet.

A draft of the council's resolution was reportedly sent to the office of President Hamid Karzai for his approval.

"The lack of implementation of Shari'a [punishment] has cast a negative impact on the peace process," said the 10-point resolution issued after the meeting, Reuters reported.

"We, the ulema and preachers of Afghanistan...earnestly ask the government not to spare any efforts in the implementation of Shari'a punishments," it read.

Amnesty International has called the country's legal system "ill" and urged Karzai not to approve the resolution.

Horya Musadiq, a Kabul-based researcher for Amnesty International, told Radio Free Afghanistan that implementing Shari'a would be degrading and a clear violation of human rights.

"Amnesty International considers punishments such as stoning, executing, or cutting human beings' parts off as totally inhuman," she said. "It is an insult to the human being. We are strongly against it."

The Afghan government should instead enact comprehensive reforms of Afghanistan's judiciary system to comply with international standards.

Musadiq added that she believes the Council of Ulema should not be relied upon as it suffers from a "lack of professionalism," which she said increases the risk of biased or faulty decision-making.
A placard showing Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani during a protest in London against her execution
The rights watchdog Amnesty International has criticized the televised confession of an Iranian woman who faces execution by stoning, saying it appears that Iranian authorities "orchestrated" the event.

In the video, broadcast on state television on August 11, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani appears to implicate herself in the murder of her husband.

WATCH: You can see the state television broadcast here, with Ashtiani appearing from around the 10:30 mark.

In a statement, Amnesty says that "televised 'confessions' have repeatedly been used by the authorities to incriminate individuals in custody. Many have later retracted these 'confessions,' stating that they were coerced to make them, sometimes under torture or other ill-treatment."

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director at Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, says “statements made in such televised exchanges should have no bearing on Iran's legal system, or the call to review her case. This latest video shows nothing more than the lack of evidence against Sakineh Ashtiani."

Lawyers who are working on Ashtiani's behalf also reject the validity of the confession, saying it was extracted by torture.

Houtan Kian was quoted by the British daily "The Guardian" as saying Ashtiani was severely beaten and tortured to make her appear on television. Another lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, says the program on which she appeared, called "20:30," is controlled by the intelligence services in Iran.

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