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Saturday, January 16, 1999 Published at 12:32 GMT

World: South Asia

Afghan man survives wall ordeal

Taleban consider homosexuality a capital offence

An elderly Afghan man convicted of sexually assaulting a boy of 12 has survived the Islamic punishment of having a wall pushed on to him.

The man underwent the ordeal in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Friday. An armoured personnel carrier was used to push the 4.5 metre (15 foot) wall on top of the man.

Witnesses initially said that he was dead when the rubble was cleared away 30 minutes later.

But security officers found that he was alive, and took him to hospital.

Islamic law stipulates that if an offender survives the punishment, he is then free.

William Reeve in Kabul met the man in hospital
The BBC correspondent in Kabul, William Reeve, later spoke to the injured man in hospital, who said he had survived because he had not committed the crime.

He told our correspondent that he had been tortured into making a confession, saying that he was 84 years' old and did not have sexual relations with his wife let alone a boy.

Death by stoning

The man was not the first to be punished for sodomy in this way by the Taleban. But he was the first to have it done in Kabul, which the militia took over in 1996.

Death by armoured personnel carrier and toppling wall is a modern variation of a punishment specified under Islamic Sharia law known as "rajim" or death by stones.

The man had been staying the night at a hotel in Maidan Shahr to the west of Kabul when he molested the boy.

The boy cried out, alerting the owner of the hotel who reported the man to the Taleban. He confessed to his crime.

[ image: Harsh punishment keeps down crime in war-torn city]
Harsh punishment keeps down crime in war-torn city
Any homosexual act is considered by the Taleban a crime punishable by death, and it is that, rather than the age of the boy, which prompted the punishment.

Second amputation for repeat offender

Before the sentence against the elderly man, six thieves had their right hands and left feet amputated insided the stadium.

Their crimes included robbing bus passengers while dressed as Taleban fighters carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Another thief, who lost his right hand in a punishment six months ago, had his left foot cut off; his crime was the theft of three carpets said to be worth $200.

Before the second amputation, the man was forced to parade around the stadium showing to the crowd the limb which had been previously amputated.

Five doctors wearing surgical masks administered anaesthetic and performed the amputations while the men were unconscious, according to witnesses.

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