bullet US adultery law.
bullet Couple stoned to death for adultery.
bullet US adultery law.
bullet Feminism, the "right to commit adultery".
bullet Countries which uphold adultery law have low murder rates.
bullet The US murder rate increased ten fold since adultery laws were ignored.
bullet Because adultery laws are not upheld, one third of the men in the world behind bars are American men.
Afghan couple stoned to death by Taliban
By Alex Spillius in Kandahar

Coalition forces fail to capture Kabul routes

THE adulterers were led out before a crowd of thousands. The man was placed in front of a wall by his Taliban guards, who bound his hands and feet.

Ten yards to his left, his partner in crime was placed in a pit up to her waist that was quickly filled with earth and rubble. Her hands were tied behind her back.

Her veil was raised as a judge announced their names and crime to the hushed assembly, and warned that the punishment they were about to witness awaited any future transgressors. The veil was lowered again. The temperature approached 100 degrees.

The judge cast the first stone. Lower-ranking members of the Taliban fundamentalist movement joined in, grabbing fist-sized missiles from a pile and aiming at the chests of the guilty, sometimes striking their heads. A few civilians joined in. Many in the awe-struck and petrified crowd whispered private prayers. "I was praying to God to save us from this kind of punishment," said a young man who viewed the scene.

"I threw a stone, and I would do it again," announced a young Taliban called Mohammed Kharim. "I was happy to see Islamic rule enforced. I did not feel sorry for them."

Neither victim made a sound as their flesh, bones and brains were bloodied and broken. The man, a bicycle dealer in his late thirties, Turyali, died within 20 minutes. The woman, Nurbibi, took longer. Her name means "lady of light".

Between her limited vision through the veil and excruciating pain, she would probably not have seen the Taliban who approached, a rock the size of a heavy book held in both hands, to end her life with a single blow to the head.

None of those recounting the execution at its scene this week were willing to condemn it. Under the Taliban, this was the law, and the law of ages; adulterers deserve to be killed.

"This type of intercourse is not good in Islam. I would throw the stone at one of my own family," said Mohammed Kharim, a dull-faced 24-year-old in the uniform black turban and baggy clothes. Our Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said if his daughter stole money he would cut off her hand".

One of them was present at the stoning, checking every few minutes if his mother was yet dead

The fact that Nurbibi, who was in her early 40s, was also Turyali's stepmother seemed incidental to the witnesses.

But for her teenage sons, Habibullah and Asmatullah, the shame was unbearable. Neighbours of the family said it was they who had reported their mother to the Taliban, thus sending her to her death.

One of them was present at the stoning, checking every few minutes if his mother was yet dead. "He was informing the people who were throwing the stones but he had tears in his eyes," recalled a witness.

It is a Biblical story entirely appropriate to a place where the law is based on a 1,400-year-old canon, the Koran, resurrected by the fundamentalist Taliban with particular ruthlessness in Kandahar, the capital of the southern province where the movement was founded two years ago.

Agents of the Taliban's religious police were obviously well informed about the lovers' nocturnal movements. One night, they were allowed to steal on to a roof adjoining that of Turyali's house, where he regularly met Nurbibi. The couple were caught in the act and arrested. After a month's detention, they were found guilty by the city's high court.

"There has only been one stoning. This type of case needs four witnesses who have seen the act with their own eyes," explained Maulvi Mohammed Wali, head of the Taliban's holy law enforcers.

Part of his duty was to ensure that men grow beards, out of respect for the bearded Prophet Mohammed. Any caught clean-shaven were locked in a bare, unlit freight container for up to 10 days, until their beard grew.

The Maulvi, a senior religious title, offers relatives of the murdered personal retribution with a Kalashnikov. If the opportunity to take a life for a life is declined, the murderer is freed.

Guilty thieves, however, have no chance of respite. Half a dozen have had a hand amputated in accordance with the shariat, or holy law, since the fundamentalists took over Kandahar.

The most recent cases, a gang of three, had stolen several sacks of rice. Maulvi Wali described the process: the guilty men were made to squat, blindfold, and hold their arms in front of them.

A surgeon administered an anaesthetic and, while an assistant held the appropriate arm, the surgeon cut off the hand below the wrist bone with a surgical knife in seconds. Justice is performed in Kandahar at Id Gah, or festival place, that in the last century was a British cemetery.

A dusty, concrete expanse the size of three football pitches, it is surrounded on three sides by a stone wall, with a mosque on the fourth.

It was here that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's leader, raised the sacred cloak of the Prophet when he was proclaimed Emir of all Muslims. And, just beyond the perimeter wall, Turyali used to trade his bicycles. His family and neighbours acknowledged he did wrong but could not condemn him or accept his fate.

For fun, the children throw stones at each other

His wife, Nazaneen, spoke through the half-open door of the family homes' courtyard. She wore a red veil, threadbare red sweater and a long, green skirt. She looked in her early 30s. Her features were gentle, pale and rounded. Given the Taliban's ban on women speaking to male strangers, she would communicate only through a female interpreter.

In a soft, sad voice, Nazaneen uttered the refrain of betrayed wives across the world. "I was aware they had intimate relations. They were not in love, but some inner force made them do what they did."

Turyali's father, who died 13 years ago from an illness, had married Nurbibi, about 20 years his junior, after the death of his first wife. Nazaneen's only photograph of her husband is his membership card of a radical Muslim faction, swept aside by the Taliban.

A neighbour said: "He was a good man, a good Muslim. He observed prayers five times a day, and always observed the fast. But Satan tricked him and made him resort to this act."

The eldest of Turyali's and Nazaneen's seven children, their daughter Gulalai, 12, was present at his death, watching from the top of a truck outside the walls for a few minutes before turning her head away in tears.

Standing in the alley outside her house, clutching her youngest sibling, a heavily swaddled three-month-old boy, tears filled her eyes again at the memory and she ran inside. The family home is reached through narrow, uneven, pot-holed alleys lined by 12ft mud walls.

Whole blocks were devastated by Soviet bombs in the 1980s. Dogs pick at scraps, old women struggle with water from the wells and men sit on street corners, smoking. For fun, the children throw stones at each other.