A Malian activist says an al-Qaida-appointed judge from the Islamic tribunal that meted out harsh punishments while much of the country was under Islamist rule has been released for lack of evidence.

Moctar Mariko, president of the Malian Association for Human Rights, said Saturday that Houka Houka Ag Alfousseyni of the extremist group Ansar Dine was released on Aug. 15 after being arrested in January.

Much of northern Mali fell to Islamic extremists in 2012. In Timbuktu, Ag Alfousseyni allegedly ordered punishments including public beatings for drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes as well as amputations and an execution.

A French-led intervention in 2013 scattered the extremists from northern Mali's main towns.

Mariko said it made no sense to release Ag Alfousseyni because there was ample evidence against him.