"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Friday, September 30, 2016

Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue

Yusef Salaam, left, is led away by a detective after being arrested in Central Park for allegedly attacking Trisha Meili.
Yusef Salaam, left, is led away by a detective after being arrested
in Central Park for allegedly attacking Trisha Meili.
In 1989 five young black men were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogging in New York City. Leading the charge against them was a real estate mogul whose divisive rhetoric can be found in his presidential campaign today

Yusef Salaam was 15 years old when Donald Trump demanded his execution for a crime he did not commit.

Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted.

The miscarriage of justice is widely remembered as a definitive moment in New York’s fractured race relations. But Trump’s intervention – he signed full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to die – has been gradually overlooked as the businessman’s chances of winning the Republican nomination have rapidly increased. Now those involved in the case of the so-called Central Park Five and its aftermath say Trump’s rhetoric served as an unlikely precursor to a unique brand of divisive populism that has powered his rise to political prominence in 2016.

“He was the fire starter,” Salaam said of Trump, in his first extended interview since Trump announced his run for the White House. “Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty.”

It was 1989. The crack epidemic had torn through New York as poverty soared to 25% and the city’s elites reaped the rewards of a booming Wall Street. The murder rate had risen to 1,896 killings a year; 3,254 rapes would be reported in the five boroughs, but only one captured the city’s extended attention and later exposed bias in its criminal justice system and media establishment.

On the evening of 19 April, as 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili, who was white, jogged across the northern, dilapidated section of Central Park, she was brutally attacked – bludgeoned with a rock, gagged, tied and raped. She was left for dead but discovered hours later, unconscious and suffering from hypothermia and severe brain damage.

The New York police department believed they already had the culprits in custody.

That same night, a group of more than 30 youths had entered the park from East Harlem. Some engaged in a rampage of random criminality, hurling rocks at cars, assaulting and mugging passersby. Among the group was Salaam, along with 14-year-olds Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson, 15-year-old Antron McCray and 16-year-old Korey Wise. The teenagers – four African American and one Hispanic – would become known collectively as the Central Park Five.

They would all later deny any involvement in criminality that night, but as they were rounded up and interrogated by the police at length, they said, they were forced into confessing to the rape.

“I would hear them beating up Korey Wise in the next room,” recalled Salaam. “They would come and look at me and say: ‘You realise you’re next.’ The fear made me feel really like I was not going to be able to make it out.”

Four of the boys signed confessions and appeared on video without a lawyer, each arguing that while they had not been the individual to commit the rape they had witnessed one of the others do it, thereby implicating the entire group.

The city erupted. The case came to embody not only fears that accompanied the dramatic rise of violent crime in New York, but also its perceived racial dynamics. The case of a black woman, raped the same day in Brooklyn by two men who threw her from the roof of a four-story building, received little media attention.

Just two weeks after the Central Park attack, before any of the boys had faced trial and while Meili remained critically ill in a coma, Donald Trump, whose office on Fifth Avenue commanded an exquisite view of the park’s opulent southern frontier, intervened.

He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back The Police!” and above his signature, Trump wrote: “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”

Salaam, now 41, cannot remember exactly where he was when he first saw the ads. He had no idea who Trump was. “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious,” he recalled.

In 2002, after Salaam had served seven years in prison, Matias Reyes, a violent serial rapist and murderer already serving life inside, came forward and confessed to the Central Park rape. He stated that he had acted by himself. A re-examination of DNA evidence proved it was his semen alone found on Meili’s body, and just before Christmas that year, the convictions against each member of the Central Park Five were vacated by New York’s supreme court.

Click here to read the full article (+ videos and photos)

Source: The Guardian, Oliver Laughland, February 17, 2016

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USA: Support for death penalty lowest in more than 4 decades

Support for death penalty lowest in more than 4 decades
As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the 1st of 2 death penalty cases in this year's term, the share of Americans who support the death penalty for people convicted of murder is now at its lowest point in more than 4 decades.

Only about 1/2 of Americans (49%) now favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 42% oppose it. Support has dropped 7 % points since March 2015, from 56%. Public support for capital punishment peaked in the mid-1990s, when 8-in-10 Americans (80% in 1994) favored the death penalty and fewer than 2-in-10 were opposed (16%). Opposition to the death penalty is now the highest it has been since 1972.

Though support for the death penalty has declined across most groups, a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 adults finds that most Republicans continue to largely favor its use in cases of murder, while most Democrats oppose it. By more than 2-to-1, more Republicans (72%) than Democrats (34%) currently favor the death penalty.

2 decades ago, when majorities in both parties favored the death penalty, the partisan gap was only 16 % points (87% of Republicans vs. 71% of Democrats).

And, for the 1st time in decades, independents are as likely to oppose the use of the death penalty (45%) as they are to favor it (44%). The share of independents who support capital punishment has fallen 13 points since last year (from 57%).

This shift in views among independents is particularly pronounced among those who lean toward the Democratic Party (a 10-point decrease in support) and those who do not lean to either party (down 16 points). Support for the death penalty among independents who lean toward the GOP is little changed from March 2015 (73% now, 70% then).

Even as support for the death penalty has declined across nearly all groups, demographic differences remain: Men are more likely to back the use of the death penalty than women, white Americans are more supportive than blacks and Hispanics, and attitudes on the issue also differ by age, education and along religious lines.

More than 1/2 of men (55%) say they are in favor of the death penalty and 38% are opposed. Women's views are more divided: 43% favor the death penalty, 45% oppose it.

A 57% majority of whites favor the death penalty for those convicted of murder (down from 63% last year). But blacks and Hispanics support it at much lower rates: Just 29% of blacks and 36% of Hispanics favor capital punishment.

There are only modest difference by age and education in support for the death penalty, with 18- to 29-year-olds somewhat less likely to support it (42% favor) than those in older age groups (51% of those 30 and older). Those without a college degree are more likely than those with at least a college degree to favor the use of the death penalty in cases of murder (51% vs. 43%).

White evangelical Protestants continue to back the use of the death penalty by a wide margin (69% favor, 26% oppose). White mainline Protestants also are substantially more likely to support (60%) than oppose (31%) the death penalty. But among Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated, opinion is more divided: 43% of Catholics favor capital punishment, while 46% oppose it. And while 50% of those who are religiously unaffiliated oppose the death penalty, 40% support it.

A more detailed study last year of attitudes toward capital punishment found that 63% of the public thought the death penalty was morally justified, but majorities said there was some risk of an innocent person being put to death (71%) and that the death penalty does not deter serious crime (61%).

Source: pewresearch.org, September 30, 2016

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Catholic Bishops of Nebraska Say Death Penalty 'not necessary to protect society'

Gathering signatures against the Nebraska repeal of the death penalty
Gathering signatures against the Nebraska repeal of the death penalty
The 3 bishops in charge of the 375,000 Catholics in 350 Nebraska parishes have officially come out as opponents of the death penalty, as the issue takes center stage with a statewide vote coming in November.

On Thursday, Tom Venzor executive director of the Catholic Conference of Nebraska and public policy voice of the 3 Nebraska bishops, says the bishops all agree that the death penalty "is not necessary to protect society."

This comes just 1 month before Nebraskans will vote to either keep the repeal of the death penalty, that state legislators made law in May of 2015, or to bring back the option of the death penalty.

The recommendation from the 3 bishops, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha and Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of the Grand Island diocese, comes as no surprise with all 3 pledging their support for the initial repeal of the death penalty in 2015.

They said at that time they don't believe that the penalty of death is a just option.

"Justice requires punishment, but it does not require that those who have committed serious crimes be put to death."

In the Thursday news conference, Venzor called the death penalty "a broken system" and also cited the fact that the past 3 popes, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and current Pope Francis, all spoke against capital punishment.

Other reasons Venzor recommends Catholics vote RETAIN on November 8th, include the possibility of wrongful convictions, minority discrimination, the long appeals process and high taxpayer costs associated with the death penalty.

Source: KWBE news, September 30, 2016

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Saudi Arabia lied to UN about child executions

Saudi Arabia told a UN committee last week that it does not sentence children to death, despite submitting written evidence in which it admitted people can be executed for crimes committed aged 15, anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.

The Saudi delegation told the UN’s child rights committee last Wednesday that, “The crime must have been committed by a perpetrator who is an adult at the time in order for them to be sentenced to capital punishment.” The delegation claimed that “the age of liability is always 18”.

However, this was directly contradicted by Saudi Arabia’s written evidence to the same UN committee, which contained a buried admission that children as young as 15 can face the death penalty, although the execution is not carried out until they turn 18.

Earlier this month, Reprieve wrote to Theresa May and urged the British prime minister to raise the cases of Ali Al-Nimr, Abdullah Al-Zaher and Dawood Al-Marhoon, three juveniles who were sentenced to death in the Kingdom for allegedly taking part in protests. In January this year, Saudi Arabia executed Ali al-Ribh, who was arrested at school aged 17.

Saudi Arabia confirmed in its written report to the UN that juveniles can be sentenced to death. It said that “Children who have reached the age of 15 and commit a qisas or hudud offence face qisas or hudud penalties depending upon their offence although the penalty is not enforced until they reach the age of 18.” Under Saudi law, a qisas offence can allow the family of a murder victim to seek lethal retribution, and a hudud penalty can entail execution.

Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“It is outrageous for Saudi Arabia to lie to the UN and pretend that children are not sentenced to death in the Kingdom. Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon were all under 18 when they were handed death sentences for allegedly attending protests. The international community should not fall for the Saudi government’s propaganda. The UK Foreign Office says it ‘doesn’t expect’ Ali, Dawood and Abdullah to be executed – but vague assurances are not enough. Saudi Arabia has already executed juveniles like Ali al-Ribh earlier this year. The UK Foreign Secretary must urgently call for all death sentences imposed on juveniles to be overturned. ”

  • Saudi Arabia made the oral claims at 1h56m of this webcast: “I can say there is no application of the death penalty on children. We provide for capital punishment in very precise circumstances and it is applied to mature adults, and only after sufficient proof the court receives an assurance that that the perpetrator of the crime was an adult at the time the crime was committed. So if that is not the case, then no capital punishment ruling is delivered, even if the person is facing trial once the age of majority has been reached. The crime must have been committed by a perpetrator who is an adult at the time in order for them to be sentenced to capital punishment. …I insist there can never a sentence of capital punishment handed down on a child and it is only a sentence that is handed down to adults.” And then at 2h01m03s, “the age of liability is always 18”.
  • Saudi Arabia made the written statement on page 7 of its reply to the ‘List of issues in relation to the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Saudi Arabia’ for the Seventy-third session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 13-30 September 2016.
  • Reprieve’s letter to Theresa May is available on request.

Source: Reprieve, September 30, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications@reprieve.org.uk.

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Rodrigo Duterte 'happy to slaughter' drug addicts as Hitler did Jews

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust, saying he would kill as many addicts as Hitler did Jews.

"Hitler massacred three million Jews... there's three million drug addicts. I'd be happy to slaughter them," he said.

At least six million Jews as well as other minorities are known to have been killed by the Nazis.

Mr Duterte has overseen a bloody crackdown on drug users and dealers since taking office in June.

Official figures say more than 3,000 people have been killed in police operations or by vigilantes.

The bodies of those killed are often left out in public, with signs listing the crimes they were accused of.

The president has openly said he would "kill 100,000 criminals" to reduce crime in the Philippines.

'Disgusting rhetoric'


Mr Duterte was speaking in Davao, the city where as mayor he implemented a tough anti-crime policy and was accused of sanctioning death squads to kill criminals.

He told reporters he had been "portrayed to be some cousin of Hitler" as he lashed out critics who he said were accusing him of genocide.

"Hitler massacred three million Jews, now, there is three million drug addicts. I'd be happy to slaughter them," he said.

The most recent figures in the Philippines - released earlier in the week - suggests the number of drug users in the country is closer to 1.8 million, just 1.8% of the overall population, according to local news website Rappler.

Mr Duterte's rambling speech continued: "At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have..." - at which point he is reported to have pointed to himself.

His comments were criticised as "outrageous" by Jewish groups, Reuters reports.

"Duterte owes the [Holocaust] victims an apology for his disgusting rhetoric," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The US-based Jewish group the Anti-Defamation League said the comments were "inappropriate and deeply offensive".

"It is baffling why any leader would want to model himself after such a monster," said communications director Todd Gutnick.

Mr Duterte also used the speech to once again accuse the West of hypocrisy over their criticism of his brutal crackdown.

"You US, EU. You can call me anything. But I was never into... hypocrisy like you," he said.

"There are migrants escaping from the Middle East. You allow them to rot and then you're worried about the death of about 1,000, 2,000, 3,000?"

Source: BBC News, September 30, 2016

Duterte decries Hitler comparison


MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at his critics who had been comparing him to Germany's Adolf Hitler.

The president called out the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and the United States (US) anew for criticizing his anti-drugs campaign in the country.

"Kaya kung ikaw nandito bakit hindi ka magmumura? (So if you are here, why wouldn't you curse?) You're portrayed or pictured to be some cousin of Hitler and yet do not even bother to find out, to investigate," Duterte said in his speech after arriving from Vietnam early Friday.

The president noted that Hitler killed three million Jews but said he is also willing to take down three million drug users to solve the drug issue in the Philippines.

"Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are three million drug addicts. I'd be happy to slaughter them" Duterte said.


"At least if Germany had Hitler the Philippines would have... you know my victims, I would like to be all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition," the president added.

Duterte stressed that not a single case was filed against him when the Commission on Human Rights was looking into his alleged links with the Davao Death Squad during his term as mayor.

The international community has been criticizing Duterte's drug war due to the spate of extrajudicial and vigilante killings of drug suspects.

"Okay lang sa akin, sanay ako sa pulitika. Lahat ng kababuyan dumating na sa aking buhay. Pero itong mga ganito... look kayong US, EU you can call me anything but I was never into or I am never into hypocrisy like you," Duterte said.

The chief executive argued that both the EU and the US have closed its doors to migrants from the Middle East.

"There are migrants escaping from the Middle East. You allow them to rot and then you're worried about the deaths of about one thousand, or two thousand, or three thousand," the president said.

Duterte earlier said that he is willing to face investigation by the UN, the US and the EU over the killings of drug suspects as long as they follow Philippine laws.

Source: philstar.com, September 30, 2016

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

UK trained hundreds of guards at Bahrain’s death row prison, new report finds

Bahrain
The FCO funded training for hundreds of prison guards at Bahrain’s death row jail, where an innocent man faces imminent execution after ‘confessing’ under torture, a new report by anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.

Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.

Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, highlights the case of one death row inmate, Mohammed Ramadan, a former policeman and father of three young children who was tortured into making a false confession.

The UK Foreign Office paid NI-CO to train Bahrain’s Ombudsman to handle complaints about abuse by security forces. However, the watchdog refused for more than two years to investigate complaints about Mr Ramadan’s torture, robbing him of vital evidence with which to challenge his wrongful conviction. When the Ombudsman eventually began to investigate earlier this year, it flouted international minimum standards for torture inquiries and intimidated Mr Ramadan’s wife by interrogating her about contact with foreign NGOs.

NI-CO is embedded in Bahrain’s internal security apparatus, raising concerns about conflicts of interest. A victim could be abused by NI-CO trained police, tortured in prison by NI-CO trained guards, and then have their torture allegation investigated and dismissed by the NI-CO trained ombudsman.

Reprieve's report, published today, also highlights NI-CO’s work with other repressive regimes, such as a €9m project in Egypt funded by the EU. NI-CO's work in Egypt appears to have continued despite the situation of Irish student Ibrahim Halawa, who faces a potential death sentence after he was swept up in a mass arrest aged just 17.

Reprieve has called on NI-CO to stop work with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry until the Bahraini government ratifies international laws against torture and allows independent UN inspections.

Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“The UK Foreign Office is financing a whitewash of Mohammed Ramadan’s torture and coerced confession, leaving an innocent man languishing on death row and his family afraid to speak out. UK money is complicit in covering up torture in Bahrain. The Foreign Office needs to come clean about what it has paid NI-CO to do with a repressive regime like Bahrain.”

Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, is available to download here

Source: Reprieve, September 29, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications@reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 790 435 1392. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.

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Jury for Dylann Roof's federal trial will be chosen from pool of 748 people

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Some 748 prospective jurors in the upcoming Dylann Roof federal death penalty trial have been picked to go on to a second, more intensive, phase of jury screening that will begin Nov. 7.

The 748 who survived the initial screening process this week were picked over a 2 1/2 day period that began Monday in a small federal courtroom in Charleston.

About 3,000 were initially summoned for this week's screening process. Federal Judge Richard Gergel had said he would like to come up with a pool of 700 potential jurors.

This week's screening went faster than expected. By around noon Wednesday, the court had surpassed that goal and wound up with 748 - a number that should be more than enough to produce a final jury panel of 12 jurors and 6 alternates.

Reasons some potential jurors were excused this week included child care or work-related duties.

The 748 who survived the initial screening this week have filled out extensive questionnaires about their lives and any reservations they might have about being deciding on a death penalty, should Roof eventually be found guilty and the trial move on to a sentencing phase.

Between now and Nov. 7, prosecutors and Roof's defense attorneys will study the completed questionnaires. From those, lawyers will develop additional questions and submit them to Gergel, who will then, beginning Nov. 7, question the prospective jurors 1 at a time as attorneys watch and possibly submit more questions.

Roof, 22, a white supremacist from Columbia, is charged with various federal hate crimes and obstruction of religion resulting in death in the June 2015 gun slayings of 9 African-Americans at a Charleston's historic "Mother" AME Emanuel Church.

Source: thestate.com, September 29, 2016

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Manipulating a witness? Montana DOJ used controversial medical expert to defend lethal injection protocol

The ACLU says Attorney General Tim Fox has some explaining to do.

Confronted with a challenge to the state's lethal injection cocktail, the Department of Justice leaned on a controversial medical expert last year to argue the sedative it planned to use to kill 2 death row inmates would work as quickly as Montana law requires. But Auburn School of Pharmacy Dean Lee Evans didn't say what state attorneys needed him to - at least not initially.

Evans' evolving testimony became a central issue at trial, ultimately backfiring when a Helena judge struck down the drug protocol in October 2015 and effectively put a moratorium on the death penalty in Montana. Now the parties who won the case think they know why Evans seemed to change his professional opinion: because Fox's attorneys told him to.

That's what evidence uncovered after trial suggests, they allege in March filings. 6 months later, they're still awaiting a judge's order so they can try to prove it.

"This is a death penalty matter," says ACLU Montana Legal Director Jim Taylor. "If in fact somebody manipulated a witness, that's something everybody needs to know."

The case, Smith v. Batista, hinged on whether a drug known as pentobarbital and commonly used to euthanize pets works in the "ultra-fast acting" manner required by state law. In his 1st expert witness disclosure before trial, Evans did not address the "ultra-fast acting" definition, instead calling pentobarbital a "short acting" drug. A month later, he filed a second, shorter disclosure stating pentobarbital "could be" considered ultra-fast acting.

Lewis and Clark County District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock questioned the reliability of Evans' testimony in issuing his decision in the case, noting discrepancies in his statements about the drug's speed and classification.

Sherlock wasn't the 1st person puzzled by Evans. One of the only medical professionals still willing to testify on behalf of states defending their lethal injection protocols, Evans has been criticized by his peers and U.S. Supreme Court justices for relying on consumer website Drugs.com for parts of his testimony. The Montana DOJ contracted with Evans in 2015 after its previous expert witness quit consulting on death penalty litigation.

After the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs discovered deposition statements Evans made in a separate case in Tennessee in which he acknowledges that he doesn't classify pentobarbital as "ultra-fast acting." The inmates' attorneys raised the issue with Fox's office, which "discussed the concerns at the executive team level" and took "appropriate actions" with the lawyers who represented the state on the case, according to a DOJ email included in court documents. The state has refused to say more.

The plaintiffs are awaiting a judge's ruling that could force the department to hand over records of its communication with Evans as well as its internal investigation. Taylor says if someone in Fox's office did improperly instruct Evans to change his testimony, the state would be liable for attorneys' fees and the case never would have gone to trial.

In a statement, DOJ spokeswoman Anastasia Burton describes the claims as "unsupported" and calls the plaintiffs' motion "an inappropriate attempt to extend this litigation, in the context of increasing their attorney fees."

Evans was paid $14,350 for his expert witness testimony last year, Burton says. The state has severed ties with him.

Source: The Missoula Independent, September 29, 2016

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Leader of Indonesia gang which raped, murdered girl sentenced to death

Suspects charged for the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year old schoolgirl appear in court in the Indonesian city of Curup on August 4, 2016.
Suspects charged for the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year old schoolgirl
appear in court in the Indonesian city of Curup on August 4, 2016.
An Indonesian court on Thursday sentenced to death the leader of a gang of men and boys who raped and murdered a schoolgirl in a case that prompted the president to take steps to impose harsher punishments for attacks on children.

The gang leader, Zainal, was sentenced to death in a court on Sumatra island. 4 other men were jailed for 20 years for their roles in the April attack on the 14-year-old in the western island by a group of 14 males, including eight boys.

Sexual violence against women and children is common in Indonesia but gang rape is unusual.

The case shocked the world's fourth most populouscountry and prompted President Joko Widodo to sign a regulation allowing for harsher punishments for child rapists, including death and chemical castration.

The regulation is pending approval in parliament.

"Because of the sadistic nature of the crime ... the court sentences Zainal to death," said presiding judge Henny Faridha.

The youngest member of the gang was 13 years old.

They attacked the girl as she was on her way to school. Her battered body was found in a rubber plantation a few days later, after her parents reported her missing.

7 gang members were earlier jailed for 10 years, while 1 was ordered into a rehabilitation program for a year. 1 suspect is on the run, according to police.

The victim's parents, who were in court, said the sentencing was inadequate.

"They should all get the death penalty," Yana, the victim's mother, told reporters as she broke down in tears.

The attack was reminiscent of a 2012 fatal gang rape of a female university student in India's capital, New Delhi, which provoked a national outcry and soul-searching about the treatment of girls and women in Indian society.

Source: Reuters, September 29, 2016

Indonesian sentenced to death in fatal gang-rape case


The leader of an Indonesian gang who murdered and gang-raped a schoolgirl was sentenced to death Thursday, in a high-profile case that led to the introduction of tougher punishments for child sex offenders.

Zainal was handed the death penalty at a court on western Sumatra island while four other men were sentenced to 20 years each over the case.

The murder and gang-rape of the 14-year-old, who was attacked by a group of men and boys in April as she made her way back from school, shocked the country and sparked a national debate about a failure to tackle endemic sexual violence.

President Joko Widodo responded to growing anger about the case in May by introducing tough new punishments for child sex offenders, including a maximum penalty of death, chemical castration and forcing convicted paedophiles to wear electronic monitoring devices.

Following the discovery of the teenager's body tied up and naked in the woods, police arrested 13 people over the attack while one alleged perpetrator is still at large.

Zainal, a 23-year-old who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was sentenced to death for premeditated murder, which was a crime already punishable by death before the new laws were introduced.

"This sentence was handed down because the defendant was the one who persuaded other defendants (to commit the crime)," presiding judge Heny Farida told the court in the town of Curup.

The mother of the victim shouted in protest after the verdicts were handed down, demanding all the defendants be sentenced to death.

Asrorun Niam Sholeh, chairman of government-backed rights group the National Commission for Child Protection, welcomed the decision to hand down the death penalty and said it highlighted that child sex attacks were "an extraordinary crime".

The others involved in the case, who were all minors, have already been jailed with most receiving 10-year sentences.

The attack captured national attention when reports of the incident went viral on social media, prompting tens of thousands to sign online petitions and sparking protests in the capital Jakarta.

It has drawn comparisons with the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012, which sparked mass protests and led to an overhaul of India's rape laws.

Source: Agence France-Presse, September 29, 2016

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Iran: Eight Prisoners Executed on Murder and Moharebeh Charges

Public execution in Iran
Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Eight prisoners sentenced to death for murder and Moharebeh (enmity against God) charges were reportedly hanged at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (Alborz province, northern Iran) on Wednesday September 28.

According to close sources, on Thursday September 22, eleven prisoners at Rajai Shahr were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. 

The execution sentences of eight of them were reportedly carried out on Wednesday. 

The other three prisoners were returned to their cells after their executions were stopped by the complainants on their case files.

A close source who asked to be annonymous has confirmed the names of the prisoners: Ali Rabizadeh, Majid Gonjehali, Adnan Anwar, Hossein Karimi, Mohammad Jafari, Karim Hatamzadeh, Farajollah Hatami, and Mehdi Alizadeh. 

According to the source, Karim Hatamzadeh was executed on Moharebeh charges related to armed robbery, the other seven were executed on murder charges.

Additionally, on Sunday September 25, a Baluch prisoner, Mehdi Nazari, sentenced to death for drug related offenses, was transferred from his prison cell to an unknown location. 

There has been no information on his whereabouts or condition since then.

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 29, 2016

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Iran: 7 inmates executed on drug charges

Seven prisoners were recently executed in southern Iran on drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Seven prisoners sentenced to death for drug related offenses were reportedly hanged at Minab Central Prison (Hormozgan province, southern Iran). 

According to close sources, the executions were carried out early morning on Tuesday September 27. 

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these seven executions.

The prisoners were reportedly transferred from their wards to solitary confinement on Sunday September 25 and were permitted to have their immediate family members see them for the last time on Monday. 

The names of the prisoners have been confirmed to Iran Human Rights by close sources as: Khodabakhsh Balouch, Ali Balouch, Chaker Balouch, Mohammad Mohammad Zehi, Majid Nariman, Mehdi Moradi, Mohammad Ghourchizadeh.

Iranian authorities continue carrying out executions for drug offenses, even though last month, a top judicial official claimed that the death penalty is not a deterrent against drug crimes. 

"The death penalty for drug traffickers has not acted as a deterrent so far. We fought against many drug traffickers in accordance to the law, but, unfortunately, the volume of drugs entering and transiting through the country has increased," said Mohammad Bagher Olfat, who is in charge of social assistance and crime prevention in the Iranian Judiciary. 

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 29, 2016

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The Philippines should not reinstate the death penalty, even for Peter Scully

Alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully (center)
Alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully (center)
Bringing back a flawed system to kill a rotten individual means that we dispense with the individual but are stuck with the system

There have been calls to reintroduce the death penalty in the Philippines as the trial of alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully takes place and horrific details of the crimes he is accused of emerge.

The abolition of the death penalty in south-east Asia isn’t so much a movement that has swept through the region as a fragile mosaic. In the countries that don’t execute the line is held – but tenuously. And in some countries where they do execute, there’s the sense that it could turn. There are unofficial moratoriums or death sentences handed out that don’t lead directly to the gallows, just a lifetime in jail.

Japan has the death penalty and its use is shrouded in secrecy, but the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers, said it would declare its opposition to the death penalty at a meeting in early October due to growing concern over miscarriages of justice.

Thailand continues to regularly sentence people to death, however executions are rare, with no lawful executions since 2009.

Malaysia and Singapore still execute.

Executions have been on hold in Vietnam because the government cannot acquire the drugs used for lethal injection (pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs have refused to supply their medicines for such means).

Indonesia has the death penalty. After a lengthy informal moratorium under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the killings resumed again in 2014.

After Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986, the Philippines abolished the death penalty via a newly drafted constitution. But there was a “get out” clause allowing congress to reinstate it “hereafter” for “heinous crimes”.

As the first country in Asia to abolish the death penalty, the Philippines played an important role in the region, signalling a move away from pre-modern forms of punishment. Abolitionists hoped the removal of the death penalty in the region would act as a sort of nudge or cause a domino effect.

In the absence of a nudge, abolition of the death penalty could be posited as an entry into a trading bloc or partnership. Having capital punishment on your statute books is a barrier to entering the EU, for example. Turkey abolished the death penalty in a bid to qualify for membership, although there has been talk of bringing it back following the July coup attempt.

It can easily be assumed that progress towards enlightenment is linear. We abolish capital punishment and we don’t go back. We don’t go back even when the mob and the media are begging for it.

If you accept, as I do, that the abolition of the death penalty is a move towards a more enlightened, humane, civilised and less barbaric society, then opposition to the death penalty must occur regardless of individual cases that grip and even sicken the public imagination. Which brings us to the case of alleged Australian paedophile, Peter Scully.

Reading an account of the crimes he is accused of (he is pleading not guilty), it would be hard not to lapse into fantasies of revenge if he’s found guilty – to want him to be made to suffer horribly and even more; that he be eradicated, dissolved, removed from the world. Murder is murder. Child abuse is stealing someone’s life from them. What other punishment could be fitting? And yet ...

Nietzsche’s warning that “he who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster” is true here.

And more. Bringing back a flawed system to kill a rotten individual means that we dispense with the individual but are stuck with the system.

This is a system – as the United States is finding out more and more with advanced DNA technology – that executes the wrong people, or executes poorly – many long minutes between the first dose of the drug, or the first wave of the shock and the prisoner pleading for death, then finally the death.

Even if all goes “well”, it is possibly the most cruel and unusual punishment to have the time and date of your death fixed by the state. You know when you will die and by what means, and each minute of waiting until that moment must of course be filled with terror and dread.
But it need not be this way. Christopher Hitchens wrote:
... it is possible to eliminate the execution of the innocent, simply by joining the association of countries that have dispensed with the death penalty.
Those in the international community who have been appalled by the spate of extrajudicial killing by the Duterte government in the Philippines must surely also be appalled by talk of reintroducing capital punishment. This is frontier justice not just at night, on the borders, but brought right into the daylight and given the centre seat in the justice system.

Source: The Guardian, Opinion, Brigid Delaney, September 28, 2016

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Iran upholds 16-year sentence for anti-death penalty campaigner Narges Mohammadi

Iranian human rights and anti-death penalty lawyer Narges Mohammadi
Iranian human rights and anti-death penalty lawyer Narges Mohammadi
An Iranian appeals court on Wednesday upheld a 16-year prison sentence for a prominent Iranian human rights advocate.

Narges Mohammadi had been sentenced in May on charges of violating national security and acting against the Islamic regime through her support of an anti-death penalty campaign.

As vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran, Mohammadi gained attention in 2014 for defending women who had acid thrown on them in the city of Esfahan, purportedly for dressing immodestly.

While jailed this summer at Tehran’s Evin Prison, she staged a 20-day hunger strike in protest of authorities who barred her from speaking by phone with her family.

Mohammadi is mother to 9-year-old twins, who live in France with their father. Friends say she suffers from a chronic illness that causes partial paralysis, which has worsened due to her imprisonment.

The appeals court in Tehran upheld Mohammadi’s sentence following a hearing in the case last week.

“It is shocking for me as a human rights lawyer that a fellow lawyer with children would be sentenced to jail for even one day,” said Nasrin Sotoudeh, a colleague who served three years in jail until being released in 2013.

“She has committed no crime but doing her legal work. Is it wrong to defend the victims of violence?”

Mahmoud Behzadi, Mohammadi's lawyer, said his client had not decided whether to appeal to Iran's Supreme Court.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have assailed Mohammadi’s treatment as an example of how Iranian authorities use broad national security laws to punish dissidents or those seen as hostile to the conservative theocracy.

Human rights activists and dual nationals continue to be imprisoned during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate whose 2013 election had raised hopes of an easing of Iran’s harsh security laws.

Mohammadi is a supporter of the Campaign for Step by Step Abolition of the Death Penalty, known by its Persian acronym, Legam. Iran is one of the world’s leading practitioners of capital punishment, putting to death an estimated 1,000 people last year, many for drug offenses.

Last month, Iran put to death a teenager who was convicted of a crime when he was 17. Approximately 160 minors are on death row in Iran, according to Amnesty International.

Siavash Ramesh, a 28-year-old political activist, said Mohammadi’s sentence shows the Iranian regime won’t tolerate criticism of its death penalty laws.

“They sentenced her to give a warning to human rights activists and give her a lesson not to trespass against the regime’s imposed red lines,” Ramesh said.

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2016

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