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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

India Executes Yakub Memon, Man Tied to 1993 Mumbai Bombings

Yakub Memon
Yakub Memon
NEW DELHI — Yakub Memon, the “driving spirit” behind a series of bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people in 1993, was hanged early Thursday morning at a prison in central India.

The bombings, a carefully coordinated series of a dozen explosions across the city, stunned India because of their level of sophistication and their unprecedented carnage. In addition to the dead, more than 700 people were injured and several neighborhoods were left in smoking ruins.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Memon was the bomb plot’s indispensable middleman, the one who arranged financing, made travel plans, stockpiled weapons and bought vehicles for car bombs. Of all those who have been convicted of crimes related to the bombings, including the men who planted the bombs, Mr. Memon is the only defendant to be executed.

As is the norm in India, journalists were not allowed to witness the execution, which was carried out at the Central Prison in the city of Nagpur. Under prison procedures, the condemned is typically offered a bath, a final meal, fresh clothes and a chance to pray before going to the gallows. Although death sentences are routinely imposed in India, actual executions are rare. Mr. Memon was only the fourth person executed in India since 2000.

He was hanged before 7 a.m. on his 53rd birthday.

While there was no immediate official confirmation, Mr. Memon’s death was widely reported by Indian news outlets citing government sources.

The execution took place amid tightened security, especially in towns and cities with large Muslim populations. The security measures reflected official concern that the execution of Mr. Memon, a Muslim in a predominantly Hindu nation, could serve as a flash point for religious strife and score-settling — the same dynamic present in the Mumbai bombings.

Over the past week, as the execution approached, a robust debate erupted here over whether Mr. Memon deserved to die. That debate gathered strength on Wednesday as India’s president rejected his final plea for mercy. By late Wednesday night, several hundred people opposed to Mr. Memon’s execution had gathered for a candlelight vigil at Jantar Mantar, a giant sundial that is this city’s preferred rallying point for public protest. Not until 5 a.m. on Thursday did India’s Supreme Court deny Mr. Memon’s final appeal.

The debate was fueled by last-minute questions about Mr. Memon’s supposed cooperation with investigators, by concerns about the treatment of Muslim defendants in India’s courts and by the uncontested fact that the actual masterminds of the bombings remain at large.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The New York Times, David Barstow, July 30, 2015

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Iran: 14 Executions, 3 Carried Out in Public

Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015
Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015
Iran Human Rights, July 29 2015: Based on official and unofficial reports, Iranian authorities have executed at least 14 prisoners in the province of Alborz since Monday.

Close sources say seven prisoners with drug charges were hanged on Monday in Karaj Central Prison. 

On Saturday the Iranian authorities had reportedly transferred the seven prisoners along with two more prisoners to solitary confinement. 

The executions of the two others prisoners have reportedly been delayed for unknown reasons.

On Tuesday four prisoners at Ghezel Hesar Prison were hanged for drug charges, according to close sources. 

The prisoners were reportedly removed out of their prison wards on Sunday and transferred to solitary confinement along with two more prisoners. 

The executions of the two other prisoners have reportedly been delayed for unknown reasons.

Today Iranian authorities hanged three prisoners in a public area in the city of Karaj, reports state media Mehr News. 

The report does not mention the names of the prisoners or their charges.

Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015
Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015

Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015
Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015

Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015
Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015

Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015
Karaj, Iran, July 29, 2015

Source: Iran Human Rights, July 29, 2015

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Nebraska Senator Bob Krist Explains Why He Said "No" to the Death Penalty

Nebraska Senator Bob Krist
Nebraska Senator Bob Krist
The death penalty has for years been a polarizing issue in the United States. Proponents and opponents alike have strong opinions and strong emotional responses to the issue.

In May, 2015, the Nebraska legislature overrode a governor's veto to abolish the death penalty in that state. One of the unusual aspects of this occurrence is that a conservative legislature overrode the veto of a Republican governor to eliminate the death penalty.

One of those voting to repeal the death penalty was Senator Bob Krist. In a recent opinion piece in the Omaha World-Herald, Krist explained his concerns about the death penalty. [Note: In his op-ed piece, Senator Krist refers to information from the Death Penalty Information Center as to the cost of carrying out executions.]

Krist explains that he reached his decision on the death penalty issue based on hearing 6 years of data about it. Among the things that came to light are the considerable expenses of any death penalty case, from the decision to seek the penalty to the actual carrying out of it. He now supports a sentence of life without parole instead of death. "Civilized society does not need the death penalty."

In Krist's op-ed piece he notes that "[m]ore than 15 states have done cost studies on the death penalty." He notes that all of them concluded that the death penalty was more expensive than life imprisonment. Krist thinks the evidence is compelling for someone who analyzes the issue on the basis of cost, and he believes other states will come to see the logic of Nebraska's position. Of course, people who are seeking vengeance will be unlikely to consider the cost to the public.

Another aspect of carrying out the death penalty is the long string of cases challenging the way in which the penalty is carried out, in particular lethal injection. A number of states have struggled to find a lethal drug solution that would pass muster with the Supreme Court. Even if states tried to go back to the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging, or the firing squad, there would probably continue to be challenges and problems. Krist does not believe that there will be a completely acceptable solution in his lifetime.

As to ways to reduce the expense of carrying out the death penalty, the only thing that would reduce those expenses would be to change the appeals process. Of course, there is already an extensive appeals process for all felony convictions. One important reason for all those appeals is that errors in the trial process are found. Occasionally, innocent people have been put to death. Given all of the problems that have occurred with faulty convictions, Krist says, it is difficult to draw a line after which appeals would not be allowed.

Voters in Nebraska may have the opportunity to vote on the death penalty. Krist says he supports letting the voters consider the issue. He believes that the majority of voters would support what the legislature has done.

Source: Legal Broadcast Network, July 29, 2015. Senator Bob Krist represents the 10th district in the Nebraska legislature. He served 21 years in the Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He held key leadership positions directing critical missions including the high-visibility Looking Glass mission at Offutt Air Force Base. He was appointed to fill a legislative vacancy in 2009 and won his election to the office in 2010. His district includes part of Omaha.

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India's SC Paves the Way for Yakub Memon's Hanging; Maharashtra Governor Rejects His Mercy Plea

Yakub Memon
Yakub Memon
The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon any relief as rejected both his petitions, even as the Maharashtra Governor rejected his 2nd mercy petition, paving the way for his execution on 30 July.

Memon had moved SC seeking quashing of the death warrant issued against him by a special Tada court of Mumbai on 30 April claiming that he had not exhausted all his legal remedies when he was awarded the death penalty. He had also sought a stay on his execution.

A 3-judge bench, constituted by Chief Justice HL Dattu, rejected both his pleas one after the other in the afternoon.

Justice Dattu had constituted a larger bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Prafulla C Pant and Amitava Roy after a 2-judge bench differed in their opinions on Memon's petitions.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao also rejected Memon's plea for mercy, media reports said.

Earlier on Wednesday Memon filed a 3rd mercy petition to President Pranab Mukherjee despite the fact that he had rejected his 1st plea seeking pardon.

Source: International Business Times, July 29, 2015

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Iran: Juvenile Offender Accused of Murder at 15 May Be Executed on Saturday

No Sharia Law, No Faith-Based Laws!
No Sharia Law, No Faith-Based Laws!
Amnesty International has issued a warning about the imminent execution of a juvenile offender in Iran

Salar Shadizadi is a juvenile offender in Rasht Prison who is reportedly set to be hanged to death on Saturday, August 1st for a murder crime he reportedly committed when he was 15.

Salar's death sentence was confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court.

In a recently published statement by Amnesty International the NGO urges Iranian authorities to stop Salar's execution.

In April 2015 Iranian authorities executed Jamal Saberi, a juvenile offender who was 17 years old at the time he was arrested and charged with murder and drug possession. 

Jamal was sentenced to death by Iran's Judiciary and hanged in Rajai Shahr Prison along with 4 more prisoners charged with murder. 

Jamal reportedly suffered from severe psychological disorders and was held in Omid Abad Psychiatric Ward for some time before his execution.

Iran is signatory to the United Nation's International Covenant of Civil and Political rights where in Article 6 it states: "Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age..."

Source: Iran Human Rights, July 29, 2015

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8 more murder convicts hanged in Pakistan

8 more death row prisoners, who were convicted for murders, were sent to gallows in different prisons of Punjab on Wednesday.

According to Samaa correspondent, three murder convicts were hanged in district jail in Attock city early in the morning. A father and his son were among the 3 condemned prisoners.

Officials said 5 other death row convicts were executed in jails of Sargodha, Multan, Kasur, Jhang and Gujarat.

Authorities on Monday resumed executions following a one-month break during Ramazan.

Over 180 people have been executed since December when the country ended a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 150 people -- mostly children -- in the country's deadliest ever terror attack.

Among those currently on death row are murder convict Shafqat Hussain who is scheduled to be hanged on Aug 4 in Karachi.

His case has drawn international criticism because his family and lawyers say he was under 18 at the time of the killing and claim he was tortured into confessing.

Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted their appeals.

Source: Samaa.tv, July 29, 2015

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Philippines bids to save Mary Jane Veloso from execution in Indonesia

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
Woman who says she was duped into smuggling drugs was given last-minute reprieve from firing squad but remains on death row

Officials from the Philippines arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday to discuss a case against drug traffickers that they hope can prove that a Filipino former domestic worker was tricked into smuggling heroin and save her from a firing squad.

Mary Jane Veloso was given a temporary reprieve by Indonesian president Joko Widodo just hours before she was due to be executed in April. Eight men were killed by firing squad that day.

Her alleged trafficker had handed herself in to the police in Manila, and the Philippines president, Benigno Aquino, made a last-minute appeal on the basis that Veloso would be needed as a witness in the case against her alleged recruiter.

“Primarily we are updating the Indonesian government on progress made in the case of Mary Jane Veloso,” Filipino department of foreign affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose told the Guardian.

The Philippines justice secretary, Leila de Lima, has set up a special taskforce to investigate the drug traffickers, which could prove the argument made by her supporters that Veloso is a victim of human trafficking, not a drug trafficker.

Key to the last-minute reprieve was that the Philippines invoked a regional treaty signed to fight transnational crimes in south-east Asia.

The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) obliges countries to help each other fight crime outside their borders – in this instance, by keeping alive a key witness in a potential human trafficking case.

Jose said officials in Jakarta on Wednesday “will also explore how we can use MLAT in our investigation”.

Indonesia’s attorney general, Muhammad Prasetyo, said later that the discussions were unlikely to save Veloso from death row.

“I reiterate that their demand to free [Veloso] is difficult. This is because she has been found guilty for drug smuggling in Indonesia,” he was quoted as saying by the Indonesian Kompas news website.

An online petition with more than 430,000 signatures says Veloso is from a poor area in the north of the Philippines. It said the single mother of two sons was seeking employment and had no idea heroin was in the lining of her suitcase.

Source: The Guardian, Oliver Holmes in Bangkok and Carmela Fonbuena in Manila, July 29, 2015

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Pakistan hangs three convicted killers

Pakistan: an execution frenzy
Pakistan: an execution frenzy
July 28, 2015: Three murder convicts were hanged in Pakistan between July 27 and 28 as executions resumed following a one-month break during the holy month of Ramazan that ended last week.

Farooq and Karim Nawaz, were hanged in Multan on July 27 amid strict security arrangements.

“Two prisoners, Farooq alias Farooqa and Karim Nawaz, who had been awarded capital punishment, have been hanged in central jail in Multan today,” Chaudhry Arshad Saeed, a senior government adviser for prisons in the Punjab province told AFP.

“Both of these convicts were awaiting the death penalty for murdering people in separate cases. They have been executed today after resumption of hangings following a temporary moratorium because of Ramazan,” he said.

Another senior official of the prisons department who is responsible for all operations confirmed the hangings.

In 1988, Farooq had murdered a person over a transaction whereas Kareem Nawaz had killed another in 1999 due to old enmity.

Akhtar were hanged on July 28 at Attock District Jail. He had killed a man named Saeed over an old enmity in 1999.

Since the de facto ban on capital punishment ended on 17 December 2014 184 people, including 25 convicted terrorists, have been executed across the country. 

Sources: AFP, July 27, 2015; Dunya, July 28, 2015

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Sister Prejean and Death Penalty foes assert Glossip's innocence

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
Sister Helen Prejean recalled a phone call she received last January from Richard E. Glossip, who had "put me down as someone he wanted to be present when he was executed."

She accepted because, "I don't believe in working quietly or going quietly into that night" even she believes a person scheduled to receive the ultimate sanction of death is guilty. However, "In this case, I believe he is innocent."

Prejean, author of a book that became the motion picture "Dead Man Walking," said Glossip had ineffective counsel at both of his trials.

Discussing a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Oklahoma's execution protocols - and thus, clearing the way for Glossip's scheduled September 16 date with death - the nun jabbed at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for his defense of Oklahoma's legal system in the case of Glossip v. Gross.

At a July 13 press conference hosted by the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP), Prejean said, "I've met Richard Glossip. He should not die."

She sought to persuade Oklahomans that even advocates of capital punishment should not support its imposition in this particular case: "The death penalty that you say you want in Oklahoma is not the death penalty you actually have in Oklahoma."

She continued, "I've come to know the people of Oklahoma. They are decent and good people. I'm out here asking for monetary support, among other things. Sometimes I hear people say 'the lawyers are in it for the money.' That is, that we are hustling."

She reflected that might seem the case, but added, "I am here to tell you that the death penalty in Oklahoma is broken. All over the country wardens and others who once participated in the death penalty have moved against it."

Prejean and others made the case for Glossip's exoneration or a permanent stay of execution, despite the High Court's 5-4 ruling against him and other death row inmates. She encouraged reporters to study an investigative news report posted by "The Intercept" which raises a plethora of questions about the police investigation that led to Glossip's conviction. She said, "This investigative article documents the brokenness of the system."

Continuing, Prejean said, "I feel sorry for juries. All they know is what they hear in the courtrooms."

After the High Court's decision to sustain Oklahoma's protocols, including the use of the drug - as part of the mix of drugs to induce death, Prejean said, "There are only 2 or 3 avenues to stopping this execution. We need a state or federal court to say they will let what is called a 'successor petition' come in."

Prejean encouraged those seeing videos of the press conference or reading news stories about it to visit the website RichardEGlossip.com, to contribute for the costs of researchers, investigators and attorneys to bolster the work of Colorado attorney Don Knight, who also addressed the gathering of reporters.

In a lengthy presentation and in response to questions from the crowd of journalists, Knight pointed to a variety of factors, elements going beyond "reasonable doubt" in the case, that he says have never been explored.

These include the comings and goings of other possible suspects at the hotel where Barry Van Treese was killed. The admitted killer, Justin Sneed, beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat.

Sneed testified that Glossip paid him to carry out the killing for hire of Van Treese, owner of the Inn where both he and Glossip worked. In exchange for Sneed's testimony, prosecutors did not seek his execution, but supported a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Sneed's testimony and the contrasting treatment of him and Glossip are at the heart of the last-minute push to prevent Glossip's execution, an effort Knight, an attorney from Littleton, Colorado, is now leading.

Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
With Prejean and Knight were two Oklahoma political leaders.

In brief remarks before and after the session with the press, state Rep. George Young said he was less concerned about the Ten Commandments monument on state property than about living the Ten Commandments in the laws passed under the Capitol Dome.

Former state Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, declared "the innocence of Richard Glossip" ... She characterized the state government's response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision was "disgusting and ironically predictable." She restated opposition to an upcoming state question she described as a means to "constitutionalize the death penalty in Oklahoma."

Johnson asserted Glossip is "an innocent man, like Jesus. "If the state proceeds to murder Richard Glossip the story of Jesus will be repeated."

She passionately encouraged state officials to take a fresh look: "By not executing Richard Glossip we not make an irreversible mistake."

Countering contentions for Glossip's innocence, Donna Van Treese, the widow of Barry Van Treese, told Rick Green of The Oklahoman, "After 2 murder trials, 2 sets of jurors, and 18 long years, we know who murdered Barry, and there is no doubt. They have not been able to find Glossip innocent or any evidence of his innocence. We stand firm as a family to see this until the end."

Progressive/liberal commentator Arnold Hamilton of The Oklahoma Observer, sat near this reporter during the press conference, which drew four television cameras and at least dozen print, online or broadcast journalists.

It was one of the largest non-gubernatorial press events at the seat of Oklahoma government in recent years.

In a column soon after, Hamilton reflected that no one wants "an innocent executed. After all, there are no do-overs if you later determine an individual was wrongly convicted."

Responding to questions, Sister Prejean said Richard Glossip "feels God is close to him."

Source: City Sentinel, July 21, 2015

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Japanese 'haiku' killer sentenced to death

A convicted Japanese murderer who left a haunting "haiku" poem behind after his grisly deeds was sentenced to death on Tuesday.

The district court in southwestern Yamaguchi prefecture handed down the sentence 2 years after Kosei Homi, 65, was arrested for killing 5 elderly residents in a tiny mountain hamlet.

The victims, in their 70s and 80s -- who reportedly represented about 1/3 of the community's population --- were battered to death.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Homi suffered from a paranoid mental disorder but argued he was competent to stand trial.

Defence lawyers immediately appealed the sentence.

Japan and the United States are the only major advanced industrial nations that continue to have capital punishment.

In July 2013 police found 3 corpses in fire-gutted houses and subsequently uncovered 2 more bodies in separate homes.

Homi was arrested days later, being spotted dressed only in his underwear in mountains near the hamlet.

At Homi's house, a "haiku" poem was stuck to the window, which read: "Setting a fire -- smoke gives delight -- to a country fellow."

The haiku is a traditional Japanese form, a 3-line verse of 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 arrangement. It customarily evokes natural phenomena frequently as a metaphor for human emotions.

Source: Agence France-Presse, July 28, 2015

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Indonesia: Woman caught with 82 handbags filled with 12 kg of methamphetamines from China

North Jakarta Police Commissioner Susetio Cahyadi announced yesterday that his officers had seized 12 kilograms of methamphetamines, said to be worth Rp 18 billion, originating from Guangzhou, China.

As is often the case, the meth was concealed in an unusual container, or rather containers. Specifically, it was sewn into the lining of 82 ladies' handbags.

According to Susetio, the meth filled fashion accessories were seized at a boarding house on Jalan Jatayu in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, on Tuesday, July 7.

"The meth was received by Jumi Yenita, a 26 years old," he said at his office yesterday, as quoted by Tempo.

Susetio said the meth was ordered from China by a Nigerian citizen named Jhon Ladiord Okori. After the meth arrived in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, Jhon contacted Jumi to pick it up.

After Jumi picked up the product, Susetio said police followed her and caught her with the narcotics in her room. Police later arrested Jhon on Thursday, July 9 at the same boarding house.

Jumi claimed she did not know the bags contained meth. "Jhon asked me to take the bags and paid me Rp 1 million." Jhon also denied ordering the drugs, saying he was just buying bags from China to sell here.

The head of North Jakarta's Drug Investigation Unit, Assistant Commissioner Apollo Sinambella, said each bag contains 12.5 grams of meth that was destined to be circulated throughout Jakarta.

For their actions, Jumi and Jhon have both been charged with drug smuggling with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years or the death penalty.

Source: Coconuts, July 28, 2015

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Kuwait court sentences 4 Egyptians to death

Triple execution in Kuwait in April 2013
Triple execution in Kuwait in April 2013
A court in Kuwait has sentenced 4 Egyptians to death over the killing of a Pakistani guard at a construction site.

The Egyptian nationals were sentenced on Tuesday. They were charged with murder using a hammer.

The 4 men confessed to killing the Pakistani national at the construction site where they stole 36 tons of steel, before selling it all for USD 18,000.

The verdict can be appealed.

3 other Egyptians were also sentenced to 7 years in prison for helping the four commit the crime.

In Kuwait, dozens of people are thought to be on death row over, mostly, murder and drug crimes, where execution is carried out by hanging.

Except for a return of the death penalty in 2013, execution has generally not been used in Kuwait since 2007.

Since the death penalty was introduced in Kuwait in the mid 1960s, some 71 people have been executed.

Source: Presstv, July 28, 2015

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Second Saudi execution after Ramadan pause

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia beheaded one of its citizens for drug trafficking Tuesday, in the second execution after a pause for Ramadan.

Saif al-Hadissane was found guilty of smuggling a large amount of hashish.

He was executed in the Al-Ahsa region of eastern Saudi Arabia, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

SPA had reported no executions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday which followed it from July 17.

The latest beheading brings to 104 the number of executions in the kingdom this year, a sharp increase on the 87 recorded during the whole of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

This year's figure is still below the record 192 which human rights group Amnesty International said took place in 1995.

Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi authorities of waging a "campaign of death" by executing more people in the first six months of this year than in all of last year.

Echoing the concerns of other activists, the New York-based group said it had documented "due process violations" in Saudi Arabia's legal system that make it difficult for defendants to get fair trials even in capital cases.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

The Interior Ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment. It has also talked of "the physical and social harm" caused by drugs.

Source: Agence France-Presse, July 28, 2015

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Lindsay Sandiford's death row case raised by David Cameron in Indonesia

Lindsay Sandiford in her Kerobokan death-row cell
Lindsay Sandiford in her Kerobokan death-row cell
The Prime Minister, who is on a tour of Indonesia, raises case of British grandmother convicted of dug trafficking

David Cameron has raised the case of Lindsay Sandiford, the British grandmother on death row, with his Indonesian counterpart.

Mr Cameron discussed her case with President Jokowi of Indonesia at a meeting in Jakarta.

Sandiford, who is in her late fifties and originally from Redcar, Teesside, was sentenced to death in January 2013 in Bali after being convicted of trafficking drugs.

She was found with cocaine worth an estimated £1.6 million as she arrived in Bali on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand.

She can expect to be killed by firing squad.

Asked about the case, the Prime Minister said: “On the issue of prisoners, I always raise these issues wherever I travel around the world, and will do so here.

“I want to do it in a way I hope will help the family concerned, and obviously will listen to the concerns of the families and their views before doing these things. That is the right way to proceed - to try and help.”

Sandiford admitted the offences, but claimed she had been coerced by threats to her son’s life. She has appealed against the case without success.

In April the Indonesia authorities executed eight convicted drug smugglers, including two Australians, who had been jailed alongside Sandiford. She said she was “deeply saddened” by their “senseless, brutal” deaths.

Source: The Telegraph, Matthew Holehouse, July 27, 2015

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Libyan court sentences Gaddafi son Saif, eight other ex-officials to death

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
A Libyan court on Tuesday sentenced Muammar Gaddafi's most prominent son, Saif al-Islam, and eight others to death for war crimes including killings of protesters during the 2011 revolution that ended his father's rule.

The former Gaddafi regime officials sentenced to die by firing squad included former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and ex-prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, Sadiq al-Sur, chief investigator at the Tripoli state prosecutor's office, told a televised news conference in Tripoli.

The trial outcome drew swift criticism abroad, with Human Rights Watch and a prominent international lawyer saying it was riddled with legal flaws and carried out amid widespread lawlessness undermining the credibility of the judiciary.

Eight ex-officials received life sentences and seven jail terms of 12 years each, Sadiq said. Four of the 37 defendants were acquitted, others got shorter jail terms.

Muammar Gaddafi himself was killed by rebels who captured him after months on the run.

Sadiq did not spell out the charges on which the verdict was based, referring to the expected written ruling. Defendants had been accused of a range of offences including the use of deadly force against unarmed demonstrators, as well as corruption.

The verdict on Saif al-Islam was passed in absentia in Tripoli since he has been held since 2011 by a former rebel group in the mountainous Zintan region beyond central government control. Factional disorder and conflict now plagues Libya.

Saif appeared by video link only at the start of the trial. The Zintanis have refused to hand him over, saying they do not trust authorities in Tripoli to make sure he does not escape, but agreed to let him be tried there.

The sentences can be appealed and must be confirmed by Libya's Supreme Court, but legal experts and rights advocates said the proceeding was tainted and politicized from the start.

Source: Reuters, July 28, 2015

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Pakistan court grants stay of execution to paraplegic prisoner

A court in Pakistan today stayed the execution of a paraplegic man who was set to hang tomorrow (Wednesday).

Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralysed from the waist down. Despite being unable to stand, and reliant on a wheelchair, a ‘Black Warrant’ issued last week scheduled his execution for July 29th.

The Lahore High Court today upheld an appeal by lawyers for Basit who argued that his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Pakistan’s Constitution.

The Pakistan Prison Rules of 1978 – the statute regulating executions – state that the rope for hanging must be the correct length, in order to avoid prisoners facing protracted strangulation (if it is too long) or decapitation (if it is too short). The rules state that the rope’s length is determined by measuring it from “the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold.” This and other procedures set out in the Prison Rules cannot be followed in Basit’s case, leaving open the possibility of a botched hanging.

The Court has now given the government two weeks to respond to the appeal with a hearing scheduled for August 17th.

Pakistan’s law makes provisions for mercy to be granted in cases where prisoners are suffering from severe “ill-health”. The Government’s failure to acknowledge this and commute Basit’s sentence appears to form part of a worrying trend involving the blanket dismissal of all mercy petitions considered since executions resumed in 2014. Over 180 prisoners have been hanged in Pakistan’s recent rush to the gallows and recent reports suggest that many more who have now had their mercy petitions dismissed without proper consideration may be next in line.

Among them is Shafqat Hussain, convicted and sentenced to death when under 18, who was yesterday issued with a ‘black warrant’. His execution has been set for August 4th despite widespread concerns over torture and the government covering up evidence – notably a school record – that could prove his age.

Kate Higham, caseworker at human rights NGO Reprieve, said: “We are enormously relieved by the court’s decision today. To allow Pakistan's government to continue with the hanging of a paraplegic man would have been in clear violation of Pakistani law, not to mention an affront to basic common decency. The government must now commute Basit’s sentence.”

Source: Reprieve, July 28, 2015

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The Four Best Charts From the Supreme Court's Death-Penalty Ruling

Justice Stephen Breyer
Justice Stephen Breyer
Breyer makes the case against "unusual" punishments

When the Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor a controversial lethal-injection drug, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote an impassioned dissent. He argued that not only was the specific drug combo unconstitutionally cruel, but the entire practice of lethal injection should be reconsidered. To back his argument, he brought charts.

"Cruel and unusual punishments" are expressly forbidden in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The first three items above are Breyer's reasoning for why the death penalty is cruel: The methods are unreliable, the sentencing is arbitrary, and the years of uncertain waiting before execution are torturous. It's the fourth item—the declining use of capital punishment across the U.S.—that Breyer uses to argue the unusual nature of executions.

Argument #4. Geographic Concentration of Executions Is Narrowing

Of America's 50 states, 30 have either legally abolished executions or just stopped conducting them. Of the remaining 20 states, only 11 have had more than four executions in the past eight years. That, writes Breyer, is "a fairly rare event."

The geography of executions is even more concentrated than these numbers imply.

Counties With Five or More Death Sentences

Breyer argues that it's not the number of states that are still executing prisoners that matters but the consistent decline. In the past two decades, no state has reinstated the death penalty. Just three states—Texas, Missouri, and Florida—accounted for 80 percent of executions last year.

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Source: Bloomberg, Tom Randall, June 30, 2015

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Tennessee lethal injection trial continues with dueling experts

The Tennessee Supreme Court says the death penalty is constitutional, so there must be a constitutional way to carry it out. But attorneys for 33 death row inmates say lethal injection isn't one of them.

In a trial that began July 7, the inmates' attorneys have been trying to prove the injection of deadly chemicals into a prisoner's veins carries an unacceptably high risk of extreme suffering and can cause a lingering death.

The case comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's lethal injection procedure, which uses different drugs than Tennessee but considered some of the same broad issues.

Inmates' attorneys say the claim of lingering death is a novel one. It is based on the theory that an overdose of sedatives can put inmates into a death-like coma without truly killing them for hours.

One witness who is an expert in resuscitation told the Davidson County Chancery Court it might be possible to revive an inmate who had been declared dead half an hour later or more. Another witness who is an expert in anesthesiology suggested that an inmate could recover spontaneously.

Attorneys for the state say the idea of spontaneous recovery is pure speculation, and that there is no chance an inmate will be resuscitated once an execution has started. They say the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled inmates are not entitled to pain-free death. Nonetheless, they say that is what lethal injection generally provides.

Dr. Feng Li, Davidson County's acting chief medical examiner, offered testimony that a high dose of the sedative pentobarbital - Tennessee's current lethal injection drug - would leave a prisoner unconscious within seconds and dead within minutes. Once the inmate was unconscious, he or she would not feel any pain, Li said.

Experts for the two sides also have clashed over whether drugs made to order by a pharmacist are too risky to use. The only commercial producer of pentobarbital has placed restrictions on its distribution to prevent it from being used in executions.

The trial will continue on Aug. 3.

Tennessee has not executed an inmate for more than five years because of legal challenges and problems obtaining lethal injection drugs. In 2013 and 2014, state lawmakers tried to jump-start the process by moving from a 3-drug lethal injection method to a 1-drug method and reinstating the electric chair as a backup. But both of those changes brought new legal challenges, and all previously scheduled executions have been put on hold.

Faced with similar problems, Oklahoma enacted a law allowing execution by nitrogen gas as a backup to lethal injection. Utah reinstated the firing squad.

Source: Associated Press, July 27, 2015

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Iran: 27 executions in past week

NCRI – Nine prisoners were on Monday hanged collectively in a detention center in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran.

Also on Monday two other prisoners, identified as Saeid Ganji and Firouz Nouri-Majd, were hanged in Iran’s notorious Qezelhesar Prison in Karaj.

The hangings bring to at least 27 the number of prisoners that have been executed in Iran in the past week.

The nine prisoners executed at dawn on Monday in the Karaj detention center were identified as Omid Mohammadi-Dara, Mostafa Ghafarzadeh, Omidreza Karampour, Shahriar Hassan-Zadeh, Hossein Afghan, Yareh Hassan-Zadeh, Sasan Salari, Meysam Hosseini-Nejad, and Amanollah Baluch-Zehi.

Faced with escalating popular discontent and unable to respond to the rightful demands of the majority of the Iranian people who are living under the poverty line, the religious fascism ruling Iran - dubbed the ‘godfather of ISIS’ by the Iranian people - is ramping up suppression.

On Thursday, Amnesty International said that the Iranian regime has executed an astonishing 694 people between January 1 and July 15, 2015.

“Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of state carrying out premeditated judicially-sanctioned killing on a mass scale,” it said.

Since mullah Hasssan Rouhani took office as President, more than 1,800 prisoners have been executed in Iran.

Source: NCRI, July 28, 2015

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UK Government urged to come clean on Pakistan executions funding

The Home Office is refusing to reveal the true extent of secret funding to Pakistan which risks implicating the UK in a wave of executions currently underway.

Human rights organization Reprieve has brought proceedings before the Information Rights Tribunal (IRT) challenging ministers’ refusal to reveal whether Government guidelines were followed when funneling at least £12 million into anti-drugs efforts in Pakistan, largely carried out by the Pakistani Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF). The ANF is responsible for sending more than a hundred alleged drug mules to Pakistan’s 8,500-strong death row, and lists these numbers on its website as ‘Prosecution Achievements.’ Several British citizens are understood to be among those facing execution on drugs charges.

Pakistan has executed some 180 people since resuming executions in December 2014, having widened its hanging campaign in early 2015 to cover all prisoners on the country’s death row – including drug offenders, others convicted of non-violent offences, juveniles, and mentally ill prisoners.

The UK’s Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) guidance requires ministers to consider the potential risk to human rights of government overseas assistance. However, the Government is refusing to reveal crucial details of its decision-making about the funding, despite the recent resumption of hangings. The Home Office is arguing that publishing the information would both damage its relations with Pakistan, and reveal information which could “relate to” the British security services.

At the Government’s request large portions of the hearings so far have been heard in secret, without the presence of Reprieve, its lawyers, or a Government-appointed security-cleared lawyer known as a ‘Special Advocate’. Reprieve is currently seeking permission to appeal the judge’s decision to refuse the presence of a special advocate.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

"The British public deserves to know how much of its money is funding hangings in Pakistan, particularly as the country continues its aggressive execution spree. If the UK is contributing to putting vulnerable drug mules – including British nationals – on death row in countries like Pakistan, this is a matter of huge public interest. The Home Office should stop hiding behind spurious national security arguments in an effort to dodge taxpayer scrutiny, and instead come clean about the true extent of its aid for executions”.

Source: Reprieve, July 18, 2015

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