Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MEPs Call To Save Young Iranian Female Prisoner From Execution

Following information about the transfer of Ms Reyhaneh Jabbari to Gohardasht notorious prison for her execution, the Friends of a Free Iran in European Parliament issued an urgent press release calling for urgent action to save her life.

The release says: "According to reports received from inside Iran today, Ms Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, a survivor of a sexual assault, is to be hanged imminently.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death in 2009 after a deeply flawed investigation and trial for having stabbed in self-defence an agent of Iran's notorious ministry of Intelligence, when he tried to sexually assault her."

FoFI's press release indicates that Ms Jabbari has been transferred to be hanged. Her mother said today that Reyhaneh had called her from Evin prison in the last minute before being transferred to Rajayi-Shahr prison for execution. The prison authorities said she would have to go and "collect the body" tomorrow.

"Amnesty International and many other international organisations have once again raised alarms today and called on Iran to halt this execution.

The Friends of a Free Iran in the European Parliament (FOFI) is outraged over the report of Reyhaneh Jabbari's imminent execution and the massive use of death penalty against the Iranian people under the so called moderate Rouhani.

"Last week, while the world powers were busy with nuclear talks with Iran in New York, Mohsen Amir-Aslani, 37, a prisoner of conscience was hanged in Iran for having made a different interpretation of the Quran.

Speaking from Brussels, Gerard Deprez, the chair of FOFI said "Hassan Rouhani's government has been hanging more than 1000 people, many of the in public squares in Iranian cities. This is the worst record by any Iranian president for the past 25 years."

The European Parliament informal group, referring to the talks between P5+1 and the Iranian regime warned, "If human rights are not improving in Iran, continued talks will only be seen as a green light for further aggression by the regime against its people as well as spreading its terror to other countries of the region."

"It is time the west imposes sanctions on Iran's human rights violations with no further delay."

Friends of a Free Iran (FoFI) is an informal group in the European Parliament which was formed in 2003 and enjoys the active support of many MEPs from various political groups.

Source: NCR-Iran, Sept. 30, 2014

Thailand: Thai Man Gets Death Penalty for Train Rape, Murder

A former railway worker in Thailand was sentenced to death Tuesday for raping a 13-year-old girl on an overnight train, then killing her and throwing her body out the window, an attack that sparked outrage in the Southeast Asian nation and prompted calls for the execution of rapists.

The case also raised questions about the safety of Thailand's long-distance trains, which are popular with tourists who visit the country's southern beaches and enjoy jungle treks in the north. As a result of the July attack, the State Railway of Thailand introduced special carriages for women and children for overnight trains on main routes.

The attacker, 22-year-old Wanchai Saengkhao, was a temporary train employee whose job it was to make beds in the sleeper cars. He confessed to drinking beer with his colleagues and taking drugs during his shift on the night of the attack and then raping the girl, who was sleeping in a lower bunk during a trip to Bangkok.

The Hua Hin provincial court on Tuesday convicted Wanchai of murder, raping a minor, concealing the body to hide the cause of death and other charges. It said Wanchai's crimes were "outrageous," "inhumane" and "could have an impact on society's order."

Capital punishment is the maximum penalty for murder in Thailand, and rape is punishable by four to 20 years in prison.

The court also sentenced a 19-year-old train employee to 4 years in jail for aiding Wanchai with the rape.

Family members of the victim attended the ruling, wearing black shirts that called for capital punishment for rapists.

"Those who committed the crime must be punished for what they did. The court has given us justice," said Pattanachai Thaninpong, 35, a cousin of the victim.

The military junta that took power from a civilian government in a May 22 coup dismissed the governor of the State Railway of Thailand after the attack.

Source: Associated Press, Sept. 30, 2014

Reprieved from the death penalty, Yong Vui Kong hopes to take up graduate studies in prison

Yong Vui Kong: A second chance
Yong Vui Kong, the Malaysian who received a reprieve on his death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore is not content with merely escaping death.

His lawyer M. Ravi said that Yong wanted to take up studies in prison although that will be up to the discretion of the Changi prison.

"Singaporeans have the option to study in prison but in the case of foreigners it is up to the prison authorities," he told the Star Online.

Ravi said that Yong, 26, was willing to explore any opportunity to study but he believed that Yong was inclined towards languages as he was interested in English and Mandarin.

Ravi was however concerned about Yong's mental health as he was still confined to a solitary cell in prison.

"I am writing to the prisons about this. It has been almost a year that he was given the life in prison sentence," Ravi said adding that Yong looked very weak and had lost a lot of weight.

Yong, who is from Sabah, was initially sentenced to death in 2009 for trafficking 47gm of a controlled drug diamorphine in 2007. He was 18 when he was arrested.

In November last year however, the Singapore High Court re-sentenced Yong to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane.

This came after the Singapore Government last year announced changes to the mandatory death penalty, allowing death row inmates to be given a lighter sentence if they met certain conditions.

If the Attorney-General finds that they meet these conditions, it will issue a Certificate of Co-operation (CoC) allowing the inmate to apply to the courts for the death sentence to be set aside and to be re-sentenced.

Yong was found to have met the conditions, which resulted in the High Court re-sentencing him.

Ravi has appealed against the caning sentence by challenging its constitutionality, but the Court of Appeal judgement is not out yet.

Since being imprisoned, Yong has turned over a new leaf, finding solace in his Buddhist faith and spending a lot of time on prayer and meditation. He has also become a vegetarian and taken a new name, Nan Di Li, from the Buddhist Dharma. He is believed to be a victim of circumstances, having dropped out of school when he was only 11, subsequently falling into bad company.

Source: The Star, Sept. 30, 2014

The death penalty in Japan -- Hanging tough

Execution chamber at Tokyo Detention Center
It is one of the anomalies of Japan's approach to the death penalty that a stricken conscience can bring the system grinding to a halt. At least 2 Japanese justice ministers have refused to sign execution orders, most recently Seiken Sugiura, a devout Buddhist who oversaw a 15-month moratorium from 2005 to 2006. But Japan's new justice minister, Midori Matsushima, seems unburdened by such doubts.

Ms Matsushima, who took office this month, has swatted away demands to review the system. Japan is one of 22 nations and the only developed country - apart from America, where it is falling out of favour - that retains capital punishment. "I don't think it deserves any immediate reform," she said last week: in her view the gallows are needed "to punish certain very serious crimes".

Calls for a review have grown since the release earlier this year of Iwao Hakamada, a 78-year-old who spent 45 years of his life in a toilet-sized cell awaiting execution. A Japanese court said the police evidence that put him behind bars in 1966 was probably fabricated. Mr Hakamada, dubbed the world's longest-serving death-row prisoner, is awaiting a fresh verdict later this year. Prosecutors have lodged an appeal against his retrial.

Opponents are hoping that the state's stubborn fight to wheel another elderly man back to the gallows (he is severely ill and suffers from advanced dementia) may trigger debate and a backlash. But critics face an uphill struggle. Japan's media largely steers clear of the topic. Ms Matsushima points to public support of over 85% on carefully-worded surveys put out by the cabinet: respondents reply to whether execution is "unavoidable if the circumstance demands it".

Mr Hakamada would not be the 1st elderly or infirm inmate to be hanged in Japan. On Christmas day in 2006, Fujinami Yoshio, aged 75, was brought to the gallows in the Tokyo Detention Centre in a wheelchair. Even the openly abolitionist Keiko Chiba, who was justice minister from 2009 to 2010, failed to make a dent in the system. In July 2010 she signed and attended 2 executions in a bid, she said, to start a public discussion that quickly petered out.

With the odds so highly stacked against them, some critics have tried to reframe the debate on the death penalty using soft power. For the last decade, a group of abolitionists has staged art exhibitions by death-row inmates, funded by a wealthy donor whose son is awaiting execution. Since the fund was set up a decade ago, 34 inmates have contributed hundreds of drawings, some of which are on display at a Tokyo gallery next month. 6 of the incarcerated artists have already been executed.

The fund's managers have announced, ahead of World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th, that they are extending it beyond the 10 years initially planned. They enlisted new donors after the death of the fund's original benefactor. Lamenting the latest double execution on August 29th, one of the managers told Kyodo News that the fund had "expected the death penalty to be abolished in Japan" within the decade of its activism. "But we cannot foresee abolition at present."

Source: The Economist, Sept. 30, 2014

Pakistan: The cost of the death penalty

ISLAMABAD: Any move by the government to lift the moratorium on the death penalty is not likely to adversely affect Pakistan’s nine-month-old duty free access to European markets, as the Generalised System of Preference plus (GSP plus) is not conditioned on capital punishment.

The ban on death penalty is not legally binding on Pakistan, according to those involved in negotiations on GSP plus and officials close to European Union diplomats. But its lifting will be treated as a major setback to Pakistan’s relations with the bloc of 27 nations, they added.

From January this year, the EU granted duty-free access to Pakistan for a period of 10 years, but this is subject to periodic reviews that will determine whether Pakistan is making progress on 27 conventions of the United Nations pertaining to human, labour and gender rights and freedom of expression.

The major review will take place after three years and will determine whether the status can be continued for seven more years. “The EU may discuss the resumption of capital punishment in the review but legally Pakistan is not bound to maintain the status quo,” said Mirza Ikhtiar Beg, former textile adviser to prime minister during the PPP’s tenure.

Beg, who himself is a textile tycoon, played a key role in the extension of the moratorium on death penalty after the PML-N government showed its intentions to lift it in August last year. At that time, the EU was considering Pakistan’s request for the GSP plus status.

After approval of the GSP plus status in December last year, both the EU and the Ministry of Commerce maintained that the continuation of duty-free access was in no way linked with the death penalty.

Former secretary Commerce Qasim Niaz said at the time that there was no mention of the death penalty in 27 international conventions that the country signed or in the GSP plus documents. However, the EU will gauge the country’s performance and prepare a baseline and track improvement on human rights, women’s rights, labour rights, and freedom of expression through international non-governmental organisations.

The EU’s Ambassador to Pakistan Lars Wigemark had also said the moratorium on the death penalty was not directly linked with the GSP plus status. At the same time, he described the moratorium on the death penalty as “a very positive achievement”. European Union officials indicated last year that if Pakistan resumed executions, it could jeopardise a highly prized trade deal with the bloc. An EU rights delegation warned it would be seen as a “major setback” if Pakistan restarted hangings.

Source: The Express Tribune, Sept. 30, 2014

Nurse's death sentence reignites abortion debate in Kenya

Nurse Jackson Namunya Tali was not the first person Christine Atieno approached when she sought help to end an unwanted pregnancy in Kenya.

Tali says that Atieno asked for assistance after undergoing a botched abortion, in a country where the procedure is illegal.

Last week, the high court in Nairobi sentenced 41-year-old Tali to death for murder, after the death of both mother and foetus.

In the ruling, Judge Nicholas Ombija said the nurse, who had been working at Kihara Sub District Hospital and operating a private clinic in Kiambu, had been found guilty of murdering Atieno.

“He has killed two people, a foetus and her mother, and the only sentence available in law is the maximum death penalty, which I have handed to him,” said the judge.

The court heard that Atieno died in Tali’s vehicle as he drove her from a clinic to another hospital for advanced treatment, the BBC reported.

The ruling has reignited the debate over abortion, which is only legal in Kenya if the pregnancy is deemed by a medical professional to be endangering the mother’s health.

The law had previously stated that abortion could only be performed if a woman’s life was endangered, and whereas three doctors were previously needed to approve the procedure, rules have been relaxed so that only one doctor’s consent is needed.

However, in most communities, abortion is regarded as a taboo and individuals involved in the act can be branded murderers. South Africa, Tunisia and Cape Verde are the only African countries to allow abortion without restriction on the reasons for it.

Source: The Guardian, Joab Apollo, Sept. 30, 2014

New Jodi Arias trial set to determine life or death for convicted killer

Jodi Arias
Jodi Arias’ guilt has been determined. The only thing that remains to be decided is whether she dies for killing her ex-boyfriend.

More than six years after the death of Travis Alexander, and more than a year after Arias was convicted of murder, a second penalty phase to determine her punishment gets under way on Monday with jury selection.

Arias acknowledged that she killed Alexander in 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home, but claimed it was self-defence. He suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit and was shot in the head. Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.

The 34-year-old former waitress was found guilty last year, but jurors could not agree on a sentence. While Arias’ murder conviction stands, prosecutors are putting on the second penalty phase with a new jury in another effort to secure the death penalty. If the new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the judge will then sentence Arias to spend the rest of her life behind bars or to be eligible for release after 25 years.

At least 300 prospective jurors will be called in the effort to seat an impartial panel, not an easy task in the case that has attracted so much attention.

One key difference in the second penalty phase is that there will be no live television coverage. Judge Sherry Stephens ruled that video cameras can record the proceedings, but nothing can be broadcast until after the verdict.

Arias’ five-month trial began in January 2013 and was broadcast live, providing endless cable TV and tabloid fodder, including a recorded phone sex call between Arias and the victim, nude photos, bloody crime-scene pictures and a defendant who described her life story in intimate detail over 18 days on the witness stand.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Guardian, Sept. 30, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pakistan: Blasphemy laws are deadly serious – we must stand up for Mohammed Asghar

A 70-year-old Briton suffering from paranoid schizophrenia is facing a death sentence in Pakistan. This is no joke

It is part of my job description to be offensive. I can, if I wish, make a joke hoping that Alex Salmond, now he is at the end of his political life, lays 20,000 fish eggs and dies. I can make a joke pointing out that David Cameron told off Sri Lanka for human rights abuses committed with weapons Britain sold it – like Ronald McDonald calling you a fat bastard.

The most I risk from saying such things is alienating a stranger. The same cannot be said of Mohammed Asghar. He is 70, and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh. When they discharged him he went to Pakistan, perhaps to escape what he thought were the undue restrictions on his liberty. Before he had been there long – four years ago now, in 2010 – he was facing a death sentence for blasphemy.

Apparently Asghar claimed to be a prophet sent by God. As his Scottish doctor reports, if he said that it was definitely his psychosis talking. I cannot believe that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Pakistan, Scotland or anywhere else think that he should be executed for this.

Yet a small minority of vocal people do, and one of them – a police officer at the maximum security prison where he was being held – tried to murder Asghar last Thursday. The guard burst into his cell with a pistol and shot him in the back. He shot again, but missed, before being partially restrained by others. Then, as Asghar was being taken to hospital, the guard managed to get a last kick in, crying out that he wanted to “kill the blasphemer”.

Source: The Guardian, Frankie Boyle, Sept. 29, 2014

India: Death without the right to appeal

September 26, 2014: In its report, “India: Death Without the Right to Appeal”, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that India was not complying with the “United Nations safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty” which provide that “Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction, and steps should be taken to ensure that such appeals shall become mandatory.”

Many death row convicts are being denied the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction with the Supreme Court setting aside acquittal by the High Courts and restoring death penalty imposed by the trial courts, and enhancing lesser sentences of life imprisonment awarded by the High Courts to death penalty.

Further, with respect to offences under the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), the Supreme Court being the appellate court against the orders of the designated TADA courts, the convicts under the TADA are denied the right to appeal before the High Courts as available to those convicted under the Indian Penal Code offences.

The Supreme Court also directs for fresh consideration by the High Courts in some cases where death penalty was not imposed. This is nothing but the apex court influencing the decisions of the lower courts in favour of death penalty.

ACHR stated that the Review Petition which can be filed against the orders of the Supreme Court cannot be considered as an appeal “to a court of higher jurisdiction” as provided in the United Nations safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. A review petition is filed to the same Bench of Judges which delivered the judgment or order sought to be reviewed.

Even a Curative Petition filed before the Supreme Court after dismissal of a Review Petition cannot be considered as an appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction as provided under "the United Nations safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty" because of its very restrictive scope. A curative petition is an exception and can be filed only if a Senior Advocate certifies that it meets the requirements of filing curative petition stipulated by the Supreme Court. 

Source: ACHR, Sept. 26, 2014

Pennsylvania not ready to abandon lethal injections

Pennsylvania can't find the drugs necessary to execute a convicted murderer who's ready to die, but officials in Pennsylvania aren't ready to look at alternatives to lethal injection for the 184 inmates who sit on death row.

Some states have proposed returning to methods such as firing squads as European drug manufacturers make it difficult to obtain the execution drugs after three botched attempts this year with them.

“When you look at other states, I think they're much more invested in the death penalty than we are,” said Kathleen Lucas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, which advocates life in prison without parole.

Gov. Tom Corbett on Sept. 16 signed a temporary reprieve for death row inmate Hubert Michael Jr. in part because manufacturers stopped selling their drugs to states that used them in executions. Michael was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of Trista Eng, 16, in York County. He voluntarily gave up his appeals, clearing a key path to his execution.

Joshua Maus, spokesman for the governor's Office of General Counsel, said Corbett will sign a death warrant if the state gets the drugs. By law, the execution must be within 60 days of his signing.

Corbett, who has signed 35 death warrants since taking office in 2011 — all of which courts have stayed — has said he is “committed” to putting Michael to death. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said he would put a moratorium on the death penalty until concerns are addressed about putting innocent people to death.

Source: triblive, Adam Brandolph, Sept. 28, 2014

Singapore: First convicted murderer to have bid for re-sentencing rejected by Court of Appeal since new law

A 39-year-old man who has been on death row for 5 years for knifing an elderly housewife more than 110 times in 2005 was on Monday denied the chance to escape the gallows.

Muhammad Kadar is the 1st convicted murderer to have his bid for re-sentencing rejected by the Court of Appeal since laws were changed last year giving judges the discretion to impose a life sentence instead of the death penalty for certain categories of murder.

Muhammad and his older brother Ismil 1st went on trial in 2006 for murdering their neighbour, Madam Tham Weng Kuen, 69, at her Boon Lay flat while robbing her.

The long-running trial, which lasted 3 years, saw many twists and turns, including Muhammad's stunning confession in court that he was the sole assailant although he had told police earlier that Mr Ismil was the main culprit.

Both were found guilty of murder by the High Court. Their appeal against convictions ended in a dramatic twist in 2011 when Mr Ismil was freed after the Court of Appeal cleared him of murder.

Earlier this month, Muhammad applied to the High Court for his case to be sent back to the High Court for re-sentencing. His lawyer Amarick Gill argued that the case fell within the category of murder with the intention of causing injury, which would have given him a chance to be re-sentenced to a life term.

But on Monday, the Court of Appeal dismissed Muhammad's bid, ruling that his crime amounted to murder with the intention to cause death which still carries the mandatory death penalty.

Previously cases of convicted murderers who were re-sentenced to life imprisonment include that of Malaysian Fabian Adiu Edwin, who killed a security guard, Chinese national Wang Wenfeng who killed a taxi driver and Bangladeshi Kamrul Hasan Abdul Quddus who killed his girlfriend.

Source: The Straits Times, Sept. 29, 2014

China Sentences Two to Death for Mosque Attack

A court in China's far west has sentenced to death 2 teenagers for the killing of the head of the country's biggest mosque, state media reported, in a case that highlighted divisions in the violence-wracked Xinjiang region.

The Kashgar Intermediate People's Court on Sunday handed down the death penalty to Gheni Hasan and Nurmemet Abidilimit "on charges of forming and leading terrorist groups and murder", the official Xinhua news agency said.

A 3rd person, Atawulla Tursun, received a life sentence for "taking part in terrorist groups and murder", Xinhua said.

"The court said the gang, led by Gheni Hasan, was influenced by religious extremism and trained its members to murder patriotic religious figures," the report said.

The state-run China Daily newspaper on Monday gave Abidilimit's age as 19 and Hasan's as 18, though it identified Hasan as Aini Aishan, a Chinese transliteration.

Jume Tahir, the government-appointed imam of the 600-year-old Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, was killed on July 30.

The reports said Abidilimit and 2 others killed the imam, adding that the others were shot dead by police in an ensuing manhunt.

Citing the Xinjiang Daily newspaper, the China Daily said Hasan planned the killing because he believed the imam had distorted the meaning of the Koran, and that the killing of such an influential person would make an impact.

Xinjiang, home to China's mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, has seen escalating violence which in the past year has spilled over into other parts of China.

Authorities have launched a crackdown and courts have meted out harsh sentences such as the death penalties given to 3 people earlier in September over a mass stabbing that left 31 people dead in the southwestern city of Kunming in March.

In August China announced the executions of eight people for "terrorist attacks", including three it described as "masterminding" a suicide car attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October last year.

China blames unrest in the region on organised terrorists influenced by religious extremists and groups abroad.

Rights groups and analysts, however, say cultural and religious repression of Uighurs as well as massive immigration to the region by China's dominant Han ethnic majority have stoked tensions.

"The harsh sentences can't stop Uighur dissatisfaction," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for exile group World Uyghur Congress, said in a message to AFP.

The Chinese government "should look for the root of this problem in its own policies", he added.

"Uighurs' religion and traditional lifestyle should be respected and provocations should be stopped to avoid new turmoil."

Source: Agence France-Presse, Sept. 29, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Japan: "No plans to abolish capital punishment"

Execution chamber at Tokyo Detention Center
The Japanese government does not believe that the death penalty is in need of any immediate reform, the country's new Justice Minister Midori Matsushima said.

Matsushima, who took up the portfolio in early September, reaffirmed her stance on capital punishment in Japan, one of 22 countries in the world that still mandate capital punishment for certain crimes.

"I believe that the death penalty is necessary to punish certain very serious crimes. We have to take into account the emotional reaction of the families as well as the general public," Matsushima said at a press conference Friday.

At least 5.6 % of Japanese citizens said the death penalty was "unavoidable if the circumstances demand it", while 5.7 % "totally oppose it", according to the most recent poll conducted on the topic, which the minister cited.

The latest 2 executions in the country took place Aug 29, bringing the total number of state-mandated deaths to 11 since the Liberal Democratic Party regained control of the government in 2012.

The execution by hanging of the 2 prisoners took place 5 days before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a reshuffle of his cabinet, which saw Matsushima replacing Sadakazu Tanigaki in the justice ministry.

Amnesty International has repeatedly criticised Japan's implementation of the death sentence "without legal guarantees", referring to cases such as the execution of prisoners suffering from mental illnesses.

Source: Daiji World, Sept. 27, 2014

Karzai signs death penalty for Kabul rape convicts

Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed death penalty for Kabul rape convicts.

Aimal Faizi, spokesman for President Karzai said the death penalty for the perpetrators of Paghman gang rape was signed by the President on Saturday.

"President Karzai signed off today on the order for execution of 5 criminals convicted of rape & kidnapping in Paghman incident," Faizai said.

The Appeals Court of Kabul awarded death sentence to 5 of the 7 convicts of a group involved in brutal beating, robbery and gang-rape of 4 women in capital Kabul on September 15th.

The convicts facing death penalty includes Azizullah, Nazar Mohammad, Qaisullah, Samiullah and Habibullah, who were involved in gang rape of 4 women.

The women were initially abducted while they were returning from a wedding ceremony and were repeatedly raped besides their belongings were robbed by the gang.

Source: Khaama Press, Sept. 27, 2014

In a Final Act, Karzai Orders Execution of 5 Men in Rape Case

Hamid Karzai's last major act as president of Afghanistan may well be his order on Saturday to execute 5 men who were convicted of rape after a trial that the United Nations' top human rights official has denounced as unfair.

The convictions were based entirely on the defendants' confessions, which all five men testified during the appeals process were obtained by torture at the hands of the police. 1 of the 5 men said he was beaten so badly that he would have confessed to incest with his mother.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, called on Mr. Karzai and his successor, Ashraf Ghani, who will be inaugurated on Monday, not to carry out the death penalty "and to refer the case back to courts given the due process concerns," according to a statement issued by his spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani.

Mr. Zeid's appeal may well come too late, because there were indications that the executions would be carried out speedily. Mr. Karzai has already promised to see the men executed once the Supreme Court upholds their convictions, which it now has done.

The police chief of Kabul, Gen. Zaher Zaher, said on Afghan television on Saturday night that the 5 men would be hanged on the grounds of the main Pul-i-Charkhi prison, with the victims present as witnesses. He did not say when, but since Mr. Karzai is president for only 1 more day, it was likely that the order would be carried out on Sunday.

The 5 men were among 7 convicted of the rape and robbery of 4 women who were stopped by assailants in police uniforms as they returned from a wedding party just outside of Kabul on Aug. 23.

All 7 were convicted after a hurried trial on Sept. 7, but an appeals court reduced the death sentences of 2 of them to 20 years in prison. The 2 claimed they were burglars arrested in an unrelated crime. One suspect said the police forcibly put a police uniform on him and then photographed him in it. The accused were confronted by their victims in a lineup at which they were the only ones present, and 1 of the victims initially picked out a detective and a police cook as her assailants, until police officers corrected her and indicated the "correct" suspects, according to testimony at their appeals.

In addition, the three defense lawyers for the men said they had received death threats. One quit in the middle of the proceedings, while another said the lawyers were too frightened to mount any sort of defense. The public reacted angrily to the rapes, with many people complaining that the culprits - who come from an area well known for its many prominent gangsters and shady politicians - would just buy their way out of justice.

"No judiciary, anywhere in the world, is so robust that it can guarantee that innocent life will not be taken, and there is an alarming body of evidence to indicate that even well-functioning legal systems have sentenced to death men and women who were subsequently proven innocent," Mr. Zeid said.

Even before the trial of the 7 men took place, Mr. Karzai had publicly promised that they would be executed when found guilty, arousing criticism from human rights groups - mostly outside Afghanistan.

The president's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, announced on Twitter that the execution order had been signed.

1 of the defense lawyers, Najibullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said that the execution order was invalid because Mr. Karzai's term in office expired constitutionally during the long delay in announcing the winner of the presidential elections.

"From the day they were arrested, all the actions against them were contrary to the laws," Najibullah said. "For example, the right to keep silent, the right to have a defense lawyer present, the right to have sufficient time to prepare a defense."

Patti Gossman, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: "Whoever is pushing for this kind of vigilante justice does not have the interests of Afghan women, or civil society in general, in mind. It's been a show trial, and unfortunately many Afghans see it as justice - which speaks volumes for how little judicial reform has happened under Karzai."

In its statement, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said, "While this was a horrible crime, we have been concerned about the lack of due process and the failure to comply with national and international fair trial standards in the proceedings."

The United States has spent more than $900 million in an effort to improve the judiciary system and other aspects of the rule of law in Afghanistan in the past decade. The country's legal system has also received heavy investment from other Western donors, including the United Nations.

Source: New York Times, Sept. 27, 2014

Vietnam: Ex-leader of Vietnam's Agribank arm gets death for embezzling $3.7mn

A Vietnam court has sentenced the former general director of Finance Leasing Company No. 2 (ACL II), Vu Quoc Hao, 59, to death for embezzling VND78 billion (nearly $3.7 million) in a corruption case.

Corruption whistleblowers may be rewarded with up to $236,000 in Vietnam

Hao received the sentence at the court hearing for him and 10 other defendants involved in major corruption that took place at ALC II, which is under the State-owned Vietnam Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (Agribank), several years ago, the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court said Friday after a 10-day trial.

The jury handed down the same penalty to Pham Minh Tuan, 56, former director of Xuan Viet Co., Ltd.; and Hoang Loc, 49, ex-general director of the Vietnam Verification and Appraisal Joint Stock Company (VIVACO).

Among the remaining 8 defendants - most of whom were from ACL II - 4 got life sentences while the other 4 received sentences from 15 to 20 years in jail.

According to the indictment, in 2003 Hao, as general director of ALC II, ordered the establishment of Long Hai Sand Joint Stock Company, an affiliate of ALC II.

Hao then asked Vu Duc Hoa, 35, the director of the new company, and the company's chief accountant, Nguyen Thi Minh Hue (Hoa and Hue were sentenced to life), to buy an old submarine, the Tinro 2, from the Hai Phong City Customs Department for VND100 million ($4,700).

Hao later colluded with Loc, and Le Phuc Duc, an appraiser at VIVACO, to create documents to falsely value the old ship as high as VND130 billion (US$6.15 million).

He then directed his subordinates to prepare a finance leasing contract dated December 26, 2007, in relation to the old ship, between ALC II and Long Hai Sand Company to make a disbursement of VND130 billion from the former to the latter.

That means Long Hai, under ALC II, bought the old ship for a price that was 1,300 times higher than the real selling price of VND100 million.

Hao later appropriated VND78 billion (nearly $3.7 million) of the amount and used it to buy some 90,000 square meters in Cai Be District, in the southern province of Tien Giang, the court said.

Source: tuoiTre News, Sept. 27, 2014

Indonesia: German man arrested in Bali for cocaine possession

Indonesian customs said Saturday they have arrested a German man for allegedly trafficking cocaine onto the resort island of Bali.

Hans Peter Naumann, 48, had flown from Bangkok to Bali on an Air Asia flight before he was caught around midday Friday, officials said.

He could be charged with drug trafficking, for which the maximum penalty is a death sentence and 10 billion rupiah (S$1.06 million) fine, Bali customs official Djarot Utomo said.

"He admitted that he was only a courier," and would get US$5,000 (S$6,371) as payment, Utomo said.

Airport authorities spotted Naumann looking pale and acting suspiciously upon his arrival so decided to conduct a body search.

They found 11 capsules containing 201 grams (7 ounces) of cocaine in his underwear as well as six capsules weighing 38 grams of the drugs he had swallowed, Utomo said.

The German embassy in Jakarta could not immediately be reached for comment.

Foreigners are regularly caught with drugs on Bali and a death sentence can be imposed on those found trying to smuggle drugs weighing more than 5 grams onto the popular holiday island.

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford was sentenced to death in January last year after cocaine with an estimated street value of $2.4 million was found in her suitcase as she arrived on a flight from Bangkok.

Source: asiaone.com, Sept. 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Somalia: Woman stoned to death for polyandry

Mogadishu: A Somali woman has been stoned to death in an Islamist Al Shabab-controlled part of the country for secretly marrying several husbands, officials and witnesses said on Saturday.

Witnesses said the woman was buried up to her neck and pelted with rocks and stones by hooded men in front of a large crowd in the southern coastal district of Barawe.

“The woman married four husbands and confessed to the crime. I questioned her several times while she was in prison and she told me she was mentally fit. All the four husbands were questioned and they have confirmed that they had married her,” Islamic court judge Shaikh Mohammad Abu Abdullah told the gathering.

The woman, 33-year-old Safiyo Ahmad Jumale, was executed on Friday in front of dozens of onlookers.

“The woman was brought with her eyes covered and she was buried up to her neck before she was stoned to death by hooded men,” said Ali Yare, a resident who witnessed the execution.

Somalia’s Al Qaida-affiliated Al Shabab control large swathes of territory in the south and centre of the war-torn country, where they impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Source: Agence France-Presse, Sept. 27, 2014

India: SC extends stay on Yaqub Memon's death sentence

The Supreme Court Friday stayed execution of the death sentence of 1993 Mumbai bomb blast convict Yakub Abdul Razak Memon as it issued notice to Maharashtra government on his petition seeking an open court hearing of his plea for the review of the apex court's verdict upholding his death penalty.

Extending the June 2 order suspending his death sentence, a bench of Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice R. Banumathi in their order said that the execution of the death sentence will be stayed.

Seeking the revival of his review petition, which was earlier dismissed after being considered in the chamber by the judges, Memon relied on Sep 2 verdict of the apex court's constitution bench which had held that a petition seeking the recall of the apex court's order upholding the death sentence will be heard in an open court by a bench of 3 judges.

The constitution bench in its Sep 2 order had also said: "It will also apply where a review petition is already dismissed but the death sentence is not executed so far. In such cases, the petitioners can apply for the reopening of their review petition within 1 month from the date of this judgment."

Memon is the 2nd death row convict whose plea for recall of the order upholding the death sentence is being revived after it was dismissed earlier.

On Sep 12, the court had fixed Oct 29 for an open court hearing of Nithari serial killer death row convict Surendra Koli's review plea which had also been dismissed earlier.

The Supreme Court March 21, 2013, had upheld the death sentence awarded to Memon by the special (now lapsed) TADA (Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act) court and confirmed by the Bombay High Court.

Memon has been described as a mastermind of 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts - a series of 13 explosions in India's business capital March 12, 1993, which claimed 257 lives and left 713 injured.

President Pranab Mukherjee May 21 rejected Memon's mercy plea. He applied for presidential pardon in October 2013.

The TADA trial court presided over by Justice P.D. Kode had commenced the trial Nov 4, 1993, and pronounced its 4,230-page verdict July 31, 2007.

The trial court awarded death sentence to 12 people, including Memon. One of them subsequently passed away.

The trial court had also sentenced 20 people to life imprisonment and 46 others, including Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, were given varying terms of imprisonment.

Source: Free Press Journal, Sept. 25, 2014

China: Chinese man declared innocent 13 years after death penalty

A man from south China's Guangdong Province was pronounced innocent by a local court after being sentenced to death for murder 13 years ago, Xinhua reported Friday.

Xu Hui, a resident of Zhuhai city in Guangdong, was given the death penalty with a 2-year reprieve for raping and killing a 19-year-old girl by the Zhuhai Intermediate People's Court in 2001.

Xu repeatedly protested his innocence but all the appeals were rejected by local courts until the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) found the suspect's confession contradicted evidence provided in 2007.

Under the instruction of the SPP, the People's Procuratorate in Guangdong suggested the Guangdong Provincial Higher People's Court rehear the case in 2008. On Sep 9, the Zhuhai Intermediate People's Court brought in a verdict of not guilty.

Source: IANS, Sept. 25, 2014

Jordan: Prince Zeid calls for abolishing death penalty

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged all states to put an end to death penalty, which he said is the very example of human vengeance at its worst. 

In remarks at the high-level event, Moving Away from the Death Penalty: National Leadership, held on the margins of the annual General Assembly debate in New York, he affirmed that the right to life represents everything the UN stands for. 

His Highness added that the application of the death penalty deprived people of their lives "arbitrarily and cruelly" and that the practice itself was "unjust and incompatible with human rights." He underscored the need to reform judicial systems around the world, noting that only then would a practice based on vengeance truly be defeated. 

"We encouraged the international community to "set course" towards a "more sophisticated, more human" form of justice which goes beyond punishment and seeks "a genuine recognition by the wrongdoers of their wrongdoing." The Prince said. 

The High Commissioner dismissed capital punishment as "degrading and cruel in more than one sense" and acknowledged that it was "often discriminatory" of the condemned, disproportionately affecting the poor, the mentally ill, the powerless and minorities. 

Source: petra.gov, Sept. 25, 2014