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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

London preacher who called for gays to be killed now facing terror charges

Radical London preacher Anjem Choudary
Radical London preacher Anjem Choudary
Radical London preacher Anjem Choudary, who previously called for gay people to be stoned to death, is set to face trial on terror charges after allegedly encouraging support for ISIS.

The 47-year-old is the former UK head of the Islamist group al-Muhajiroun or Islam4UK, which was banned in the UK in 2010.

He suggested at a press conference in 2009 that gay people should be stoned to death, and has maintained that stance since.

Choudary, who frequently causes controversy with his extremist views and high-profile protests, is charged with allegedly calling on social media for people to support ISIS.

The 48-year-old, from Ilford, east London, appeared in the Old Bailey via video link.

He was remanded in custody, and his trial is set to begin next year, on January 11.

He was charged alongside Mohammed Rahman, 32, of Whitechapel, east London, with one offence under section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which bans people from “inviting support for a proscribed organisation”.

The court heard the alleged offence took place between June 29 2014, and March 6 this year.

The preacher is known for his extreme anti-gay views.

He claimed in a Fox News interview last year that he thought those found guilty of “sodomy”, where there are four witnesses, should be stoned to death under Sharia law, which he said should be implemented worldwide.

Source: PinkNews, Nick Duffy, August 28, 2015

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Texas: Scheduled Execution Date Withdrawn for Joe Franco Garza

The scheduled execution date for Joe Franco Garza has been withdrawn.

Garza was scheduled for execution on September 2. He was found guilty of the 1998 murder of Silbiano Rangel and sentenced to death.

There is an agreed order that said his execution would be stayed while more DNA testing is completed.

The Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney's Office and Garza's attorneys both agreed to this, according to court records.

The agreed order states that a number of pieces of evidence, including clothing, fingernails, and hair among others, be tested.

"It's not an admission by the DA's office that he's entitled to relief," David Guinn, a Lubbock criminal defense attorney, said. "It's a good thing for the court to do. As a matter of fact, it takes a smart judge with a lot of courage to stop an execution date, but in light of recent scientific revelations and material, why not be safe? Why not make sure?"

Guinn added, "If he's a bad guy he's not going anywhere, and if we get it wrong, well, thank goodness for justice."

"Several pieces of physical evidence are going to be evaluated by the lab. Both parties agreed to that as set forth in the order, and that the results of that testing will come back to Mr. Garza's attorneys, and the State of Texas," Guinn said. "And when they get that back, they'll look at it and decide what to do next."

Source: everythingnlubbokc.com, August 28, 2015

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Egypt court sentences 12 IS supporters to death

An Egyptian court sentenced to death 12 members of the Islamic State group Thursday for planning attacks against police and soldiers in the country, a judicial official said.

6 of those who were on trial are behind bars, while the rest are still at large, the official said.

They were convicted of having joined IS -- which has declared a "caliphate" in parts of Iraq and Syria under its control -- and of plotting to attack members of Egypt's police force and military.

In Egypt, death sentences are forwarded to the country's grand mufti, the official interpreter of Islamic law, who then issues a non-binding opinion.

The sentences issued will either be confirmed or commuted on September 12 by the court in the northern province of Sharkia, a court official said.

In a separate trial, 2 cousins were sentenced to three years in prison in the same province for using Facebook to promote the ideology of IS, the official added.

Source: al-monitor.com, August 28, 2015

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Nebraska group says it can stop death penalty repeal

An organization campaigning to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty after lawmakers repealed it in May said Wednesday it has collected more than enough signatures to suspend the law before it goes into effect and place it before voters in 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which was heavily financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his family, said it had gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties. Nebraska's unicameral Legislature had voted to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the 1st traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years.

The pro-death penalty group needed roughly 57,000 valid signatures from registered voters to force a statewide referendum, and double that number to immediately halt the death penalty repeal going into effect. They appear to have exceeded the 10 % of registered voters hurdle needed to block repeal pending a November 2016 ballot measure on the issue.

"Nebraskans sent a strong message about crime and punishment in our state by signing this petition in extraordinary numbers," said state treasurer and former attorney general Don Stenberg, a co-chair of the petition drive.

The announcement came just before the repeal law was set to go into effect on Sunday, but the signatures still need to be verified. The petitions now go to the Nebraska secretary of state's office, which will forward them to counties to verify the signatures in a process that will take about 40 days.

Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson, who supports the death penalty, said in a statement that the signatures are "presumptively valid" until determined otherwise. Stenberg said no one will know the exact number of valid signatures for at least a month, but the state constitution makes clear that petitions go into effect on the day they're submitted.

Even if the law is suspended, Nebraska currently has no way to execute any of the 10 men on death row because its lacks 2 of the 3 required lethal injection drugs and has struggled to obtain them legally. The state paid $54,400 in May to order the drugs from a broker in India, but federal authorities have said they can't be legally imported.

Nebraska lawmakers voted by the narrowest possible margin, 30-19, to override Ricketts' veto. Ricketts assailed the Legislature as out of touch with the wishes of most residents. The repeal vote was helped by an unusual coalition of conservative state senators and more traditional death penalty opponents who had fought unsuccessfully for decades to eliminate the punishment. Some conservatives said they opposed it for religious and moral reasons, while others cast it as an inefficient government program that wastes tax money.

"What the Nebraska Legislature did is going to have an effect," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, whose group takes no stance on the death penalty but often criticizes how it's administered. "The message that conservative legislators can reach across the aisle with moderate and liberal legislators - that message is still there and still resonates."

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, and has never done so using the state's current 3-drug lethal injection protocol.

The state was the 19th to abolish capital punishment, as has the District of Columbia, while the death penalty is legal in 31 states and for some federal crimes. The number of executions in the United States has gradually declined in recent years and only a handful of states led by Texas regularly put inmates to death.

The announcement of the number of signatures caps an 82-day petition drive backed by Ricketts and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. The governor had given $200,000 to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty as of the last filing deadline on July 31, while his father had donated $100,000. The group raised a total of more than $652,000 from 40 individual donors and seven groups classified as businesses, political action committees and other entities.

The largest donation in July came from the conservative, Washington-based Judicial Crisis Network, which gave $200,000. Nebraskans for the Death Penalty relied on a combination of paid and volunteer petition circulators, and was aided by an Arizona-based strategist who specializes in ballot campaigns.

Source: Associated Press, August 28, 2015

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High court won't rehear death penalty case

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
The Supreme Court refused Friday to reconsider the death-row appeals of 3 Oklahoma prisoners whose pending executions by lethal injection were upheld by the justices in June.

Without comment, the court denied a petition filed by the prisoners' lawyers that would have turned the case into one testing the overall constitutionality of the death penalty.

The justices ruled 5-4 on June 29 that Oklahoma can use the sedative midazolam as part of a 3-drug lethal injection protocol, despite contentions that it may not render prisoners completely unconscious and incapable of feeling pain. The court's majority said the inmates failed to suggest any better alternative.

But the decision included a sweeping dissent from Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg that questioned whether capital punishment is no longer constitutional. The 2 liberal justices cited scores of death-row exonerations, racial and geographic disparities, decades-long delays between sentencing and executions and a trend away from capital punishment in courts and states.

Breyer, who wrote the dissent, urged the court to hear a case in the near future on whether the death penalty violates the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The court ruled that way in 1972, resulting in a 4-year moratorium on executions, but reversed itself in 1976.

"It would be appropriate for the court to use this case to address the constitutionality of the death penalty, because the outcome will turn not on facts specific to any single litigant, but on circumstances common to the administration of the death penalty," attorneys for death-row inmates Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole said.

A similar effort was mounted in early July by Missouri prisoner David Zink, but the Supreme Court refused to delay his execution, and he was put to death July 14. Barring a last-minute reprieve, Glossip is scheduled to die Sept. 16, with Grant and Cole to follow later this year.

A more likely candidate for the Supreme Court to consider whether the death penalty is constitutional will come before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Monday. In that case, a federal district judge already has declared California's death penalty unconstitutional because of long delays, inadequate funding for defense lawyers, and the lack of a lethal injection protocol.

The June Supreme Court case concerned the specific drug used by Oklahoma and some other states to sedate prisoners before lethal drugs are administered. While Florida has used midazolam with apparent success, three executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma resulted in condemned prisoners gasping and writhing on their gurneys.

The high court's 5-member conservative majority ruled that states may continue to uses midazolam because the defendants could not suggest an alternative - a burden that the court's 4 liberal members criticized in a dissent written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Source: USA Today, August 28, 2015

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EU Blasts Palestinian Use Of Death Penalty

Firing squad execution of alleged spy by Hamas militants in Gaza City
Firing squad execution of alleged spy by Hamas militants in Gaza City 
European Union missions based in Jerusalem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank condemned Friday a death sentence issued in the Gaza Strip earlier this week.

The sentence was the 5th issued since the beginning of the year by Palestinian courts.

On Monday, the Permanent Military Court in Gaza City - acting as a court of First Instance - sentenced a 37-year-old Palestinian from the al-Daraj neighborhood to death by firing squad after he was convicted of "collaboration with a foreign hostile entity," the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported.

Under Palestinian law, wilful, premeditated murder and treason as well as collaboration with the enemy - usually Israel - are punishable by death.

The EU called on authorities in Gaza - run by the Hamas movement - to refrain from enforcing capital punishment on the grounds that the practice is cruel, inhumane, fails to deter criminal behavior, and denies citizens human dignity.

PCHR said that Monday's sentence brings the total number of death sentences issued by the Palestinian courts since 1994 to 161, over 80 % of which were carried out in the Gaza Strip.

The remainder took place in the occupied West Bank in courts run by the Palestinian Authority.

The majority of those facing the death penalty in the Gaza Strip have been executed since Hamas took control on 2007, PCHR said, adding that 19 have been executed since 2007 without ratification by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Under Palestinian law, capital punishment may only be carried out with the approval of the Palestinian president.

As the Hamas movement broke from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and does not recognize the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip sidestep the president's consent on cases of capital punishment.

The EU added that the authorities in Gaza must "comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend."

While Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and the Palestinian Authority rules in the occupied West Bank, the death penalty is carried out by both parties in both territories.

Hamas executed 18 men in August for alleged collaboration with Israel during the 50-day Gaza war.

Palestine is 1 of 22 countries that carried out the death penalty last year.

The practice has been abolished in 140 countries - nearly 2/3 of countries around the world - and in 2012 over half of United Nations member states voted for a UN resolution to be passed for a global moratorium on the practice.

In 2014, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States carried out the largest numbers of recorded death sentences.

Rights groups have criticized Palestinian authorities in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip for implementing capital punishment without due process.

Source:eurasiareview.com, August 28, 2015

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Chad sentences 10 Boko Haram members to death

Chad has sentenced 10 members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram to death on terror charges, after a 3-day trial in the capital N'Djamena.

The 10 were convicted over their roles in twin attacks on the capital in June, which killed at least 38.

The attacks were the 1st by the Nigerian-based group in Chad, which hosts the headquarters of a regional force set up to fight the militants.

In July, Chad reintroduced the death penalty for acts of terror.

Opposition and civil liberties groups have criticised the new anti-terror legislation, saying it could be used to curb civil rights.

The men were found guilty of charges including criminal conspiracy, killings, wilful destruction with explosives, fraud, illegal possessions of arms and ammunition, and using psychotropic substances, according to chief prosecutor Bruno Mahouli Louapambe, quoted in AFP news agency.

The trial had been due to last eight days, but "due to security reasons it was speeded up and moved on Thursday to an undisclosed secret location," a judicial source told AFP.

Among those convicted was Mahamat Mustapha, aka Bana Fanaye, the man described as the "mastermind" of the attack by Chad's Interior Minister Abderahim Bireme Hamid.

The June attacks were followed by a blast at a market in the capital in July, which killed 15 people.

Chad has banned people from wearing the full-face veil following the bombings.

Boko Haram had previously threatened to attack Chad, after it sent troops to help Nigeria recapture territory from the militant group, mostly in Borno state.

Chad has been instrumental in helping Nigeria retake most of the areas Boko Haram had seized.

The jihadists, who want to create their own Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, have killed thousands and forced millions to flee their homes in the country's north-east Nigeria since 2009.

Source: BBC news, August 28, 2015

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India: Law panel drafts paper, favours abolition of death penalty

India's Supreme Court
India's Supreme Court
The Law Commission is set to recommend abolition of death penalty in India except for terror convicts, media reports said on Friday, a move rights activists say is long overdue in the country.

India is one of 59 countries in the world where capital punishment is still awarded and activists have been demanding its abolition, saying death penalty had no place in civilised society.

The issue had generated intense debate before and after the hanging in July of Yakub Memon, the sole Mumbai blasts convict to be executed.

A 272-page draft report of the Law Commission was in favour of speedy abolition of the death penalty from the statute books, except in cases where the accused is convicted of involvement in a terror case, the Indian Express reported.

The Law Commission had recommended retention of death penalty in 1962.

"The Commission suggests that the death penalty be immediately abolished for all crimes other than terror offences. At the same time, for terror offences a moratorium as regards sentencing and execution be immediately put in place. This moratorium can be reviewed after a reasonable period," the report quoted the draft as saying.

The panel also hoped that the "movement towards absolute abolition will be swift and irreversible".

The commission, headed by justice (retd) AP Shah, is likely to submit its report next week to the Supreme Court which had asked the panel to study the issue.

A copy of the report will also be handed over to the Union law minister as any call on changes in penal provisions has to be taken by Parliament.

The panel's term expires on August 31. According to the report, the commission is of the view that death penalty has not served its intended purpose of acting as a deterrent to crimes or criminals.

"The quest for retribution as a penal justification cannot descend into cries for vengeance," the draft paper said.

The panel had held wide-ranging discussions with many different sections including political parties.

Former president late APJ Abdul Kalam is among the people who had earlier supported abolishing death penalty while responding to a consultation paper of the Law Commission.

Ahead of Yakub Memon's hanging after a dramatic late-night rejection of his final mercy, a group of activists had written to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking a stay on his execution.

Source: Hindustan Times, August 28, 2015

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Friday, August 28, 2015

2 Colorado juries reject death penalty in a month: Will Colorado ever execute a criminal again?

James Holmes (L) and Dexter Lewis (R) sentenced to life in prison
James Holmes (L) and Dexter Lewis (R) sentenced to life in prison
DENVER - Two Colorado juries have rejected the death penalty for mass murderers in a single month. Add to that the governor's controversial decision to grant clemency to the last killer who was supposed to be executed, and it begs a question: Will Colorado ever use the death penalty again?

Jurors in Arapahoe County, the only Colorado County that currently has killers awaiting the death penalty, could not unanimously agree to sentence the Aurora movie theater gunman to die by lethal injection. Instead, the man who killed 12 people and wounded 70 others during a movie premiere was sentenced to 12 lifetimes in prison plus 3,318 years -- one of the longest prison terms in history.

Just days later, a Denver County jury decided that mitigating factors were sufficient to stop the process in pursuit of the death penalty for the man who stabbed five people to death in a bar that was subsequently set on fire. The mitigating factors included an abusive childhood.

"The question everybody is asking is if these cases didn't justify handing out the death penalty, executing somebody, what case could possible merit that?" said former Douglas County judge Jim Miller.

Miller says concerns ranging from the cost of trying a death penalty case to morality are fueling opposition.

"I think a combination of those factors make it very unlikely that you'll anyone executed in Colorado again," said Miller.

Yet, just last month, a poll found Colorado voters wanted death, two-to-one, in the theater shooting case.

"I think it's worth a conversation, but the idea that Coloradans have moved on from the death penalty is not accurate,” said Arapahoe district attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted the theater shooting case.

Under Colorado law, juries must unanimously agree to impose death sentences. In the theater case, one juror was steadfast against the death penalty and at least one juror sided with Lewis' defense team's presentation of mitigating factors. 

The Colorado legislature last tried to repeal the death penalty in 2013. Supporters of repeal argued that the death penalty is applied unfairly and arbitrarily. But the bill died in committee as Democratic lawmakers wavered on doing away with capital punishment. Governor Hickenlooper, a fellow Democrat, had signaled he might veto the bill. His office had issued a statement saying, "the governor has conflicting feelings about the death penalty. Those feelings are still unresolved."

Death penalty facts:
  • No Denver jury has sentenced someone to death since 1986.
  • Colorado has not executed anyone since 1997.
  • State law requires the Colorado Supreme Court to review all death sentences and defense appeals typically last more than a decade. Afterward, the court that oversaw the case must issue a death warrant indicating the week in which the lethal injection would occur.
  • Colorado law dictates that the death penalty can only be carried out by means of a "continuous intravenous injection of a lethal quantity of sodium thiopental or other equally or more effective substance."
Three other convicted killers are currently awaiting executions in Colorado, but they were all sentenced between 5 and 20 years ago.

Sir Mario Owens: A jury sentenced Sir Mario Owens to death on June 16, 2008 for the 2005 ambush murders of Vivian Wolfe and her fiance, Javad Marshall-Fields, who were gunned down in their car at an Aurora intersection. Javad Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify against Owens' friend Robert Ray.

Robert Ray: A jury sentenced Robert Ray, a 23-year-old drug dealer, to death on June 8, 2009, for planned and ordering the killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancée Vivian Wolfe.

Nathan Dunlap: He was sentenced to death in 1996 for shooting to death four employees at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1993. In May 2013, Dunlap was three months from a scheduled execution when Gov. John Hickenlooper granted him a controversial "temporary reprieve." In a move that outraged Dunlap's victims, the governor said, "Colorado's system of capital punishment is imperfect and inherently inequitable." While it's unlikely that Hickenlooper will reconsider executing Dunlap, a future governor could agree to carry out the execution.

Source: 7News Denver, Marc Stewart, Phil Tenser, Alan Gathright, August 28, 2015

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Burkina Faso: Opportunity to abolish the death penalty must be seized

Burkina Faso must seize the opportunity to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International said on the eve of parliamentary sessions which will culminate in an historic vote.

Tomorrow the national transitional parliament will start a series of discussions with organisations and interested parties regarding the abolition of the death penalty before putting a bill to the vote on 6 September. The government has already approved the text of the bill which has been sent back to the transitional parliament.

"This is a critical moment for Burkina Faso to put itself on the right side of history by acknowledging the inviolable nature of the right to life"-- Alioune Tine, Amnesty International West Africa director.

"The eyes of the world will be on the country's parliamentarians to see whether they will join the steady global movement away from the use of the death penalty and abolish this cruel punishment once and for all."

The last known execution was carried out in Burkina Faso in 1988. If the law is adopted, Burkina Faso will join the 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which have abolished the death penalty.

Progress in the region has been good. Over the course of the last 20 years, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Togo in West Africa, alongside Burundi, Gabon, Mauritius and Rwanda, have all abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Earlier in the year Madagascar became the latest country in Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There is no convincing evidence to support the idea that the death penalty works as a deterrent to crime, or that it is more effective than other forms of punishment. This has been confirmed in many United Nations studies across different countries and regions.

Background

The parliamentary discussions will start tomorrow with the hearing of human rights organisations that have been campaigning against the death penalty in Burkina Faso. This will be followed on 4 September by the Report hearing. The plenary session for the parliament's vote will take place on 6 September.

"The 1st article of the draft bill confirms that the country is an abolitionist in practice, the second introduces a reference to life sentence in respect of all texts applicable before the entry into force of the law."-- Amnesty International

The 3rd article states that death sentences already imposed are commuted into life imprisonment. The 4th article indicates that the law shall be enforced as a law of the State.

Burkina Faso's laws currently provide for the use of the death penalty in the penal code, the military code of justice and article 4 of the railways police law.

Source: Amnesty International, August 27, 2015

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Pakistan hangs man convicted for multiple murders

Gallows in Pakistani prison
Gallows in Pakistani prison
Pakistan today hanged a death row prisoner convicted for multiple murders, taking the total number of convicts executed to 212 since the country lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in March this year.

Maqbool Hussain was hanged early this morning in Multan central jail in Punjab province.

Hussain was convicted for murdering 6 people in 1996 to avenge the killing of his brothers and his petitions were already rejected by higher courts.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.

Executions in Pakistan resumed in December last year, ending a 6-year moratorium, after Taliban fighters gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school in Peshawar.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism offences, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.

So far 212 convicts have been executed in total despite the criticism from United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

More than 8,000 prisoners are on death row in Pakistan and about 160 convicts have been executed since the Nawaz Sharif government lifted moratorium on death penalty.

Source: Press Trust of India, August 27, 2015

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Iran regime continues spate of executions

NCRI - Iran's fundamentalist regime on Thursday hanged a man in the central prison of Sanandaj, western Iran.

The man, identified as Jamal Jaafari, had been imprisoned for four years. He was accused of murder.

Six prisoners, including political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani, were hanged in Orumieh Prison, western Iran on Wednesday.

On Monday, the mullahs' regime hanged a 25-year-old prisoner identified as Hossein Karimi in Bandar Abbas Prison, southern Iran. He was accused of a drugs related charge.

The regime's prosecutor in Mazandaran Province, northern Iran, on Monday said a prisoner, only identified by the initials R.F., was hanged in Sari Prison on Sunday.

A statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on August 5 said: "Iran has reportedly executed more than 600 individuals so far this year. Last year, at least 753 people were executed in the country."

Source: NCRI, August 27, 2015

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The death penalty is in its final throes, but too many are still being executed

Of the 195 states recognised by the UN, only 37 still use capital punishment – in the misguided belief that it is an effective deterrent

History may be susceptible to few inexorable predictions. But we are on safe ground if we say that sacrificing a human being to the false god of deterrence, or for pure revenge, is not going to look civilised when we peer back from the 22nd century, any more than our own history books laud the Salem witch trials three centuries ago.

At one time or another, essentially every country has used capital punishment. Yet today, of the 195 states recognised by the United Nations, only 37 killer countries remain: just one in five. Of the rest, 102 have formally abolished, and 56 have either not executed for more than 10 years, or have imposed a formal moratorium. The death penalty is in its death throes.

However, just as a wild animal may be most dangerous when cornered, so the renegade states lash out. Pakistan is an example of this. Nine months ago, the moratorium imposed by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) six years earlier held firm. In 1979, the then PPP leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by the military regime; in other words, they had experienced the caprice of capital punishment first-hand.

However, the current PMLN government, led by Nawaz Sharif, has vowed to execute everyone on death row – which, at 8261 people, is more than in any other country. This is meant to deter the terrorists who had carried out the hideous Peshawar school massacre in December 2014. (All the “jihadis” had willingly died in the attack, so the deterrent value of executions seemed questionable even then.)

Yet Pakistan is an example of a country where deterrence works – for politicians at least. For months, the PMLN government had been discouraged from carrying out executions, by an EU threat to take away favourable trading status, which is said to be worth some $1.3bn dollars a year. They have also been deterred by the terrorists themselves. While those who were said to be extremists made up at least 13 of the 25 hanged in the first seven weeks of the gallows, on 11 February this year the terrorists apparently issued their own secretive threat of retribution: if any more of their number should be hanged, they would target the politicians and their families personally.

Iran is another country where a recent bloodbath on the gallows may be subject to western influence. Iran has recently doubled the rate at which it hangs people for narcotics violations and these are, overwhelmingly, small-time mules. Investigations by Reprieve show that UK support for Iranian drug police directly enabled 2,917 hangings, and a western-funded UN drugs programme has helped to put the necks of more than two drug mules in the noose each day this year.

Another pretext for using the death chamber is common to conservative Christians and Muslims alike – that the death penalty is somehow mandated by God. Their take on the lex talionis (“an eye for an eye”) is itself dubious, as such countries impose death for many crimes, including drugs and blasphemy. In Saudi Arabia the new ruler, King Salman, has more than doubled the number of prisoners beheaded this year, and more than half have been foreigners who generally do not speak Arabic and have little chance of defending themselves.

The United States still has more than 3,000 people on death row, but only five states have managed to conduct 19 executions between them this year, down more than two-thirds on 1999, with public support waning. However, the battle is far from over. The US is less susceptible to international pressure, and the conservatives take their shibboleths seriously. Recently, some states have had trouble obtaining lethal injection drugs, for the simple reason that pharmaceutical companies do not want their product used to kill people. In a recent supreme court challenge, the conservative five-justice majority voted to uphold the lethal execution process, insisting that a prisoner who objects to a particularly gruesome and painful method of execution must help the state by suggesting an alternative way to execute him.


Source: The Guardian, Opinion, Clive Stafford Smith, August 27, 2015

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Tennessee will keep lethal injections for death row executions, court rules

Judge rejects claim from 33 death row inmates and says they did not prove the one-drug method led to a painful and lingering death

A judge in Tennessee has upheld the state’s lethal injection process for executing inmates, hours after a federal judge in Mississippi said that state’s process may break the law.

At issue in both cases is the efficacy of the states’ execution drugs. US states have been experimenting with various combinations of lethal injection since a European-led boycott made it difficult to obtain the drugs they require to carry out executions.

Tennessee uses a single drug, pentobarbital, to execute its inmates; Mississippi relies on a three-drug mixture including a pentobarbital or midazolam, sedatives that are followed by a paralysing agent and a drug that stops an inmate’s heart.

In Tennessee, Davidson county chancery judge Claudia Bonnyman said from the bench that the plaintiffs, 33 death row inmates, did not prove that the one-drug method led to a painful and lingering death.

She also said the plaintiffs did not show during a lengthy trial that there had been problems in states where the method was used.

“Plaintiffs were not able to carry their burdens ... on any of their claims,” Bonnyman said.

In Mississippi, meanwhile, US district judge Henry T Wingate said Mississippi’s plans did not appear to include a drug meeting the legal requirement for an “ultra short-acting barbiturate” that would render a person unconscious almost immediately.

Three death row prisoners sued, saying they could remain conscious during execution. During the lawsuit, Mississippi changed its procedure to say it would use midazolam as a sedative, after the US supreme court approved the drug’s use in Oklahoma.


Source: The Guardian, August 27, 2015

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nebraska: Death penalty supporters turn over 166,000 signatures

Gathering signatures against the death penalty repeal in Nebraska
Gathering signatures against the death penalty repeal in Nebraska
It appears voters in Nebraska will have the final say on the future of the death penalty.

Supporters of the death penalty in Nebraska said they turned over 166,692 petition signatures Wednesday, which if verified, would suspend the repeal of capital punishment in the state until the issue goes before voters in November 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty needed about 57,000 verified signatures -- 5 percent of the state's registered voters -- to put the issue to a vote and about 114,000 -- 10 percent of registered voters -- to stop the repeal from going into effect until after the 2016 vote takes place.

Standing in front of boxes and boxes of signed petitions at a Wednesday news conference, state Sen. Mike Groene said Nebraskans -- the second house -- will now have their say.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Sen. Beau McCoy, and Vivian Tuttle, mother of Evonne Tuttle, who was killed in 2002 during a bank robbery in Norfolk, were at the news conference. Stenberg and McCoy co-chaired the petition drive. Groene, of North Platte, and Tuttle said they gathered more than 1,700 and 1,900 signatures, respectively.

Groene said people "flocked" to sign petitions.

The group began collecting signatures June 6, and paid circulators and volunteers spent every day since circulating petitions in all counties across the state. McCoy said over half of the 595 petition circulators were volunteers.

Organizers of the petition drive said they expected to have no problem meeting the additional threshold of signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in at least 38 counties. Petitions, they said, include signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in 70 of the state's 93 counties.

In May, Nebraska made international headlines when the Legislature voted 30-19 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of LB268, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, which repealed the death penalty. The count included votes to repeal cast by senators who identify as conservative. One of the senators who worked hard to gather repeal votes in the Legislature was Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, who identifies himself as a conservative Republican, and who is also Catholic.

Ricketts and his father, Joe Ricketts, have been reported as the largest individual financial contributors to the campaign, which had raised $652,000 by the end of July, as reported to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. At the last filing with the commission, the governor and his father had contributed at least $300,000.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a group committed to the U.S. Constitution and to limited government, contributed $200,000 on July 27.

Nebraskans for Public Safety, which favors repeal of the death penalty, had raised $433,500 as of the end of July. About $400,000 of that came from the Proteus Action League of Amherst, Massachusetts, a civil rights and social action advocacy group.

Another group, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, is closely monitoring the initial results of the death penalty referendum signature-gathering campaign and will await an official decision from the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office, the group said in a news release.


Source: Lincoln Journal Star, Joanne Young, August 26, 2015

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Aurora, Colo., movie theater gunman sentenced to 12 lifetimes in prison and another 3,318 years

James Holmes ordered to serve life in prison without parole plus 3,318 years
James Holmes sentenced to life in prison
without parole plus 3,318 years
The gunman who shot and killed 12 people inside a packed Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012 was formally sentenced Wednesday morning to life in prison without parole.

In July, a jury found James Holmes guilty on each of the 165 charges he faced in the case, unanimously rejecting an argument made by his attorneys that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. 

But last month, the same jury said he should be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death by lethal injection, a surprising decision considering that jurors had declined earlier opportunities to spare him a death sentence.

District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. announced the sentence at a hearing Wednesday, ending a grueling, emotional trial that had stretched out for much of this year. 

As Samour had told the jurors before they deliberated on Holmes’s punishment, he was required to sentence the gunman to life in prison without parole if the jurors could not reach a unanimous decision.

But during Wednesday’s hearing, Samour made clear that he still wanted to give Holmes the most severe punishment allowed to him under the law to make it clear that Holmes will “never set foot in free society again.”


Source: The Washington Post, Mark Berman, August 26, 2015

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Iran executes political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani in spite of international pleas

Iran Execution (File photo)
Behrouz Alkhani, a 30 year old political prisoner in Iran, was executed on Tuesday despite international calls for a stay in execution and retrial, following an allegedly unfair trail. The execution came even as Alkhani awaited a Supreme Court appeal.

Alkhani, who is of Kurdish descent, was first arrested in January of 2010 in Northwestern Iran and held for more than a year without access to either his family or a lawyer. He was convicted by a Revolutionary Court of charges for collaborating with the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan and “enmity against God.” Allegedly, Alkhani participated in the assassination of a local Iranian Prosecutor.

NCRI has also reported that more than 80 protesters gathered outside of central prison of Orumieh, in western Iran, where the execution was scheduled to take place. NCRI claims that the protesters, who were demanding a halt to the execution, were attacked by prison guards and anti-riot police. Many of those gathered were family members of Alkhani and included women and children.

Aklhani's immediate family members were granted a last visit and informed of the impending execution.

Amnesty International also called for a halt to the execution, noting that Alkhani was still awaiting the outcome of his Supreme Court appeal. The organization also argued that Alkhani was given a “grossly unfair” trial, and that he was tortured and poorly treated while in custody.

Click here to read the full article

Source: Digital Journal, Brian Booker, August 26, 2015

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Oklahoma: Prejean, Sarandon, Knight and exoneree Nate Fields to appear on Dr. Phil on behalf of Richard Glossip

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
Anti death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, award winning actress Susan Sarandon, legal team member Don Knight and Illinois exoneree Nathan "Nate" Fields will appear on The Dr. Phil Show to advocate for the life of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Recently receiving a whirlwind of press from Sr. Helen's work and Ms. Sarandon, the Glossip supporters will attempt to lay out the details of his case that they believe will show that Glossip is an innocent man, although he is scheduled to be executed in McAlester on September 16

According to Glossip's close friend Kim Van Atta, the airdate is September 8th, but he says "I understand the show was so powerful that Dr. Phil would like to air it sooner if he can, and wants to contact his Governor."

Nathson "Nate" Fields, also a guest, will tell how he was acquitted on April 8, 2009, of double homicide for which he spent almost 20 years in prison, including more than 11 years on death row.

To date, there have been 155 exonerations in 26 different States. Oklahoma has had 10.

Knight said, "Dr Phil gave the telephone number to the Governor's office to his TV audience and told them to call. He's really against the injustice of executing an innocent man."

In Oklahoma City, The Dr. Phil Show can be seen on KWTV, News9 at 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information about Nathson Fields, visit the Witness for Innocence website. For more information about Richard Glossip, go to www.sisterhelen.org/richard.

Source: The City Sentinel, August 25, 2015

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Islamic State has killed at least 30 people for "being gay", UN told

Gay man thrown off building top by ISIS in Iraq in June 2015
Gay man thrown off building top by ISIS in Iraq in June 2015
US ambassador tells security council meeting it is "about time" the issue of violence and discrimination towards LGBT people is highlighted

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for killing at least 30 people for sodomy, the head of an international gay rights organisation has told the 1st UN security council meeting in New York to focus on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"It's about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking centre stage," said the US ambassador, Samantha Power, who organised the meeting with Chile's UN envoy. "This represents a small but historic step."

Diplomats said 2 of the 15 council members, Chad and Angola, had not attended the informal closed meeting.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the council that courts established by Isis in Iraq and Syria claimed to have punished sodomy with stoning, firing squads and beheadings and by pushing men from tall buildings.

Fear of the extremist group, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, was fuelling violence by others against LGBT individuals, she said.

Subhi Nahas, a gay refugee from the Syrian city of Idlib, told the council that President Bashar al-Assad's government "launched a campaign accusing all dissidents of being homosexuals" when the country's uprising started in 2011. Soon afterwards gay hangouts were raided and many people were arrested and tortured. "Some were never heard from again," he said.

When the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front took Idlib in 2012, he said, its militants announced "they would cleanse the town of those involved in sodomy". Arrests and killings of accused homosexual people followed. In 2014 when Isis took the city, the violence worsened, he said.

"At the executions hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding," Nahas said. "If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate, too."

He was able to escape to Lebanon, then to Turkey, where he was threatened by a former schoolfriend from Idlib who had joined Isis. Finally he reached the US.

Stern stressed that persecution of LGBT people in Iraq and Syria began long before the emergence of Isis, and called for UN action to relocate LGBT persons most in need and to bring the gay community into broader human rights and humanitarian initiatives.

Source: The Guardian, August 25, 2015

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Four executions carried out in Saudi Arabia in one day

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Four people have been executed in Saudi Arabia, just one day after an international report condemned the country's frequent use of the death penalty.

This brings the number of judicial killings so far this year to 130, compared to a total of 83 in 2014 - when Saudi Arabia executed more people than any country in the world, except China and Iran.

Riyadh diplomats claims the rise in executions is due to the appointment of more judges, which has then increased the number of cases heard in court.

They deny that increase in executions in 2015 is related to the the ascension of King Salman, who began his reign in January this year.

All four executions took place in different Saudi cities on Wednesday. Three were of Saudi nationals convicted of murder - in Asir Province, the city of Taif and al-Baha Province respectively .

A Syrian man was executed in the northern province of al-Jawf for drug smuggling.

This comes the day after Amnesty International published a highly critical 43-page report on judicial killings in Saudi Arabia.

The conservative kingdom has executed at least 178 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to Amnesty.

Nearly half of the 2,208 people executed in the past 30 years have been foreign nationals, with many believed to have lacked sufficient Arabic skills to understand court proceedings.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of sharia - Islamic law - and applies the death penalty to a number of crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling.

Though not as common, Saudi Courts allow for people to be executed for adultery, apostasy, homosexuality and witchcraft.

People can also be executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age.

'Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale,' Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one’s fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

The conservative kingdom, whose judiciary is composed of clerics, denies its trials are unfair.

Source: Mail Online, August 26, 2015


Rampant executions fuelled by justice system 'riddled with holes'
  • Death sentences imposed after unfair trials lacking basic safeguards
  • At least 102 executed in first six months of 2015 compared to 90 in all of 2014
  • Average of 1 person executed every two days, most by beheading
  • Almost 1/2 of executions in recent years are for non-lethal crimes
  • At least 2,208 people executed between January 1985 and June 2015
  • Nearly 1/2 of those executed since 1985 were foreign nationals
  • Juvenile offenders, people with mental disabilities among those executed

Hundreds of people have been condemned to death after being convicted in unfair trials under Saudi Arabia's deeply flawed judicial system, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

'Killing in the Name of Justice': The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia exposes the shockingly arbitrary use of the death penalty in the Kingdom, where the death sentence is often imposed after trials that blatantly flout international standards.

"Sentencing hundreds of people to death after deeply flawed legal proceedings is utterly shameful. The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

"Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale. In many cases defendants are denied access to a lawyer and in some cases they are convicted on the basis of 'confessions' obtained under torture or other ill-treatment in flagrant miscarriages of justice."

Use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia

Between August 2014 and June 2015 at least 175 people were put to death - an average execution rate of 1 person every 2 days.

1/3 of all executions since 1985 were imposed for offences that do not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes' for which the death penalty may be applied under international law. A large proportion of death sentences in Saudi Arabia - 28% since 1991- are imposed for drug-related offences.

Nearly 1/2 - 48.5% - of people executed in Saudi Arabia since 1985 were foreign nationals. Many of them were denied adequate translation assistance during the trial and were made to sign documents - including confessions - that they did not understand.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one's fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

Flawed justice system

Saudi Arabia's Shari'a law-based justice system lacks a criminal code, leaving definitions of crimes and punishments vague and widely open to interpretation. The system also gives judges power to use their discretion in sentencing, leading to vast discrepancies and in some cases arbitrary rulings. For certain crimes punishable under tai'zir (discretionary punishments) suspicion alone is enough for a judge to invoke the death penalty based on the severity of the crime or character of the offender.

The justice system also lacks the most basic precautions to ensure the right to a fair trial. Often death sentences are imposed after unfair and summary proceedings which are sometimes held in secret. Defendants are regularly denied access to a lawyer, or convicted on the basis of "confessions" obtained under torture or other ill-treatment. They are also denied the right to a proper, thorough appeal.

Saudi Arabia has vehemently rejected criticism of its use of the death penalty arguing that death sentences are carried out in line with Islamic Shari'a law and only for the "most serious crimes" and with the strictest fair trial standards and safeguards in place.

"Claims that the death sentence in Saudi Arabia is carried out in the name of justice and in line with international law could not be further from the truth. Instead of defending the country's appalling record, the Saudi Arabian authorities should urgently establish an official moratorium on executions and implement international fair trial standards in all criminal cases," said Said Boumedouha.

The case of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a cleric from eastern Saudi Arabia and a government critic who was sentenced to death in October 2014, clearly illustrates these shortcomings. He was convicted of vague offences after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial and was denied the chance to prepare an adequate defence. Some of the offences are not recognizably criminal offences under international human rights law.

"The fundamentally flawed nature of Saudi Arabia's legal system leaves the door wide open for abuse. The authorities are toying with people's lives in a reckless and appalling manner," said Said Boumedouha.

"If the authorities wish to show their commitment to rigorous fair trial standards they must implement reforms that will bring Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system in line with international law and standards."

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to restrict the scope of its use to crimes involving "intentional killing" in line with international law and standards, and to end the practise of imposing death sentences on juvenile offenders and those suffering from mental disabilities.

Source: Amnesty International, August 25, 2015


Saudi Arabia 'carrying out one execution every 2 days'

More than 100 people were executed in the first 6 months of this year compared to 90 in the previous year, says a new Amnesty report

Saudi Arabia is carrying out executions at a rate of one person every two days, according to a new report.

At least 102 people were executed in the first six months of this year compared to 90 in in the whole of 2014, said Amnesty International on Tuesday.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. Child offenders and mentally ill prisoners are among those who have been killed.

The group said the death penalty was being disproportionately used against foreign nationals, many of them migrant workers with no ability to understand Arabic - the language in which they are questioned while in detention and in which trial proceedings are carried out.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death. Rights groups have long criticised the system for its ambiguous nature and a lack of due process.

The kingdom is among the world's most prolific executioners, consistently featuring in the top 5 countries for capital punishment. The country recently advertised for 8 new executioners to cope with the upsurge in work.

Those beheaded this year include Siti Zainab, an Indonesian domestic worker convicted of murder despite concerns about her mental health. Jakarta summoned Riyadh's ambassador over her case; a rare diplomatic incident linked to Saudi Arabia's executions.

The interior ministry has previously cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishments.

Death row prisoners and their families are actively discouraged from any actions which might draw attention to their campaigns, Amnesty said. They are sometimes given assurances that if they do not challenge the authorities' decisions or violations in the case, such as arbitrary detention and unfair trial, then they might be spared the sword.

A surge in executions began towards the end of the reign of King Abdullah, who died in January. The numbers have accelerated this year under his successor, King Salman, in what Amnesty has called an unprecedented "macabre spike".

In May, a job advert on a Saudi civil service website advertised for the services of eight new executioners. No special qualifications were needed for the jobs whose main role is "executing a judgment of death" but also involve performing amputations on those convicted of lesser offences, the advert said.

The Saudi record was "utterly shameful", Amnesty said. "The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, acting Middle East director.

Source: The Telegraph, August 25, 2015

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