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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ohio court schedules 2nd execution attempt for Romell Broom

Romell Broom, photographed shortly after he survived a botched execution attempt in 2009.
Romell Broom, photographed shortly after he
survived a botched execution attempt in 2009.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio Supreme Court has set a new execution date for a convicted killer who survived a botched execution attempt in 2009.

The court last week scheduled the lethal procedure for death row inmate Romell Broom for June 17, 2020.

Broom was sentenced to die for abducting, raping and killing 14-year-old Tryna Middleton in Cleveland in 1984.

The 62-year-old Broom is only the second U.S. inmate to survive an execution after the process began.

On September 15, 2009 Broom's execution was stopped by Gov. Ted Strickland after an execution team tried for two hours to find a suitable vein. 

Broom said he was stuck with needles at least 18 times, with pain so excruciating he cried and screamed.

Lawyers for Romell Broom argued that giving the state prisons agency a second chance would amount to cruel and unusual punishment and double jeopardy.

Broom's lawyers argued that no attempt to execute him could occur without violating his constitutional right prohibiting double jeopardy, and requested that he be taken off of death row.

In a court filing Broom's attorneys said, "His death sentence may no longer be carried out by any means or methods without violating the constitutional rights identified...he must be removed from death row and placed in the Ohio prison system's general population."

A divided Ohio Supreme Court rejected Broom’s arguments. At the time, the state asserted that lower courts properly determined that any mistakes happened during execution preparations, not the actual procedure.

Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley says Broom has stalled his execution for years with appeals.

Broom's attorneys say Broom has important appeals still pending.

Source: The Associated Press, May 23, 2017

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Hopes high profile of Schapelle Corby, Bali Nine’s drug-running plight a deterrent: Michael Keenan

Bali's Kerobokan Prison
Bali's Kerobokan Prison
The high profile plight of Schappelle Corby and the Bali Nine had hopefully gone some way to deter young Australians from risking their life to traffic drugs in foreign countries, Justice Minister Michael Keenan has said.

Speaking on the eve of Corby’s deportation, 13 years after her arrest and later conviction for smuggling 4.2kg of cannabis, Minister Keenan told News Corp Australia while some may have been dissuaded others still did not appreciate the severity of offshore laws and were prepared to risk their life.

Mr Keenan said Asian countries particularly had strict drug laws and there were still Aussie fools looking to take risk over gain despite the Corby case and that of the Bali Nine, the group of nine Australians convicted of smuggling heroin in Indonesia with ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran sentenced to death and executed and the others serving lengthy prison sentences.

“I hope the example of her case dissuades, but also don’t forget the people who were executed in Indonesia shows that anyone involved in the drug trafficking in Indonesia is doing so with enormous risk of harm to themselves and it is an incredibly foolish thing to do, an incredibly foolish thing to do” he told News Corp.

“So look I hope yes the message has sunk in that when Australians go offshore and commit crimes they are not protected by the Australian government and of course they will be subject to the full force of the jurisdiction that they are in.

“I don’t want to comment on any one individual case but anyone who gets involved in drugs overseas particularly in our region where the death penalty exists is doing something incredibly foolish.”

Mr Keenan said while Corby’s case was high profile there were many other Australians getting caught overseas, not necessarily on the public radar.

“Unfortunately in the course of decades there have been plenty of Australians that involve themselves in drugs trade in the region and I deal with cases regularly, maybe not high profile case you are mentioning, but Australians do involve in the drug trade at enormous risk to themselves,” he said.

One of those high profile cases is that of 22-year-old Cassie Sainsbury, facing 25 years in jail in Colombia for allegedly attempt to traffic 5.8kg of cocaine to Australia.

Source: Courier Mail, Charles Miranda in Bali, News Corp Australia Network, May 23, 2017


Been busted in Bali too: other offenders


FATAL ASSAULT OF BALI COP


Sara Connor, a mother of two from Byron Bay in NSW, was sentenced to four years in March after being found guilty of fatally assaulting Bali police officer Wayan Sudarsa in company with her British boyfriend David Taylor. Mr Sudarsa's battered body was discovered on Kuta Beach in the early hours of August 17, 2016. Prosecutors appealed her sentence and in May it was increased to five years. She continues to proclaim her innocence.


BALI NINE


Ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad on Indonesia's Nusakambangan island in April 2015 for their part in the 2005 plot to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia. Renae Lawrence has been the only member of the Bali Nine eligible to receive reductions on her 20-year jail term. The others - Martin Stephens, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Michael Czugaj, Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen and Scott Rush - are serving life sentences.

MODEL IN TROUBLE


Model Michelle Leslie was deported from Bali in November 2005 after serving three months for ecstasy possession. After her arrest she claimed she had converted to Islam 18 months earlier and began covering her head. She emerged from prison wearing jeans and a tank top.

TEEN WITH WHITE POWDER


Jamie Murphy, 18, walked free from a Bali police station in November 2016, after officers announced the white powder he was discovered with at the Kuta nightclub Sky Garden almost 48 hours earlier was a mixture of painkillers, caffeine, and cold medication. Police initially suspected the 1.6 grams of powder was heroin or cocaine - an offence that carries a maximum 12 years in prison.

AUSTRALIAN SEX OFFENDER


In a case that highlighted the scourge of child sex tourism in Southeast Asian countries, Australian Robert Ellis was sentenced to 15 years prison in October 2016 for molesting at least 11 local girls. His trial heard the 70-year-old Victorian man abused the girls aged nine to 15 at his rented room in Tabanan, near Kuta, in exchange for gifts and money. He later wrote a letter saying he was acting under "God's law not man's".


'BALI BOY'


A 14-year-old Australian found himself in police custody for two months in 2011 after being caught with 3.6 grams of marijuana, which he said he bought on Kuta Beach. Dubbed the "Bali Boy", because he could not be identified, the NSW teenager ended up serving his time at an immigration facility after the government intervened and ruled that Kerobokan prison was not suitable.

Source: news.com.au, Lauren Farrow, Australian Associated Press, May 22, 2017

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Malaysia to execute man on death row in days

Yong Kar Mun has days, if not hours, left to live if the authorities proceed with his execution expected to take place anytime within the next 72 hours, Amnesty International Malaysia said today.

Yong, 48, who has been on death row since March 2009 is scheduled to be executed “soon” at the Sungai Buloh prison. He failed in his appeals at the Court of Appeal and Federal Court on 6 October 2011 and 2 August 2012, respectively.

“Yong’s family received a letter by hand from the Sungai Buloh Prison at 2pm today, asking the family to visit him for the final time tomorrow (23 May 2017) at 9am. The family does not know when Yong will be executed,” Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said.

However, based on existing practice the execution is expected to take place this week.

Yong was sentenced to death in 2009 under Section 3 of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act ,1971, which carries the mandatory death penalty, read together with Article 37 of the Penal Code, after being found guilty of discharging a firearm during an armed robbery. While no casualties resulted as a consequence of the robbery, another man involved in the commission of the robbery was killed in the fire exchange during the subsequent police chase.

The imposition of the mandatory death penalty is prohibited under international law, which also states that, in countries where it has not yet been abolished, the imposition of the death penalty must be restricted to “the most serious crimes”, meaning intentional killing.

The secretive nature of executions in Malaysia has been consistently criticised by Amnesty International. Information is hardly made publicly available on individual death penalty cases and families are often informed merely days before that their loved ones will be executed.

“The lack of transparency around executions in Malaysia is a violation of international law and standards. Families must have sufficient time to prepare for the last visit and take any further recourse available at the national or international level. To date, they still do not know when the execution is due to be carried out,” Shamini said.

The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that the ‘automatic and mandatory imposition of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life (…) in circumstances where the death penalty is imposed without any possibility of taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or the circumstances of the particular offence.’

“Amnesty International Malaysia does not downplay the seriousness of crimes committed, but we urge the authorities to consider introducing more effective crime prevention measures that respect human rights instead of continuously using one that has no merit,” Shamini said.

Amnesty International Malaysia calls on the Malaysian government to put a stop to Yong Kar Mun’s scheduled execution and impose a moratorium on executions immediately with a view to full abolition.

Source: Amnesty International, May 22, 2017

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Jakarta governor Ahok withdraws appeal against blasphemy jail sentence

The outgoing governor of Jakarta has shocked the capital by withdrawing an appeal against his two-year jail sentence for blasphemy against Islam within minutes of it being filed.

Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's own lawyer confessed he was flummoxed by his client's decision.

"As for the reason for the withdrawal we don't know yet," lawyer Wayan Sudirta told Fairfax Media.

Ahok, a popular reformist governor, was jailed for two years after he made comments during his election campaign that a Jakarta court found were blasphemous.

Ahok had told fishermen they were being deceived by his political foes who used a verse in the Koran to argue Muslims should not have a non-Muslim leader.

He later repeatedly apologised but the remarks also cost him victory in the gubernatorial election in April, despite high approval ratings for his performance while governor.

The two-year jail sentence was far harsher than that requested by the prosecutors, who asked for a suspended jail sentence for the lesser charge of inciting hatred.

The outcome of the trial was seen as a triumph for creeping conservative Islamism in Indonesia and candle-lit vigils were held across the archipelago lamenting Ahok's downfall.

Remarkably the prosecution itself appealed, complaining the panel of five judges had ignored their request he be found guilty of the lesser charge of inciting hatred.

Mr Sudirta said Ahok's principle in life was to place the interest of the nation ahead of his own.

"That's his way of life, he wants to serve the people, believe in the Bible, believe in God's plan," Mr Sudirta said.

"If those were some of the reasons behind the withdrawal ... I don't know yet."

He said Ahok defended Pancasila, the state ideology that stresses belief not in one religion but in one God, and the national motto of unity in diversity.

A press conference will be held on Tuesday to explain Ahok's decision.

Ahok has reportedly been reading the Bible and writing to stave off the loneliness of a life behind bars.

"Who knows, he may produce quality writing in prison, just like (Indonesia's first president) Sukarno," his sister Fify Lety Indra, a lawyer who represented Ahok in court, told The Jakarta Post.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: Brisbane Times, Jewel Topsfield, May 23, 2017

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The Accusation: When the Victims Are Not Victims at All

Ray Spencer, center, with his son, Matt Spencer, and his daughter, Katie Spencer Tetz. MARK MAHANEY FOR ESQUIRE
Ray Spencer, center, with his son, Matt Spencer,
and his daughter, Katie Spencer Tetz. (Esquire)
What is it like to have a family member murdered and find out the wrong person went to prison? What is it like to be a rape victim who later discovers you identified the wrong man in a police lineup? We felt that such individuals would have unique feelings about the criminal justice system, and the initiative led to a couple of short pieces.

But in the Ray Spencer case there was a twist: The victims were not victims at all. Ray was convicted of sexually assaulting his children in 1985 and served 19 years in prison. Not long after he was released, his children began working to clear his name.


ON CHRISTMAS EVE IN 2004, Katie Spencer Tetz, a twenty-five-year-old job recruiter living in Sacramento, California, was sitting on the floor near her Christmas tree, wrapping gifts, when the phone rang. It was her mother, DeAnne, with news: After nineteen years, Katie's father, Ray, was going to be released from prison. The last time Katie saw Ray she was six years old.

She hung up, grabbed her keys, and lunged for the door with no destination in mind, just a primal urge to move. Her husband, Mike, ran over to hold her as she sobbed by the door, in the grip of fear and grief she rarely let herself feel.Katie barely knew her father, but his life was the central mystery of her own. He was the reason she could never make sense of her earliest childhood memories, and why she wasn't sure she wanted to.

For most of Katie's life, Ray had been locked away in a Washington state prison, serving two life sentences for violently molesting Katie, her brother and their step-brother. The case—a 1985 conviction on eleven counts of statutory rape—was based largely on what the children told investigators under questioning. Almost two decades passed before a new defense team discovered disturbing flaws in the investigation. The governor had commuted Ray's sentence, and he was getting out.

Katie didn't know the full story. She knew only what DeAnne had told her growing up: Ray had touched her "inappropriately." Katie didn't remember any of the abuse, but DeAnne explained that Katie had most likely buried the terrible things her father had done to her so deeply that she couldn't access any recollections of them.

That never felt right to Katie, though. She had long nursed a suspicion that the memories weren't there because they didn't exist, and her father had been innocent all along. If that was the case, it meant she and her older brother, Matt, had played a role in putting their father in prison.

Now that he was set to be released, Katie and her brother might see him again, and come to terms with the fact that a few moments of their childhood—moments Katie could scarcely remember, and moments Matt remembered all too well—had derailed their entire family.

WHEN HER PARENTS DIVORCED in 1979, Katie was still a baby; Matt was three. They lived in Sacramento with DeAnne, who struggled to provide for them, working as a janitor and in various office jobs. Twice a year, the children visited their father in Washington state, where he worked as a police officer. He was known among friends as cocksure and flirtatious, but also as a doting father, who fished and camped with his children. Katie would hunt for blackberries and snap peas in his rambling backyard. A few years after the divorce, he moved in with his second wife, Shirley, and her son, also named Matt. When everyone was together, Ray's son became Big Matt, and Shirley's was known as Little Matt.

In August 1984, Ray attended a police conference out of town, leaving all three children with Shirley. When he returned, she was despondent. One night, she told him, she and the children had been watching a movie before bed when Katie, then five, tried to stick her hand under Shirley's robe and between her legs. "What are you doing?" Shirley asked, startled. "I'm trying to touch your pee-pee," Katie said. She said it was something she often did with her daddy and other members of her family.

By the time Shirley told Ray this, his children had already returned to Sacramento. Ray was stunned: Could "daddy" be a reference to some boyfriend of DeAnne's? He went into cop mode, sitting Shirley down and telling her to write out everything she could recall Katie saying. He called the local police, the sheriff, and Child Protective Services offices in both Vancouver, Washington, and Sacramento.

In Sacramento, police did not pursue a full investigation. But Sharon Krause, an investigator with the Clark County Sheriff's Office in Washington, took an interest in the case and visited Katie in Sacramento several times.

Krause was known for her ability to win the trust of traumatized children, a skill that was increasingly in demand. By 1984, a consensus had developed among social workers, psychologists, and law enforcement that sexual crimes against children had been chronically underreported and under-punished. In her police report, Krause wrote that Katie was shy at first; then she described a moment when "my dad's wiener was sticking up." Katie grabbed two dolls Krause had brought and demonstrated various sexual acts. "My daddy was being bad," she said.

RAY DIDN'T KNOW the full extent of the accusations. He agreed to take two polygraphs, and immediately after the second one, Krause's supervisor, Mike Davidson, told Ray he hadn't passed.

In January 1985, five months after Shirley told Ray about Katie's strange behavior, Ray was charged with sexually assaulting Katie. Over the next few months, more accusations followed: Little Matt, age four, said Ray had raped him in a bathtub and nearly drowned him. Big Matt, then nine, told Krause he had been raped, too, and not just by his father; he said Ray had invited other police officers over to participate. Investigators never gleaned enough detail to charge anyone else.

After Katie's accusation, Ray shifted from rage into a kind of disassociated horror. "As a cop, it's all black and white," he says. "Suddenly, I'm looked at as the bad guy." He was ordered by his police department to stay home and was often alone. "You think about what it's going to take to get up the next morning," he says of that time. "You just sit there and obsess. You think about every facet."One day, it was too much to bear, and Ray pulled out his .357. "I remember a little voice in the back of my head saying, 'Hey, maybe for your children's sake, you should get some help.'" 

He called a suicide hotline and was whisked off to a psychiatric hospital, where he let himself break. "They found me holed up in the corner, crying," he says. "I don't remember much of it other than the attendants rushing in."

Drugs stabilized him enough that he could return home, but they also fogged his mind as the accusations from Little Matt and Big Matt started to pile up. What if somehow he had molested the children but just couldn't remember it? If that was the case, he thought, then he deserved to be locked up. "My God, why can't I remember?" he told investigators. "What's the matter with me?" He agreed to try sodium amytal—truth serum—and took so much that it knocked him out. Still, no memories."

In the haze, there was a niggling in my stomach that something wasn't right," Ray says. But as the trial approached, he was presented with what he saw as an impossible choice: force his own children to relive on the witness stand whatever unspeakable things had happened to them, or confess to something he couldn't remember. That May, Ray decided to take an Alford plea—similar to a "no contest" plea, acknowledging the strength of the case against him without admitting guilt—and was sentenced to two life sentences, plus fourteen years.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: The Marshall Project, Maurice Chammah, May 21, 2017

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Indonesian men caned for gay sex in Aceh; Indonesia steps up its crackdown on gays

Public caning, Aceh province, Indonesia
"A large crowd of observers cheered as the caning took place."
Two men have been caned 85 times each in the Indonesian province of Aceh after being caught having sex.

The men stood on stage in white gowns praying while a team of hooded men lashed their backs with a cane.

The pair, aged 20 and 23, were found in bed together by vigilantes who entered their private accommodation in March. They have not been identified.

Gay sex is not illegal in most of Indonesia but it is in Aceh, the only province which exercises Islamic law.

It is the first time gay men have been caned under Sharia law in the province.

The punishment was delivered outside a mosque in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

A large crowd of observers cheered as the caning took place. "Let this be a lesson to you," one of the men watching cried out. "Do it harder," another man yelled.

Earlier, an organiser warned the crowd not to attack the men, saying "they are also human".


'He was terrified' - Rebecca Henschke, BBC News, Banda Aceh


Public caning in Indonesia's Aceh province (file photo)
Public caning in Indonesia's Aceh province (file photo)
I met one of the young men in jail a day before the caning, the first journalist to speak to him. He was terrified and his whole body was shaking. He was thin, pale and had a red rash on his skin.

Inmates surrounded us with intimidating glares as we tried to talk. I thought we were going to be speaking in a private room, but he was not granted that.

Before neighbourhood vigilantes broke down the door to his rented room, he was in his final years of a medical degree - his plan was to be a doctor. Now we are told the university has kicked him out.

Videos of the raid that caught him and his partner having sex have been widely shared online. In the mobile phone footage they are both naked, pleading for help.

"I just want the caning to be over and to go back to my family, I have been deeply depressed. I am trying to pull myself out of a deep black hole," he said.

The countries that cane their convicts


Public caning in Indonesia's Aceh province
Aceh was granted special rights to introduce Sharia law more than a decade ago.
Aceh was granted special rights to introduce its own stricter Islamic laws more than a decade ago, and has become increasingly conservative in recent years.

Strict laws against homosexuality were passed in 2014 and came into effect the following year.

In the past public caning sentences have been handed down only for gambling and drinking alcohol.

Indonesia has historically largely been tolerant of homosexuality, but has witnessed increasing official and social hostility towards its small and low-profile LGBTQ community in recent years.

Earlier this month, Indonesian police arrested 14 people in the city of Surabaya for allegedly holding a gay party. They could face charges under ambiguous anti-pornography laws.

On Monday, 141 men were arrested - including a British man - in a raid on what police said was a "gay party" at a sauna in the capital, Jakarta, on similar charges. Most were released on Tuesday.

Rights groups have strongly criticised prosecutions of people involved in same-sex relationships, and the use of caning.

Amnesty International said every human was entitled to a right to privacy and to have consensual relations, but that the two men had been ambushed in their home.

It said caning was a "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment" and may amount to torture and called on the Acehnese authorities to abandon the practice.

SourceBBC News, May 23, 2017


Two men receive 83 lashes for gay sex in Indonesian province of Aceh


"A grotesque display of medieval torture."
"A grotesque display of medieval torture."
Banda Aceh: The crowd roared as two men in their early 20s - one muttering through clenched teeth - received 83 lashes each outside a mosque in the Indonesian province of Aceh for the crime of gay sex.

One of the men, who was just 20, was given a glass of water after the 40th lash. A doctor approached him after the 60th and asked him if he was still strong. He nodded.

Three hooded men took turns to flog the pair.

The audience, estimated by police to be 2500 people, gathered before the red-carpeted platform in front of Syuhada mosque in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, baying in frustration when the caning paused.

This was the first time sharia courts had imposed public flogging for sodomy under new laws introduced in 2014 as part of Aceh's Islamic criminal code, known as Qanun Jinayat.

The law criminalises liwath, or sodomy, with a maximum punishment of 100 lashes, 100 months in jail or a fine of 1000 grams of gold.

Four heterosexual couples also received up to 30 lashes of the cane for khalwat (being in close proximity, such as secluded in a room, when not married), which is effectively kissing and hugging.

One of the women couldn't continue after nine lashes and had a break before returning to the platform, where a white triangle marked where the convicted must stand and face the crowd while being caned.

"You are strong in bed, but you pretend to be in pain when caned," someone yelled.

A medical team, including an ambulance, were on standby. Under regulations, those being punished must be caned from the waist up.

Men and women were separated to observe the caning, with an announcer warning the crowd that children should not be present.

"But the mothers can then tell them at home as education on the enforcing of sharia law," he said.

Aceh is the only one of Muslim-majority Indonesia's 34 provinces that criminalises homosexuality and uses sharia as its legal code in addition to the national criminal code.

Endin Saprudin, a sharia police officer at the Aceh provincial administration, said the men would be free once they had been caned.

"The worldly punishment is completed after the execution of the sentence," Mr Endin told Fairfax Media.

"However I don't know about the punishment of the afterlife - whether or not they will be caned again. At least we have saved some Muslims by showing them such actions are clearly prohibited."

On March 28, vigilantes broke into an apartment in Banda Aceh, Aceh's capital, and took the two men to the police after catching them in bed together.

LGBT rights advocacy group Arus Pelangi said a video of the two men had gone viral, which put them at risk and should never have been circulated.

"Can you imagine the caning being carried out in front of so many people?" said chairwoman Yuli Rustinawati.

"Obviously it is painful to be caned but then many people are watching. It creates another pain psychologically, not only for the offenders but also for their families."

The men represented themselves in court and accepted their punishment.

Mr Endin, the sharia police officer, said they had been entitled to a lawyer but questioned why they would need one when they were caught red-handed.

"The pictures obviously show they committed a homosexual act," he said.

Prosecutors requested 80 lashes but the judges imposed a harsher sentence of 85, of which 83 were delivered.

Human Rights Watch had called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene and stop the public flogging.

"The court's less-than-maximum sentence of 85 lashes is no act of compassion. It does not change the reality that flogging is a grotesque display of medieval torture," said Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine.

Muhammad Iswanto, another sharia police officer, said data showed that no one punished under sharia law in Aceh had repeated their crime. "In the whole Aceh province, for all offences such as khamar (alcohol), zinah (adultery), until now we do not have a recidivist," he said.

Moammar, a 20-year-old chemistry student, came to watch the caning with nine of his friends from campus. "I am curious because this is the first caning on a liwath case," Moammar said. "I want this case to be the first and last case of homosexuality."

The central government in Jakarta granted Aceh's religious leaders the right to impose sharia-inspired law in 2001 as part of a deal struck to quell a decades-long separatist movement in the province.

But Ayi, a Banda Aceh resident who lives in the same neighbourhood as one of the gay men, said caning was another form of violence.

"We had 30 years of conflict. But now we have this," she told Fairfax Media.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfield, Karuni Rompies, May 23, 2017






Indonesian authorities publicly released the results of HIV tests forced on 14 gay men


An anti-LGBTQI Indonesian police raid last month led to the detention and forced HIV testing of 14 men
Human Rights Watch have released a statement denouncing the treatment of the men, stating that the police continue to violate the rights and privacy of LGBTQI people in Indonesia.

An anti-LGBTQI Indonesian police raid last month led to the detention and forced HIV testing of 14 men, and human rights activists say the laws and actions of police violate the rights and privacy of LGBTQIA people.

Police were reportedly tipped off by neighbours, and carried out a midnight raid on a private party of 14 gay men, who were in two hotel rooms in Surabaya. Police detained the entire group, and confiscated condoms, mobile phones, and a flash drive that allegedly contained homosexual pornographic videos.

The next day, police informed media that all 14 men were made to undergo testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and five had tested HIV positive.

Police also told media that eight of the men were detained on Law on Pornography charges, and two of the men are being charged with organising the 'sex party' event and providing pornography.

Indonesia's Law on Pornography specifically prohibits sexual parties, and the usage and distribution of homosexual pornography. Homosexual sex is included under the umbrella term "deviant sexual acts", which also covers sex with corpses, sex with animals, oral sex, and anal sex.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) have released a statement denouncing the treatment of the men, and stating that the police continue to violate the rights and privacy of LGBTQI people in Indonesia.

Phelim Line, deputy Asia director of HRW, said in a statement, "Indonesian police are again violating the basic rights of LGBT people by invading their privacy. The Surabaya raid subjected these gay men to traumatic humiliation, puts two at risk of long prison terms, and threatens the privacy rights of all Indonesians."

HRW's story on the matter says that forced HIV testing goes against the ethical and human rights principles of privacy, autonomy and informed consent, as well as the World Health Organisation's guidelines on consent for HIV testing: "Mandatory, compulsory or coercive HIV testing is never appropriate."

The raid in Surabaya comes in the wake of major anti-LGBTQI sentiment from government officials and politicians throughout 2016, which led to growing harassment and violence against LGBTQI Indonesians. Despite President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo defending Indonesia's LGBTQI people in October last year, this latest raid shows that authorities continue to target the community.

Last month, police in the Aceh province - which upholds sharia law - arrested two men for having consensual sex in the privacy of their own home. They now face a public flogging sentence, which violates international prohibitions against torture. The United Nations Human Rights Council's International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that "it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of ‘privacy'."

Late in 2016, Indonesia also moved to block Grindr and a number of other gay dating apps.

Kine called for President Jokowi to "make good on his commitments to protect privacy rights" and end the government's support for police raids on LGBTQI people: "So long as the government permits police raids on private gatherings under a discriminatory law, it will fail to curb anti-LGBT harassment and intimidation."

Source: SBS, Chloe Sargeant, May 8, 2017


Indonesia steps up its crackdown on gays with massive raid


Arrested and publicly shamed for sex between mutually consenting adult men.
Arrested and publicly shamed for sex between mutually consenting adult men.
Predominantly-Muslim Indonesia is rooting out gay men and punishing them for being gay — even though that’s not a crime.

The most recent example Sunday night netted 141 arrests of men at a sauna that is popular in Jakarta’s gay community, in what was described as a “gay sex party” dubbed “The Wild One,” according to Gay Star News. Each man paid the U.S. equivalent of $14 for entry.

The men, many of them shirtless, were hustled before photographers and those pictures were widely disseminated, which shocked not only LGBTQ activists but their unsuspecting families as well, reported The New York Times. Not all of the suspects were out to relatives, friends and coworkers, according to reports.

“It’s very difficult for us to express our sexuality like heterosexuals,” the director of a gay rights advocacy group called Suara Kita told The Times. He goes by one name: Hartoyo. He told the newspaper that releasing pictures of the shirtless men to local news outlets was “extremely dangerous.”

A police spokesman told the paper the men were detained on suspicion of violating Indonesia’s pornography law, which police use to punish a wide range of sexual behavior.

While same-sex relations are not illegal in most of Indonesia, police stage raids on businesses catering to the mostly underground gay community, and are notorious for what The Times called “vigilante actions.”

The most recent raid came one day before two gay men convicted in a Sharia court last week were to be publicly caned — lashed 85 times with a whip, according to CNN — outside a mosque in Banda Aceh. Their conviction was for sodomy, which is still illegal in that province.

Source: lgbtqnation, Dawn Ennis, May 22, 2017

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Pastor tells of prison ministry: 'You never execute the same man you convict'

Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams and Kenneth Williams. To most, the names of the 4 death row inmates executed in a 8-day span in Arkansas during April were just names in the news cycle, understood most prominently by crimes they committed.

For Msgr. Jack Harris, who has worked in prison ministry for 43 years since his ordination, these were not men defined by their crimes about 20 years ago.

"You never execute the man you convict. You never execute the same man that you convict," Msgr. Harris told a crowd of more than 30 May 11 at St. John Center in Little Rock. He was the guest speaker, sharing about his work in death row prison ministry and answering questions, during the monthly meeting for Pax Christi Little Rock, a chapter of the national Catholic social justice organization that promotes peace.

Msgr. Harris, pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Morrilton, works as a chaplain in the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction, south of Pine Bluff in Lincoln County. He is a crisis intervention specialist and has worked with youth in juvenile courts.

Msgr. Harris explained that Arkansas is both a death penalty state and supermax state.

"Supermax means you're locked down 23 hours a day in a one-man cell, it's a little concrete box, a lighted concrete box is what it is. You don't control when the lights go on, off," he said. "Some men spend literally years locked up in there. You think just a minute what that does to a person mentally. That type of isolation."

2 days a week starting at 7 a.m., Msgr. Harris walks the six cell blocks, 78 cells on each block, 3 tiers high.

It takes about 3 hours to speak with the 468 men and that includes about 20 to 30 meaningful conversations with inmates.


Vengeance


Msgr. Harris pointed to the 3 reasons he has heard most often in support of the death penalty: a crime deterrent, protecting society and vengeance. In Arkansas alone there are roughly 2,100 men and women in prison convicted of murder, and only 30 of those are on death row.

"The men that I know, and I'm going to say 34 because I knew those 4 men who lost their lives the past 2 weeks, I knew them all. Those 34 were not deterred by the death penalty," Msgr. Harris said. "Those 34 were men who acted in the moment; they didn't think about 'Gosh what is going to happen to me if I do this.'"

In terms of protecting society, for the past 20 or so years, these men have never been a threat. He said, "I know that we do not have the most vicious murders in that unit on death row. But they had something they could bargain with and got a reduced sentence," Msgr. Harris said.

The only reason that "holds water is vengeance," he said.

"I will never denigrate or minimize the pain that victims feel. The victim's family, I don't ever want to pretend like that's not important," he said. "... But I'm not quite sure the vengeance that comes from that should be what guides our policy as a state."

Msgr. Harris said he has heard from many "high up state officials" that the victims' families will receive "closure" by executing these men.

"There is no closure with this thing. We move to another level of it, but we continue to work with it. It's a little unfair to use that language," he said. "... Justice was served the day they were caught, convicted and sent to prison. What you do to them after they're in prison, that's vengeance."

Seeking redemption


Much of death row ministry includes just merely talking to the men on the row, from complaining about the food to their favorite sporting events. But always on the horizon is the looming truth that they are destined to be put to death.

"A very privileged conversation to get to have with these guys is when they try to figure out how to say, 'I'm sorry.' And they will talk about that," Msgr. Harris said. "They will get frustrated about it too because how do you go to someone whose loved one you murdered, very likely raped and kidnapped, and say you're sorry. What they know is the words 'I'm sorry' mean nothing."

Death row inmates also "talk about how should we carry ourselves the night they make us walk into that chamber."

As his spiritual adviser, Msgr. Harris witnessed Marcel Williams' execution April 24 and stayed with those on death row when the other executions occurred April 20 and 27. The executions, administered at the Cummins Unit, have changed the makeup of the row.

"We lost one of the strongest men on the row as far as bumping up against other people," to correct bad behavior, Msgr. Harris said of Williams, who was Catholic. He added that he needs Jason McGehee, who was granted a stay of execution, "because the man has learned how to navigate the prison system. He mentors younger inmates; he'll bump up against people that need to change their behavior. He's not an angel. He does not deny what he did. But we need Jason McGehee inside this mega-carceral state."

Msgr. Harris also pointed out that there was a subdued feeling for both the death row inmates and the staff. He praised ADC Director Wendy Kelley for bringing "sensitivity" to the row.

"I am a fan of the department. I've worked for them for years. They are not the cause of this; they just have to carry it out," he said.

It is unlawful to execute death row inmates who are or have become mentally ill. Msgr. Harris said it would be wrong to execute someone immediately after receiving a death sentence, but after 20 years, if the opposite is true, a man changing from disturbed to "stronger and more spiritual," there is no reason to execute.

"If you leave a man in prison for 20 years and he's no longer the same man who committed the crime, do you really have a right to kill him?"

Source: arkansas-catholic.org, May 22, 2017

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Louisiana officials struggle with no way to execute death row inmates

Louisiana's death chamber
Louisiana's death chamber
73 people sit on Louisiana death row - convicted of crimes so horrific that a jury of their peers sentenced them to death. But as things stand, the state has no way to execute them.

Over the past several weeks, Louisiana lawmakers have debated whether they should end the practice of capital punishment entirely, citing their faith, the costs of the program and whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent.

But to some extent, the question of whether to ban the death penalty is moot. Louisiana finds itself in the same predicament as many other states with capital punishment: It has run out of its supply of drugs for lethal injections, and pharmaceutical companies whose drugs were being used for the deadly cocktail have largely blocked further access. And, like other states, Louisiana law details how the execution is to be carried out by lethal injection, meaning the Legislature would have to pass a bill to allow the state to kill the condemned using other methods, such as by electrocution or firing squad.

"The state currently does not have a supply of the drugs to carry out the death penalty," said Ken Pastorick, spokesman for the Department of Corrections. Without access to those drugs, Pastorick says, "the state will not conduct executions."

It's been seven years since Louisiana executed a death row inmate - Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Bordelon hastened his own execution by waiving his appeal.

Bordelon is the only person Louisiana has executed in the past 15 years. Before that, executions occurred steadily if not routinely: Between 1983 and 2002, 27 people were executed in Louisiana. During that period of time, the longest lag between executions was 2 years. In 1987 alone, 8 people were executed.

But Louisiana's lack of urgency in carrying out death sentences - which distinguishes Louisiana from other law-and-order states like Texas and Oklahoma - has been a frustration to at least 1 state lawmaker. Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, said he's a proponent of the death penalty and believes it's an effective deterrent to crime but not if criminals see the state has cold feet about going through with it.

"We need to start executing folks," he said. "They say they can't get the pharmaceuticals - well, then why can other states get them but we can't? If we don't want to do lethal injections, we got firing squads, we got gas chambers, we got other means."

Pylant ruffled feathers this week when he cast a game-changing vote in a House committee to spike a bill that would abolish the death penalty. Pylant was a co-sponsor of the bill and had previously said the state was wasting money if it wasn't going to go through with executions. But after he voted against his bill, which failed by a single vote, he said he had only attached his name to draw attention to his concerns.

Since 1993, Louisiana law has only allowed for lethal injection as a means of execution. Pylant said he wouldn't comment on whether he intended to propose legislation next year to expand the ways the state can execute people.

As recently as 2014, the Legislature mulled ways to allow executions to move forward. Former state Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, pitched a short-lived proposal to bring back the electric chair, which is on display at the museum at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. After pushback from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, that legislation morphed into a bill that would keep secret the sources of lethal injection drug providers and allow the state to tap out-of-state pharmacies. The bills lost steam after two botched lethal injections elsewhere in the country made national headlines.

The soonest Louisiana could execute anyone would be next year. A lethal injection scheduled for convicted child-killer Christopher Sepulvado has been delayed by the courts since 2014, after attorneys on his behalf filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty in Louisiana. In his appeal, Sepulvado has requested to learn exactly how he'd be put to death in light of botched lethal injections in recent years, and a lack of access to the drugs.

The state has previously used lethal doses of pentobarbital, an anesthetic. But in 2011, European drug manufacturers banned the export of the drug for lethal injections.

Since then, states have moved to a drug called midazolam, a sedative commonly used for colonoscopies, combined with hydromophone. That combination was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, after inmates sued saying the drug wasn't strong enough to block the pain of the other lethal drugs in the injection. Midazolam was the drug used in a handful of high-profile botched executions, like Arizona's Joseph Wood, who strained in agony for two hours after receiving the injection in 2014.

But in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled midazolam was not "cruel and unusual" in a 5-4 vote.

Some states, however, are still having trouble getting access to midazolam for the use of lethal injections.

"It's becoming increasingly difficult for states to obtain drugs for executions, and it's gotten to the point where some companies won't sell to state prisons even for medical purposes because they're afraid the drugs will be diverted for the use of executions," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

In Arkansas, the state raced to execute 4 death-row inmates in April because its supply of midazolam was set to expire.

Only 32 states still allow the death penalty. And of those states, lethal injection is the most widely used means of execution; however, in some states, electrocution, lethal gas and firing squads are still options.

Death penalty lives on in Louisiana after House committee rejects bid to end practice

The death penalty lives on in Louisiana.

A 2015 report by Louisiana State Penitentiary officials recommended using nitrogen induced hypoxia - which is a deficiency of oxygen - as an alternative to lethal injection. A gas chamber was ruled out, but the recommendation considered using a mask to deliver the nitrogen.

"The research reviewed suggests that this method would be the most humane method and would not result in discomfort or cruel and unusual punishment to the subject," the report said.

Dunham said he disagrees, noting that the effect is people are effectively suffocated to death.

"The American Veterinary medical association won't even euthanize large mammals with nitrogen hypoxia," he said. "Their guidelines on euthanasia won't allow it."

Though a bill was rejected last week in a House committee to abolish the death penalty, its sponsor Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, said there could be a glimmer of possibility for its revival.

He said there was a possibility the lone Democrat who voted against the bill, Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, could ask the chairman of the committee for reconsideration. Norton could not be reached for comment.

But Landry said it's a difficult and emotional vote, and he's not sure if he'll put his colleagues through another debate.

"It's a very, very tough vote," he said. "It's literally about life and death. I'm not sure whether I want to do this again."

Source: The Advocate, May 22, 2017

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Alabama death row Inmate Tommy Arthur Pleads for 8th Reprieve

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
Seven times, Tommy Arthur has escaped death. With his 8th execution date less than a week away, he phoned from an Alabama prison to talk about the increasingly slim chance that his lethal injection will be called off yet again.

"Until I take my last breath I'll have hope," Arthur, who has been on death row for almost 35 years, told NBC News on Friday. "I don't know how to quit. I don't know how to give up."

He has the paperwork to prove it. Sentenced to death for a 1982 contract killing he insists he didn't commit, Arthur has filed a mountain of challenges, many of them successful - at least in the short run.

The U.S. Supreme Court halted his last scheduled execution six months ago but later declined to take up his case. More recent appeals have been rejected, and while Arthur's attorneys are continuing to fight, the prospects for another reprieve are growing dimmer.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last month shot down a request for new, enhanced DNA testing of a wig from the crime scene, which Arthur, 75, contends will prove that someone else is responsible for the murder of Troy Wicker. She's considering a request to test a hair he claims was collected.

"There is evidence in the evidence box that can be and should be DNA tested and they are not doing it," he said. "I asked them, 'Please don't let Alabama kill me without testing it.'

"Honest to goodness," said Arthur, who was found guilty by 3 different juries, "I did not commit this crime."

Arthur's odyssey through the justice system began in 1977. That's when he was sentenced to life for fatally shooting his sister-in-law through the eye. He joined a work release program, and according to court records, began an affair with a married woman named Judy Wicker.

By prosecutors' account, Wicker offered Arthur $10,000 to kill her husband, Troy. Arthur dressed up as a black man, in an Afro wig, and shot the sleeping man through his eye, prosecutors say.

Arthur and Judy Wicker, who initially claimed a burglar raped her and killed her husband, were convicted at separate trials.

But Arthur's 1st conviction was overturned because the court found details of the earlier killing were improperly disclosed during the trial. He was tried and convicted again, and that verdict was tossed over a statement he gave to police without a lawyer present.

At Arthur's 3rd trial in 1992, Judy Wicker testified and named him as the hitman for the 1st time; she was paroled soon after. Arthur was convicted and sentenced to death for a 3rd time - after telling the jury he wanted a capital sentence because, he said, it would give him better tools to appeal the verdict.

The 3rd conviction stuck - and the Alabama Supreme Court set execution dates in 2001, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Each time, they were postponed, once after a fellow inmate claimed in writing that he was the real killer, only to clam up on the stand during a hearing where Judy Wicker again swore Arthur was the gunman.

Arthur is now the 3rd longest-serving death-row inmate in Alabama, where the legislature just passed a measure that would hasten executions by speeding up appeals. He has several pending appeals that have to be resolved before his May 25 execution date.

One challenges Alabama's lethal injection protocol, which uses the controversial sedative midazolam, on the grounds that it will cause suffering. It cites the December execution of Ronald Smith, who witnesses said heaved and coughed for 13 minutes and moved his arm during a consciousness check.

"It's inevitable that I'm going to have some problems if they execute me," Arthur said.

Another appeal attacks the state's former sentencing scheme, which allowed judges to overrule juries and impose death sentences and which the governor just overturned.

Arthur, who has encyclopedic knowledge of his case, is most focused on another avenue: his quest to have the killer's wig subjected to a new type of DNA testing that could turn up genetic material that might have been missed by earlier tests.

On April 26, the governor's counsel turned down that petition, saying it "merely recycles the same request and contention made by Arthur for more testing on a piece of evidence that has been shown to contain no DNA profile."

Arthur said he doesn't understand the state's reluctance. "Why won't they let this testing take place? What would it hurt?" he asked.

His lead attorney, Suhana Han, said that "neither a fingerprint nor a weapon nor any other physical evidence" links Arthur to the crime.

"If the state executes Mr. Arthur on May 25 as planned, he will die without ever having had a meaningful opportunity to prove his innocence, an outcome that is inexcusable in a civilized society."

An advocacy group called Victims of Crime and Leniency said the courts have given Arthur enough 2nd chances over the last 3 decades.

"He's Houdini," said Janette Grantham, the executive director. "He escapes and he escapes."

She said that for many years, she had been in contact with Troy Wicker's sister, who showed up for several executions that were then called off at the last minute.

"She died a couple of months ago so she won't make it to the final execution," Grantham said. "To me, that is very sad."

However the courts rule, Arthur said, he does not plan to apply for clemency; in his view, it would amount to an admission of guilt.

"I'm not interested," he said. "I could have pleaded guilty to this in 1982 and taken a straight life sentence but I'm not going to plead guilty to something I just didn't do."

Source: NBC News, May 21, 2017

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