"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, March 31, 2015

Alabama Judges Override Juries and Order Death Sentences ... if There's an Election Coming Up

The worst time to be tried for murder in Alabama is in an election year, when state judges are prone to upgrade punishment to death in capital cases in order to curry favor with voters.

Alabama is 1 of 3 states (Delaware and Florida being the others) that grant judges the authority to override jury sentences and impose the death penalty. Since Florida rarely uses the judicial override and Delaware has abolished the death penalty, Alabama is the only state to use the option on a routine basis, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Statistics show that Alabama judges, who are elected to the bench, have overridden juries in murder cases 111 times since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1976. Of that 111, judges have upgraded the sentences to death 101 times. In the remaining 10 cases, the judges downgraded the sentence to life in prison. More than 20% of the inmates on death row in Alabama are there as a result of judicial overrides.

"Judicial candidates frequently campaign on their support and enthusiasm for capital punishment" because it is popular among the voting public, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Consequently, "political pressure injects unfairness and arbitrariness into override decisions."

The Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association says in the 111 death-penalty upgrade decisions, 80% occurred in the year leading up to a judge's reelection. For that reason, the organization is lobbying the state legislature to remove the override option.

The U.S. Supreme Court may decide to review 1 or 2 Alabama death row cases (Scott v. Alabama or Lockhart v. Alabama), which could result in the court taking "a new look at the unusual power Alabama gives to its judges," Adam Liptak wrote at The New York Times.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has already given a clue to her perspective on the matter in a footnote that she wrote in her dissent in a 2013 case, Mario Dion Woodward v. Alabama. "The only answer that is supported by empirical evidence," she wrote, "is one that, in my view, casts a cloud of illegitimacy over the criminal justice system: Alabama judges, who are elected in partisan proceedings, appear to have succumbed to electoral pressures." She supported her view by citing a study which shows that judicial overrides are more common during election years.

It has also been shown - based on a study of the Delaware judicial system - that judges, even those who are appointed, tend to apply the death sentence more often than juries do.

Source: allgov.com, March 31, 2015

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Prosecution rests its case against Boston Marathon bomber

The Boston Marathon finish line moments before the blast.
Boy's clothing shown as prosecution rests case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Prosecutors rested their case against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday after jurors in his federal death penalty trial saw gruesome autopsy photos and heard a medical examiner describe the devastating injuries suffered by an 8-year-old boy killed in the 2013 terror attack.

But Tsarnaev's lawyers began their defense by quickly trying to show that his older brother was the mastermind of the plan to detonate pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the famous race.

One of the first witnesses called by the defense was a data analyst who said Tsarnaev's cellphone was being used in southeastern Massachusetts - where he was attending college - while pressure cookers were being purchased north of Boston more than 2 months before the bombing. The analyst also testified that large quantities of BBs were purchased a little over a month before the attack in 2 Walmart stores in New Hampshire, at a time when Tsarnaev's cellphone was again being used near UMass-Dartmouth.

The defense has made it clear from the 1st day of testimony on March 4 - when his lawyer admitted he participated in the bombings - that their strategy is not to win an acquittal but to save Tsarnaev from the death penalty by arguing that his brother, Tamerlan, was largely responsible for the bombings.

Prosecutors ended their case on an emotional note. At least three jurors cried and wiped their eyes with tissues as they looked at photos of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who went to watch the marathon with his parents and siblings on April 15, 2013, and was killed when the 2nd of 2 bombs exploded near the finish line.

The boy's parents watched somberly from the 2nd row of the courtroom. Bill Richard kept his arm around the shoulder of his wife, Denise, throughout the testimony.

Dr. Henry Nields, chief medical examiner for Massachusetts, said Martin received injuries to virtually every part of his body, including lacerations of his liver, left kidney and spleen, broken bones and 3rd-degree burns. His stomach was also ruptured.

Nields said he removed small nails, metal pellets, fragments of wood and black plastic from the boy's wounds. He also displayed the blood-stained, shredded clothing that Martin was wearing when the bomb exploded.

2 other people were killed and more than 260 were injured in the bombings. Prosecutors believe the brothers were seeking retaliation against the U.S. for wars in Muslim countries.

The 1st defense witness was Michelle Gamble, an FBI field photographer who testified earlier Monday for prosecutors, describing various photos and a video showing the scene of the 2nd blast both before and shortly after the explosions.

In one of the photos, Martin Richard, his sister and several other children stand on a metal barricade. Tsarnaev appears to be just a few feet behind Martin and his sister.

While cross-examining Gamble, Tsarnaev's lawyers showed other photographs with several people in between Tsarnaev and the children, an apparent attempt to show that Tsarnaev didn't purposefully target them with the bomb.

When the defense called Gamble as its first witness, Tsarnaev's lawyer, Miriam Conrad, asked her about a book titled "Wiring" that was found during a search of the Tsarnaev family's apartment in Cambridge. Gamble said the book was found under the living room couch.

Tsarnaev's lawyers have tried to show that he was not living in the apartment when the bombings occurred because he was attending college. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was living in the apartment with his wife and their young daughter.

During their case, prosecutors presented heart-wrenching testimony from survivors who lost legs in the bombings. A string of first responders described a chaotic mix of smoke, blood and screams just after the bombs went off.

The defense will try to show that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was more culpable in the attack and in the killing 3 days later of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier.

The defense case is expected to be relatively short. Once that is complete, jurors will deliberate on whether Tsarnaev is guilty of the 30 federal charges against him related to the bombing, the killing of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier 3 days later and a violent confrontation with police in Watertown.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during the Watertown confrontation. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then 19, was found more than 18 hours later hiding in a boat parked in a yard.

If the jury convicts Tsarnaev - an event that may be a foregone conclusion because of his admitted guilt - the trial will move on to the 2nd phase, when the same jury will hear more evidence to decide whether Tsarnaev should be put to death or should spend the rest of his life in prison.

During this 2nd phase of the trial, Tsarnaev's lawyers will present evidence of factors they believe mitigate his crimes, such as his age at the time and the influence of his older brother. The Tsarnaevs - ethnic Chechens - lived in the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan and the volatile Dagestan region of Russia before moving to the U.S. with their parents and 2 sisters about a decade before the bombings.

Prosecutors will present evidence of aggravating factors, such as the brutality of the attack and the death of a child, to argue that Tsarnaev should be executed.

Source: WCVB news, March 31, 2015

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20 % of Danes would vote to bring back the death penalty

Opposition party constituents particularly keen

Denmark, which is known as a leader when it comes to human rights, abolished the death penalty way back in 1930 (although it was briefly brought back from 1945-50 to punish Nazi collaborators).

But a new Megafon survey conducted on behalf of Politiken newspaper and TV2 shows that 20 % of Danes would vote in favour of bringing back the death penalty in Denmark.

In particular, people who voted for the opposition parties at the 2011 election are in favour of the death penalty. 

Some 36 % of Dansk Folkeparti voters said they would vote yes, as did 34 % of Liberal Alliance voters and 32 % of Venstre voters.

No chance

But despite their voters' opinions, DF, LA and Venstre have no intention of adding the death penalty to their election campaign this year.

"I can understand why many believe that the judicial system needs to toughen up after the terror attack in Copenhagen," Peter Skaarup, the DF spokesperson for judicial issues, told Politiken.

"But I don't think that it gives society the right to take another human being's life, even if that person has committed a really serious crime. Our justice system is built on principles that I don't think we should discern. That would be in breach of everything we stand for."

Among Konservative voters, 22 % were in favour of the death penalty, as were small percentages of the other parties: Socialdemokraterne (9), Socialistisk Folkeparti (8), Radikale (4) and Enhedslisten (4).

Source: Copenhagen Post, March 31, 2015

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Iran: 3 Prisoners Hanged in Mashhad

Public execution in Iran
Public execution in Iran
3 prisoners were hanged in Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), on Thursday morning, 26th March, 3 prisoners in Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad were executed by hanging.

According to HRANA's sources, the 3 men who had been convicted of drug crimes have not been identified yet and judiciary officials also have not given any information about them.

These executions are happening while, according to Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, the death penalty in Iran over the past decade has been rising from 99 cases a year in 2004 to 687 in 2013.

Ahmad Shaheed in his latest report described the increasing rate of executions in Iran as "alarming" and urged to stop this process.

Source: Human Rights Activists News Agency, March 31, 2015

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Indonesia Prosecutors Not Seeking Death Penalty For Chicago Couple

Tommy Schaefer, 21 (L) and Heather Mack, 19 (R)
with their Indonesian translator.
BALI, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesian prosecutors on Tuesday sought jail sentences of 18 years for an American man and 15 years for his girlfriend if they are found guilty of murdering the woman’s mother while vacationing on the resort island of Bali last year.

The prosecutors told the court that Tommy Schaefer and Heather Mack, who appeared in court with their 2-week-old daughter, were guilty of premeditated murder. The panel of judges could ignore the sentencing request and decide to impose the maximum, death by a firing squad, if it convicts them.

“The defendant has committed sadistic acts to her own mother,” chief prosecutor Eddy Arta Wijaya told the court at Mack’s trial. “However, we’ve decided to be lenient because she repeatedly expressed remorse and has a newborn baby.”

The badly beaten body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, was found in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel in August.

Wijaya asked the judges to declare the defendants guilty with the fact that Schaefer deliberately brought a metal fruit bowl when he came to the room at the St. Regis where Mack and her mother were staying, on a different floor from his own room.

Mack helped stuff her mother’s body in the suitcase by sitting on it to enable Schaefer to close it, prosecutors said.

Schaefer, 21, and Mack, 19, both from Chicago, are being tried separately at the Denpasar District Court on Bali. The judges and prosecutors are the same in both trials.

The defendants sat quietly with Schaefer on the verge of tears as the sentence request was read. The defendants and their lawyers will respond to the prosecution’s case next week, and verdicts are expected in late April.

Schaefer has testified that von Wiese-Mack was angry at him when she learned about her daughter’s pregnancy. He said at previous court hearings that she insulted him and Mack, wanted her to get an abortion and strangled him in a heated argument before he struck her several times with the fruit bowl.

At Tuesday’s hearing, another prosecutor, Ni Luh Oka Ariani Adikarini, said testimony and evidence showed that Schaefer deliberately planned to kill the victim.

“There is no excuse for the deeds of the defendant,” Adikarini said and recommended the court to sentence Schaefer to 18 years in jail.

The prosecutors did not explain why they sought less than the maximum penalty for him.

The court had delayed the hearing last week because the couple’s baby, Stella, became sick in prison, but doctors said the baby has recovered from jaundice.

Source: The Associated Press, March 31, 2015

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Egypt: Bailed Al Jazeera journalist urges help for 'decent teenager' Ibrahim Halawa

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, on bail awaiting his retrial in Egypt, has urged the Irish government and the international community to save a teenager from Dublin with whom he recently shared a cell.

Ibrahim Halawa was 17 and on holiday with family when he was arrested in August 2013 during the Egyptian military’s breakup of protests. He faces a death sentence if convicted alongside 493 other people on nearly identical charges. The controversial ‘mass trial’, which includes several other juveniles alongside Mr Halawa, was postponed on Sunday for the fifth time in seven months. It emerged yesterday that Mr Halawa is now being held alongside prisoners who have been condemned to death at Wadi Natrun, reportedly one of Egypt’s worst jails.

Speaking to the Toronto Star, Mr Fahmy, who was jailed in Cairo in 2014 along with his colleagues Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, urged the Irish government to press for Mr Halawa’s deportation under the presidential decree that led to Mr Greste’s release several weeks ago.

Mr Fahmy said: “Any delay in extracting [Ibrahim Halawa] could leave him caught up for years in Egypt’s clogged judicial system and possibly a victim on death row if the world turns a blind eye to his pitiful situation.” He added that Mr Halawa was "a decent teenager who has committed no crime.”

On Sunday, Mr Halawa told his family that he was being mistreated and denied food in the prison, and that he was afraid he was going to die there.

Commenting, Maya Foa, the director the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Mohamed Fahmy is right to condemn this mass trial for what it is – an unspeakable injustice against a scared teenager and hundreds of others who have been put through hell, merely for attending a protest. It’s now clear Ibrahim is being treated so badly that he fears he may die before he can even mount a defence. The Irish government and other countries need to do all they can to press for his release, before any harm comes to him.” 
  • Background on Mr Halawa's case can be found at Reprieve's website.
  • Detail on conditions at Wadi Natrun prison can be found in this article.
Source: Reprieve, March 31, 2015

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Pakistan: Four more executions

March 31, 2015: four convicts for murder and kidnapping in separate cases were hanged in jails of Attock, Mianwali, Sargodha and Rawalpindi, taking to 64 the number of executions since the country reversed the self-imposed moratorium on the death penalty in December.

Sargodha’s Central Jail witnessed its first ever execution in 105 years since its establishment in 1910. 

Mohammad Riaz was found guilty by an anti-terrorism court for killing two people during a bank robbery in 2000.

Mohammad Ameen, a prisoner convicted of murdering a person on personal enmity in 1998, was sent to the gallows in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

Another prisoner, Hubdar Shah, convicted of killing two men over a minor dispute in 2000, was hanged in Mianwali’s Central Jail.

Ikram-ul-Haq was.Akramul Haq, accused of kidnapping a 3-year-old girl for ransom in 2002, was hanged in Attock’s Jail.

Sources: PTI and Dunya News, Hands Off Cain, March 31, 2015

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US: Justices Hear Arguments on Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty Case

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a death penalty case and issued decisions on the monitoring of sex offenders and on the significance of a lawyer’s brief absence from a criminal trial.

Monday’s arguments, in Brumfield v. Cain, No. 13-1433, concerned Kevan Brumfield, a Louisiana man who was sentenced to death in 1995 for killing a Baton Rouge police officer. Seven years later, in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court barred the execution of the intellectually disabled.

Mr. Brumfield sought to be spared on that ground, but was denied a hearing. A state judge reasoned that the evidence submitted at Mr. Brumfield’s trial was sufficient to resolve the issue against him even though he had not argued that his intellectual disability was a reason to bar his execution.

A federal trial judge disagreed. After a seven-day hearing, the judge concluded that Mr. Brumfeld’s I.Q. and limited abilities to perform basic functions proved that he was disabled. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, reversed, ruling that the state court had been entitled to rely on the trial-court record.

During Monday’s arguments, several justices seemed inclined to rule in Mr. Brumfield’s favor, but on narrow grounds that would give rise to no larger precedent.

“I think you’re making a strong argument that is purely a factual argument about this case,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. told Mr. Brumfield’s lawyer, Michael B. DeSanctis. But the case did not require the court to consider “categorical rule” about when hearings must be held, Justice Alito said.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seemed to agree that the issue before the court boiled down to “a lot of discussion on the evidence at issue in this particular case.”

“What is the broader significance of that discussion here?” he asked, suggesting that the answer was none.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer told Premila Burns, a lawyer for the state, that he was of mixed minds.

“If I had to decide at this moment whether there is enough evidence for you to win on the point is he intellectually disabled, I would say you win,” Justice Breyer said. “If I have to decide whether or not he presented enough evidence to get a hearing, I would say you lose.”

Source: The New York Times, March 30, 2015

Louisiana death row case confounds US supreme court over mental disability

Justices seem confused by what they are to decide in case of death row inmate Kevan Brumfield – and Justice Scalia admits he will never read entire record

The US supreme court heard arguments about the fate and mental condition of death row inmate Kevan Brumfield on Monday, in a case that asks the nine justices to decide whether a man deemed disabled by one court can be killed out of deference to the decision of another.

But the justices struggled even to determine the facts of what happened in a murder trial 20 years ago, frequently interrupting lawyers and losing patience with both sides’ inability to present a clear account of how Louisiana reviews mental disability.

Justice Antonin Scalia confessed he had not read the massive, 20-volume record of the case in its entirety, and doubted any of his colleagues would manage it either.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito asked whether the court was trying to solve a constitutional question – are states obliged to grant mental disability hearings for questionable cases? – or whether it had taken on an isolated and almost impenetrable case.

Brumfield was sentenced to death in 1995 for the killing of an off-duty Baton Rouge police officer, Betty Smothers, seven years before the supreme court ruled that the execution of a mentally disabled person was unconstitutional.

Because mental disability was no impediment to execution before 2002, Brumfield did not argue he should be spared because of his mental condition in his original sentencing hearing.

After the supreme court’s decision, Brumfield asked a Louisiana court for a hearing to present evidence of a disability, but a judge refused on the grounds that evidence from the original trial was sufficient to settle his case.

When his case reached a federal court, a new judge decided Louisiana’s experts were unreliable and granted the hearing. After seven days of expert testimony, based on interviews with former teachers, coaches and friends and the assessment of psychologists, the judge agreed that Brumfield met the requirements to be considered mentally disabled.

Louisiana fought back on procedural grounds, and won in the fifth circuit, which ruled that the state was within its rights to use only the trial record in considering Brumfield’s abilities – and that the federal court should have deferred to the state, according to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

In oral arguments on Monday, the supreme court justices debated not whether Brumfield is mentally disabled but whether Louisiana had acted reasonably in denying Brumfield a hearing to argue a disability.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Guardian, March 31, 2015

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Malaysian sentenced to hang for murder of two UK medical students

Zulkipli Abdullah
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - A Malaysian court convicted and sentenced a local fishmonger to death on Tuesday for the murder of two British medical students last year, his defence lawyer said.

Zulkipli Abdullah, 24, was found guilty of stabbing to death Neil Dalton and Aidan Brunger in the city of Kuching last August after an argument in a bar.

"He was found guilty. The judge accepted the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses," Zulkipli's lawyer Anthony Tai told AFP.

The two victims, both 22 years old, were students from Britain's Newcastle University who were on a six-week work placement with a local hospital in the city, located in Borneo island's Sarawak state.

Police have said the two students were found dead on the morning of August 6 following an argument with several local men that began in a Kuching bar.

Five Malaysian men were later arrested but only Zulkipli was charged.

Police had said earlier that the four others would not face charges but would appear as prosecution witnesses.

Zulkipli faces death by hanging.

Tai said the case would be appealed.

During the trial, Zulkipli had said he was involved in a fight with the British students but denied killing them, according to Malaysian media reports.

Violent crime against tourists and expatriates is generally rare in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country. But some recent incidents have sullied that image.

Malaysian police in June last year found the body of a 34-year-old British tourist on the resort island of Tioman. The case is still being investigated.

A month later, a court sentenced to death a Malaysian shopkeeper for the killing of a French female tourist in 2011, also on Tioman.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 31, 2015

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American Pharmacists Association votes against supply of lethal injection drugs

Death penalty opponents hail ethics ruling that could further restrict availability and increase pressure on state authorities to halt capital punishment

A leading association for US pharmacists has told its members they should not provide drugs for use in lethal injections — a move that could make carrying out executions even harder for death penalty states.

The declaration approved by American Pharmacists Association delegates at a meeting in San Diego says the practice of providing lethal-injection drugs is contrary to the role of pharmacists as healthcare providers.

The association lacks legal authority to bar its members from selling execution drugs but its policies set pharmacists’ ethical standards.

Pharmacists now join doctors and anaesthesiologists [and nurses - DPN] in having national associations with ethics codes that call on members not to participate in executions.

“Now there is unanimity among all health professions in the United States who represent anybody who might be asked to be involved in this process,” said association member Bill Fassett, who voted for the policy.

The American Pharmacists Association has more than 62,000 members.

Compounding pharmacies, which make drugs specifically for individual clients, only recently became involved in the execution-drug business.

Prison departments have turned to made-to-order cocktails from compounding pharmacies because pharmaceutical manufacturers started to refuse to sell the drugs that had been used for decades in lethal injections after coming under pressure from death penalty opponents.

Source: The Guardian, March 31, 2015

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Report: 3 sentenced to death in Ohio in 2014

An annual report on capital punishment in Ohio says three people were condemned to die last year, bringing the total number under Ohio's 1981 law to 323 death sentences.

The report by Attorney General Mike DeWine says 53 inmates have been executed, 19 have had their sentences reduced to prison time, and 26 have died before execution from suicide or natural causes.

The report released Monday says Ohio has 146 active death penalty cases, including James Conway of Columbus, who received two death sentences for different slayings.

Death sentences are increasingly rare in Ohio and nationwide as prosecutors file fewer death penalty cases and juries choose the option of life without parole.

No executions are scheduled this year.

Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2015

Backup of men awaiting execution is building

Midway through Ohio's 2-year death penalty moratorium, a backup of men awaiting execution is building.

There are 20 inmates either scheduled for execution or for whom prosecutors are seeking execution dates from the Ohio Supreme Court, according to the Capital Crimes Annual Report released today by Attorney General Mike DeWine.

State law requires the attorney general to submit a summary of Ohio's capital punishment activity annually by April 1.

Capital punishment ground to a halt following the troubled execution of Dennis McGuire on Jan. 16, 2014. State officials scrambled to come up with a new drug supply to replace the 2 used for the 1st time to kill McGuire.

Instead, they were forced to change state law. Prison officials can now sign secret contracts with "compounding pharmacies" to provide execution drugs. Lawsuits remain pending in which death row inmates are contesting the lethal-injection process.

The changes prompted Gov. John Kasich to push back the entire execution schedule until next year. The 1st man slated to die using the new protocol is Ronald Phillips, of Summit County on Jan. 21, 2016. There are 10 more executions scheduled thorough the end of next year, including 3 killers from Franklin County: Alva Campbell (March 23, 2016), Warren Henness (June 22, 2016) and Kareem Jackson (Sept. 21, 2016), DeWine's report said.

There are 9 other inmates for whom prosecutors have requests pending with the Ohio Supreme Court to set execution dates. None are from central Ohio.

DeWine's report said Ohio has issued 323 death sentences since 1981 and executed 53 people who killed 85 victims, including 19 children. The average age of those executed was 46; they spent an average 16.6 years on death row.

There were 19 death sentences commuted to life without parole by 4 governors. Republican Gov. John Kasich commuted 5 as did Democrat Ted Strickland. Bob Taft, a Republican, commuted 1 sentence, and Democrat Richard F. Celeste commuted 8.

The report said 26 inmates died while awaiting execution, including Billy Slagle, who hung himself in his cell shortly before his execution in 2013. There were 69 cases removed from death row because of court action.

Meanwhile, Ohioans to Stop Executions issued its annual report today which it said reflects a declining use of capital punishment.

"What we see is the institution of the death penalty crumbling before our eyes," said Kevin Werner, executive director.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, March 30, 2015

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Tennessee may not have chemicals it needs for executions

Tennessee death chamber
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Corrections will not say if it has the chemicals needed to execute inmates via lethal injection.

Attorneys for inmates challenging the state's protocol say the drugs are not on hand. And an opportunity for the attorneys to ask prison supervisors about the drug supply did not take place as planned Friday because of a canceled court hearing.

As an increasing number of national medical organizations oppose participation in the controversial executions, it could be a challenge for Tennessee to find the drugs it needs.

"It's certainly clear that it has become more difficult for states to find the drugs that their protocols say they are supposed to use," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. "What the response to that will be is unclear."

Drug supply

Attorneys for Tennessee and attorneys for more than 30 death-row inmates — who are challenging the state's lethal injection and electrocution procedures — had planned to gather in front of Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman on Friday.

The inmates and their attorneys say the state's protocols are unconstitutional and violate protections from cruel and unusual punishment.

The state filed a motion for a Friday hearing, asking Bonnyman to stop any court proceedings related to electrocutions. That issue is pending before the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the inmates used it as a chance to file documents suggesting the state is unable to carry out lethal injection executions.

The Tennessee Department of Corrections has said it is confident it will be able to carry out executions, but when previously asked by The Tennessean, did not say whether the lethal-injection drugs were on hand.

Source: USA Today, March 29, 2015

Food for thought...

TENNESSEE: 'Time to reconsider the death penalty'
Last week, Utah's governor signed into law a bill allowing the use of the firing squad for executions.
Welcome to the Wild, Wild West, y'all.

What spurred them to do this?

It seems that the drug manufacturers in Europe won't sell the drugs if they know they will be used to kill people.

This is Utah's way of continuing the ridiculousness that is state killing.

In just a few days, Christians will celebrate Good Friday, when Christ himself was a victim of state killing, the one who stopped a woman from execution, the one who said forgive, not just 1 time, but 70 times 7, and love your enemies.

Yet so many Christians forget the message of their God, the message of compassion and love. Besides, most studies show it is more expensive to execute people than to have them imprisoned for life.

Fiscal conservatives, take note! Instead of killing people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong, states like Utah and Tennessee should invest that money in preventing violent crimes in the first place by spending that wasted money on things like law enforcement, education, mental health and mentoring for at-risk youth.

This would be a much better use of our tax dollars and would promote the common good instead of revenge.

Brent Fernandez, Nashville
Source: Letter to the Editor, The Tennessean, March 30, 2015

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California: As death row runs out of room, Brown eyes space of those newly sprung

San Quentin Death Row: 'The nation's largest death row has run out of room.'
With no executions in nearly a decade and newly condemned men arriving each month, the nation's largest death row has run out of room.

Warning that there is little time to lose, Gov. Jerry Brown is asking the California Legislature for $3.2 million to open nearly 100 more cells for condemned men at San Quentin State Prison.

The proposed expansion would take advantage of cells made available as the state releases low-level drug offenders and thieves under a new law voters approved last year.

California's death penalty has been the subject of a decade of litigation. One case led to a halt to executions in 2006. Another resulted in a federal judge's ruling last July that the state's interminably slow capital appeals system is unconstitutionally cruel. Through it all, the death row population has grown from 646 in 2006 to 751 today.

"Until the litigation is resolved, this cost-effective proposal allows [the state corrections department] to safely house condemned inmates going forward," corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said last week.

Legislators would have to approve the governor's funding request as part of the state's $113-billion budget.

But critics of Brown's handling of the state's stalled death penalty say his proposal doesn't address deeper problems with the California system. "This is a failure of Gov. Brown to do the things within his power to move things forward," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a group that has sued California seeking to force the state to resume executions.

There are 731 men and 20 women on California's death row. The women are housed in a maximum security unit at the Central California Women's Facility near Chowchilla, and Brown's proposal would not affect them.

Condemned men live at San Quentin, housed apart from other inmates in three cellblocks that Brown's budget plans note would have overflowed already if the state last summer had not, under court order, opened a 25-cell psychiatric unit for death row inmates.

San Quentin's death row can accommodate 715 inmates. Last week, prison officials said, 708 inmates were in those cells. Twenty-three others were scattered across the state for court hearings or held in long-term medical facilities or at prisons in other states.

Source: Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2015

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Mary Jane Veloso: How a 30-year-old Filipina ended up on death row in Indonesia

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso, 30, was caught trafficking drugs when her flight from Malaysia landed in Jogjakarta in April 2010. She had on her 2.6 kilograms of heroin with a street value of US$500,000.

She was sentenced to death in October 2010 and the Philippine government has vowed to exhaust all means to save her. 

Her initial appeal for judicial review — she says she did not have a capable interpreter during her trial — was rejected last week and on Friday we reported that Indonesia is preparing to move her for execution

A second petition will be filed by the Philippine government.

Veloso's plight comes on the heels of another high-profile drug-trafficking case in Indonesia involving Bali Nine, a group called as such because its conspirators are [nine Australians arrested on 17 April 2005 in Bali, Indonesia, for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg of heroin valued at around 3.1 million US dollars from Indonesia to Australia.]

The alleged masterminds, Australian citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are set to be executed soon by gunfire despite top-level intercessions from the Australian government and human rights advocates.

These are what you need to know to better understand the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina on death row:

1. Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso is from the village of Caudillo near Cabanatuan City, where she grew up impoverished, with her parents and siblings. She is a single mother of two.

2. Among the siblings, it was only Mary Jane who was able to go to high school — but she only attended first year.

3. Instead, she seeked employment abroad as a domestic helper, lasting only 10 months in the United Arab Emirates because she fled when her employer tried to rape her.

4. At 25, she was going to try her luck again, this time as a domestic helper, a job she heard about from her kinakapatid Cristina. When she landed in Kuala Lumpur, however, Cristina told her the job was already filled but there was another vacancy in Jogjakarta in the island of Java if she was still interested?

5. Before the flight to Jogjakarta, Cristina took Veloso on a shopping spree where she bought her new clothes and luggage. They took the same flight but Cristina disappeared when Veloso's suitcase set off the security alarm while she was clearing customs.

6. Hidden inside Veloso's luggage was 2.6 kilograms of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil, with an estimated street value of US$500,000. She had been set up as a drug mule and was arrested by the police in April 2010. In October 2010, she was convicted as a drug trafficker and sentenced to death. There was no word on her execution during the term of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But Joko Widowo, Indonesia's new president since October 2014, has been taking a hard stance on drugs and has denied presidential clemency for drug offenders.

7. Veloso's execution was deferred by the Indonesian government in February 2015 following a formal appeal from our Department of Foreign Affairs. Veloso claims she did not have a capable interpreter during her trial. Last month, the Indonesian government allowed her family — her mother, sister and two children — to see her in prison.

8. On Mar 26, Indonesia's supreme court rejected Veloso's appeal for a judicial review, with no explanation. According to a Reuters report, the Indonesian government is now preparing to move Mary Jane from Yogyakarta to the maximum security prison on Nusakambangan Island in Central Java.

9. The date of her execution has yet to be announced.

10. Veloso's plight comes on the heels of another high-profile drug-trafficking case in Indonesia involving a group dubbed Bali Nine. They were attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Bali in 2005. Despite pressure from international media and appeals from the Australian government on behalf of the two Australian ringleaders in the group, their execution by gunfire has not been overturned.

VP pushes 2nd plea for Pinay in Jakarta

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on Sunday said the Philippine government will file a 2nd petition for judicial review of the case of a Filipino who was sentenced to die by firing squad for smuggling heroin to Indonesia.

In a meeting with the parents of the convict at the Makati City Hall, Binay assured them the government is exhausting all legal remedies and options to save their daughter Jane Veloso.

Binay, Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, informed Veloso's parents--Celia and Cesar Veloso -- about the government's next move to spare their daughter from the death penalty.

During the meeting, Binay called up Assistant Secretary Minda Calaguian-Cruz of the Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of Asia & Pacific Affairs who told him about a 2nd petition for judicial review.

"Let us check what we can do. (Veloso) is a 1st time offender and a widow with 2 young children," the Vice President told Calaguian-Cruz.

Jakarta has said it will wait for any outstanding legal appeals to conclude before executing all 10 drug convicts - including Veloso - at the same time.

Veloso was arrested at Java's Yogyakarta Airport in April 2010 for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage.

An emotional Celia denied the heroin seized from her daughter's luggage belonged to her. She stressed it was discreetly placed there by a certain Christine, who she said, was the wife of her daughter's godbrother.

"My daughter did not know about it. She wasn't aware," the grieving mother told Binay.

She said her daughter was just carrying 2 small bags. But she said Christine was indeed clever and tricked her by buying several clothes for her daughter.

When her daughter was about to leave for Indonesia, Christine gaver her a luggage, where she supposedly placed all the clothes she bought for her.

The victim's parents sought the help of the Vice President after the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the Philippine government's request for a judicial review of Veloso's case.

In an earlier appeal for judicial review, Veloso's lawyers argued the convict was not provided with a capable translator during her trial.

Binay recently renewed his appeal to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to commute the death sentence of Veloso.

He also wrote Widodo earlier this month to "convey to him the Filipinos's hope and prayers that the Indonesia Supreme Court of Indonesia will look kindly and with compassion on the circumstances surrounding the case of Veloso.

Source: Manila Standard Today, March 30, 2015

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Court has right to rule on Bali duo challenge says legal expert

Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran
Indonesia’s judiciary have the right to rule on the execution challenge by Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, according to a legal expert.

The lawyers fighting to save the lives of the Bali Nine ring leaders returned to court today to challenge the Indonesian president’s rejection of their pleas for mercy.

They presented an expert defence in an attempt to show that judges have the right to rule on the clemency issue, despite an earlier ruling to the contrary.

Sukumaran and Chan were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Their appeals for clemency, typically the final chance to avoid the firing squad, were recently rejected by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who has taken a hard line against traffickers.

The men, in their early 30s, were moved this month from jail on Bali to Nusakambangan prison island off Java, where Indonesian authorities plan to execute them along with several other foreign drug convicts.

In the latest attempt to save the men from the firing squad, their legal team has challenged Widodo’s decision to reject the clemency pleas, arguing that he failed to assess their rehabilitation or give reasons for his decision.

The Jakarta State Administrative Court dismissed the bid last month, saying it did not have the right to rule on the matter because granting clemency is the president’s prerogative. The Australians’ lawyers are now appealing that decision.

Today Otong Rosadi, a law lecturer presented as an expert witness, argued the judges did have the right to rule on the president’s decision after a constitutional amendment around 15 years ago, which states that public policies can be challenged in court.

“After that amendment, the president’s prerogative rights were no longer absolute,” he said.

Rosadi, from Ekasakti University on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, also said that “the right place to contest that presidential decision is the Administrative Court”.

But he added that there had been no previous court cases relating to the president’s decision to reject a clemency plea.

Source: The Australian, March 30, 2015

Bali Nine: law expert supports appeal for pair in Indonesian administrative court

Otong Rosadi’s call comes after court threw out a challenge against the rejection of clemency for death row pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

An expert witness has argued for the death row challenge of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to be heard in an Indonesian administrative court.

The court last month threw out a challenge against the rejection of clemency for the Bali Nine pair, determining the decrees by president Joko Widodo were not within its jurisdiction.

The men sentenced for heroin smuggling in 2006 have no other legal avenues left and have resorted to the administrative court appeal to spare them from the firing squad.

Otong Rosadi of Ekasakti university on Monday gave his opinion in support of the challenge. The law expert said in his opinion, all “products of the law” can be reviewed, even clemency, which he argued was not purely a matter of presidential prerogative.

The constitutional rights of the president were still a product of the law, he said.

“The legal product is the presidential decree and a presidential decree rejecting or granting clemency, it’s a state administrative matter,” he told the court in Jakarta.

“The forum to challenge it is the state administrative court.”

Otong maintained this view under questioning from lawyers for the state and judges, who asked if other constitutional rights of the president could also therefore be challenged in the administrative court.

A lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran, Leonard Arpan, said he was confident Otong’s evidence was strong.

“I think the expert has delivered all the statements that were required,” he told reporters.

Both sides are due to give their conclusions on Wednesday, with a decision expected soon afterwards.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Guardian, March 30, 2015

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Catholics on Left and Right Find Common Ground Opposing Death Penalty

Death Row, Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas (more photos here)
As the editor of The National Catholic Reporter, a national biweekly, Dennis Coday reads his competitor, The National Catholic Register. But he does not have to agree with it.

The Reporter is seen as somewhat liberal in theology and politics. The Register, a competing biweekly with a confusingly similar name, is popular with more theologically traditional Roman Catholics, who often fall to the right politically.

But last year, seeing the amount of attention that The Register was giving to arguments opposing the death penalty, Mr. Coday came up with an idea: Maybe the 2 newspapers could collaborate on an editorial calling on Catholics to oppose the death penalty.

"What struck me the most was Oklahoma Archbishop Paul Coakley came out strongly against it," Mr. Coday said. "And his comments were covered by The National Catholic Register."

Indeed, The Register had covered Catholic death-penalty opposition last May, after the botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate, Clayton Lockett, and again in July, after the protracted execution in Arizona of Joseph R. Wood III, who took nearly 2 hours to die.

Eventually, Mr. Coday got three other publications, including The Register, to join him. On March 5, "Catholic Publications Call for an End to Capital Punishment" ran on the websites of The Reporter; The Register; Our Sunday Visitor, which is considered conservative; and the Jesuit magazine America, which is considered liberal. The editorial was written principally by Mr. Coday, with the involvement of the four editorial boards.

The editorial was an unusual show of unity among publications that speak for often antagonistic niches of Catholic public thought. Editors at the publications agreed, in interviews this week, that such a joint effort would be unlikely on other topics, like same-sex marriage or abortion.

With the death penalty, the time seemed right. According to last year's major Pew survey, support for the death penalty is slipping nationally. At the same time, different branches of Roman Catholicism are uniting behind a message that has been consistently delivered by Pope Francis and his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II.

"We, the editors of 4 Catholic journals," the editorial begins, "urge the readers of our diverse publications and the whole U.S. Catholic community and all people of faith to stand with us and say, 'Capital punishment must end.'"

"The Catholic Church in this country has fought against the death penalty for decades," it says. "Pope St. John Paul II amended the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church to include a de facto prohibition against capital punishment. Last year, Pope Francis called on all Catholics 'to fight ... for the abolition of the death penalty.' The practice is abhorrent and unnecessary."

The Register's editor, Jeanette De Melo, said that when Mr. Coday first broached the idea last fall, they could not quite make it work.

"The Register's take on the death penalty," Ms. De Melo said, "is to talk about it in broader context of the life issues," like abortion and euthanasia. "We wanted to contextualize it last fall in that broad context."

Ms. De Melo said that she and Mr. Coday could not agree on an editorial that brought in so many contentious issues. But when, in January, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case of Glossip v. Gross, which challenges Oklahoma's use of lethal injection, she thought that maybe it was time for an editorial solely on capital punishment.

"Since the Supreme Court took up this case," Ms. De Melo said, "it seemed maybe we could look at it in a narrower context. I felt it was important to stand on something we can stand together on, these diverse publications with diverse audiences. We do agree this should end."

Some readers questioned Ms. De Melo's decision to join with more liberal publications. On March 16, she wrote her own editorial, placing her death penalty opposition in the context of issues that are important to conservatives.

"Euthanasia, abortion, war and capital punishment differ in moral weight, but they all threaten human dignity, and we must work to end them," Ms. De Melo wrote.

The church now teaches that the death penalty could be justified only for self-defense in the narrow sense of preventing a killer from committing a future killing. So in the modern state, the argument goes, with effective prisons and life sentences to keep killers off the street, there is no morally valid reason to use it. According to the Catholic theorist Robert George, who teaches at Princeton, capital punishment is not as bad as abortion or euthanasia, but it nonetheless needs to end.

"Although I do not regard capital punishment to be on a moral par with the deliberate killing of innocent persons - including killing unborn babies by abortion and killing elderly or handicapped persons in euthanasia - I believe that the abolition of killing as a punishment will promote a culture of life," Professor George wrote in a Feb. 19 letter to the governor and legislature of Kansas.

Coming from Professor George, who is admired by the Catholic right, the letter was another indication that on this particular issue, a unified position may be emerging.

Not everyone agrees. The Rev. John McCloskey, a conservative priest, wrote this month that "the Catholic Church's Magisterium does not and never has advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty." He invoked Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in support of the death penalty, as well as Pope Pius XII.

Then there are the 59 % of white Catholics who, according to the Pew survey, favor capital punishment - 4 points higher than the average for all American adults.

Matt Malone, who edits America magazine, said Catholic journalists were starting to reach across these political divides. He pointed to a symposium his publication hosted in December, which drew journalists from the Register, the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal, U.S. Catholic, and the conservative magazine First Things, popular with Catholics.

"I think it's part of a general trend where we're less afraid to reach out to each other and do things than we used to be," Father Malone said.

Greg Erlandson, the publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, said that Catholics needed to keep talking to one another, lest they become as dysfunctional as the secular world.

"The ideological polarization that has paralyzed American political life has seeped into the church, unfortunately," Mr. Erlandson said. "So something like this" - the joint editorial - "is an important signpost for the church."

Source: New York Times, March 29, 2015

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Defense moves into spotlight in Boston Marathon bombing trial

The Boston Marathon finish line minutes before the blast.
The Boston Marathon bombing trial shifts sharply in tone next week when prosecutors rest their case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and turn proceedings over to his lawyers, who have already admitted he planted explosives at the finish line in April 2013.

One of Tsarnaev's lawyers, death penalty specialist Judy Clarke, opened the trial on March 4 with a blunt statement to the jury that "it was him" who killed 3 people and injured 264 in the attack.

Clarke contended, however, that the 21-year-old played a secondary role to his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in planning and executing the plot.

Her goal: Persuade jurors in federal court in Boston that Tsarnaev deserves a sentence of life in prison rather than the death penalty.

It is an argument the defense team, which includes death penalty specialist David Bruck and Boston's top court-appointed lawyer, Miriam Conrad, will not be able to make in earnest until the jury decides if Tsarnaev is guilty.

Until then, they are left to poke holes in the prosecution's case and work in as many allusions to 26-year-old Tamerlan's influence as the judge will allow, according to legal experts.

The jury got a taste of the approach in the past week when an FBI agent who searched Tsarnaev's college dorm room described finding metal BB pellets, which were packed into the bombs that ripped through the crowd. Prosecutors also said the brothers practiced shooting with BB guns. 3 days after the April 15, 2013 attack, they fatally shot a police officer.

Conrad asked the agent, Kimberly Franks, if the search had turned up actual firearms or just BBs. Franks testified that no guns were found.

When a 2nd FBI agent described finding the Tsarnaevs' Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment empty, Conrad noted it had not been vacant when agents arrived 4 days after the bombing.

"You're not aware of the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife and child were there at the time when the search team arrived?" Conrad asked FBI special agent Christopher Derks. Derks replied that he had been down the street when agents blasted the door open early on April 19, 2013.

By that time, Tamerlan had died of injuries sustained during a gunfight with police.

Questions like that, legal experts said, are intended to plant doubt in the jury's mind about the strength of government's case.

"Impeaching the quality of the investigation can help support their view that it was the older brother who was running the show," said Mark Pearlstein, a former federal prosecutor in Boston who has faced Conrad in criminal cases.


The defense team has long experience representing clients in death penalty and terrorism cases.

Clarke and Bruck rose to national prominence two decades ago when they defended a South Carolina woman, Susan Smith, who a jury found guilty of killing her 2 sons but spared her a death sentence after Clarke argued that her actions reflected deep depression rather than malice.

The pair's research unveiled Smith's troubled history of sexual abuse and attempted suicide, some of the mitigating factors that lawyers use to persuade a jury to consider a more lenient sentence.

Clarke went on to defend "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph. She also served as a defense consultant to al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

All 3 ultimately pled guilty and are serving life sentences.

Conrad defended Rezwan Ferdaus, who in 2012 pleaded guilty to planning to fly an explosive-laden remote control plane into the U.S. Capitol, and Aftab Ali Khan, who was deported from the United States after pleading guilty to helping transfer about $5,000 from his native Pakistan to a man who tried to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square in 2010.

One major difference between those cases and Tsarnaev's is that prosecutors have not agreed to a plea deal, instead trying to put the ethnic Chechen, who immigrated to the United States a decade before the attack, to death.

But the same skills that have allowed the defense team to secure plea deals could help them persuade the jury to sentence Tsarnaev to life in prison without possibility of parole, legal experts said.

In either case, the lawyers need to present the same sort of "mitigation" evidence, said Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, which uses DNA evidence to exonerate convicted people.

In a delicate balancing act, Tsarnaev's attorneys have taken care not to appear belligerent towards the bombing victims, declining to question any of them.

That could help protect their credibility in the jury's eyes, said Scheck, who said he has known Clarke for three decades: "You have to trust the messengers as much as you trust the message."

Source: Reuters, March 29, 2015

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Iran: 12 prisoners secretly executed in a day

The Iranian regime's henchmen secretly hanged at least 12 inmates on Thursday (26 March 2015) in prisons in cities of Shiraz and Mashhad.

A group of 5 prisoners were hanged in a prison in the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran while another 6 were collectively hanged in Pirnia Prison in the city of Shiraz in southern Iran. 

On the same day, another prisoner was also hanged in Adelabad Prison in the same city.

In Shiraz, the prisoners were transferred to solitary confinements two days prior to the Iranian New Year (Nowruz), therefore, the victims spent the New Year's day in isolation awaiting execution.

The religious dictatorship ruling Iran has refrained from publishing any report or information on the prisoners.

The growing number of executions, including many carried out in secret, are just trivial examples of the nationwide repression that continues to take place in Iran since Hassan Rouhani became president of the clerical regime.

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, reported on March 25 that some 1000 executions had been carried out during the past 15 months in Iran. 

Prior to that, on March 16, he told a news briefing in Geneva: "There is a lot of concern amongst the Iranian society that the nuclear file may be casting a shadow over the human rights discussion."

The U.N.'s special investigator added that the human rights situation and repression in Iran has worsened since Hassan Rouhani became president.

Source: NCRI, March 29, 2015

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Final hearing tomorrow for migrant worker tortured and sentenced to death in the UAE

The Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi will tomorrow give a final verdict in the case of an Indian migrant worker who was sentenced to death on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under torture.

Ezhur Gangadharan, a father of three who works in the UAE to support his family in Kerala, India, was arrested in 2013 in connection with the rape of a minor at the school where he worked for 32 years. Upon arrest, Mr Gangadharan was repeatedly tortured by police. He was reportedly told that if he did not confess to committing the crime, the abuse would continue. The injuries Mr Gangadharan sustained were detailed in two medical reports submitted at trial. There was no physical or DNA evidence linking Mr Gangadharan to the crime. A number of other Indian nationals were also detained in relation to the offence.

In 2014 the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi vacated Mr Gangadharan’s death sentence because the lower court had not considered his torture at the hands of police. The Supreme Court asked the lower court to reconsider his case, but it refused and eventually upheld its original decision, despite a wealth of contradictory evidence that rendered the original verdict unsafe. The use of torture is prohibited absolutely by international law, including the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Arab Charter on Human Rights (ACOHR), both of which the UAE is fully signed up to.

In detention, Mr Ganghadaran was denied access to a lawyer and an interpreter when being questioned by the Police and Public Prosecution. At trial, Mr Gangadharan’s lawyer was cautioned for drawing the Court’s attention to the lack of an adequate interpreter and that police officers were intimidating the defendant.

Tomorrow’s sentencing hearing in Abu Dhabi’s highest court will signal an end to Mr Gangadharan’s final appeal, after which a pardon will become the only way to prevent his execution. Mr Gangadharan is one of nearly 80 migrant workers facing the death penalty in the UAE, which has faced sharp criticism for its failure to adequately protect migrants who make up nearly 90% of the labour workforce. The hearing comes just weeks after a leading expert on migrant workers was denied entry to Abu Dhabi.

Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at Reprieve which is assisting Mr Ganghadaran, said: “It is right and entirely understandable that victims and their families seek justice, especially in a case of this nature. But scapegoating Mr Ganghadaran, a man from one of the UAE’s most vulnerable and marginalised groups of people who was tortured into giving a ‘confession’ and then subjected to a wildly unfair trial, is not justice of any sort. The Indian government should not allow this gross injustice against one of its nationals to go unchecked. It should demand an immediate investigation into Mr Ganghadaran's torture and a halt to these unfair proceedings.”

Source: Reprieve, March 29, 2015

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