Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Egypt hands death penalty to 7 jihadists for fatal attacks

CAIRO, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- An Egyptian military court on Tuesday sentenced to death seven members of Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and two to life in prison on charges of planning and executing attacks on the military, state-run media Ahramonline reported.

The attacks, known as the Arab Sharkas case, led to the death of two military officers.

The defendants' charges include planning terrorist operations, shooting at security forces and attacking military facilities. The ruling has been approved by Egypt's grand mufti, a necessary procedure in Egyptian law.

This is the first trial against the Sinai-based jihadist group, which claims to support the Islamic State (IS) group operating in Syria and Iraq.

Terrorist attacks have risen since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi by the army last July and the massive security crackdown on his supporters, which left about 1, 000 of them killed and thousands more arrested.

The attacks targeted security men and their premises in the restive Sinai Peninsula and then extended to hit the capital and provinces across the country.

A recent official report said the death toll from such attacks has reached nearly 500, most of whom were soldiers and policemen. The al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.

Source: Xinhua, October 22, 2014

Florida: Scott, Crist both "tough on crime", but different

As the state's chief executive, the governor of Florida wields significant power over the court system and has great influence on how the state keeps the public safe.

Rick Scott and Charlie Crist have different views of how that power should be employed. Though both men say they endorse the death penalty, by and large, Scott advocates a harder line on crime. Crist says he, too, is tough but that he favors a more balanced approach. These differences in tenor are evident in the 2 candidates' positions on guns, prison sentences, civil rights and judicial appointments. A former Republican now running as a Democrat, Crist used to embrace the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie," earned as a state senator when he sponsored legislation to revive chain gangs.

Now, he says, times are different. In addition to long prison sentences, the state should consider what works and how to reintegrate felons into society to make them less likely to commit more crimes, he says.

Asked if he still should be called "Chain Gang Charlie," Crist balked.

"It's important to remember the context of the original 'chain gang' legislation: Florida was seeing record high crime and folks didn't feel safe in their homes," he said in an email response. "I believe in justice - but I also believe in mercy."

Crist has also tempered his support of former tough-on-crime laws, including one he sponsored, the Stop Turning Out Prisoners act, which requires prisoners to serve 85 % of their sentences, as well as 10-20-Life, which stiffened minimum mandatory sentences for gun crime.

"I fully support the concepts of the STOP Act and 10-20-Life, and I'm not necessarily in favor of changing them, but after 15 and 20 years it is appropriate to review them and see if they can be improved," Crist said.

Republican Scott's campaign says Crist's stance is just another example of the former governor reversing positions. The incumbent says this is no time back down.

"Law enforcement officials agree that Charlie Crist's flip-flop on important policies like mandatory minimum sentencing and 10-20-Life threaten the progress we've made in achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate," said Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair.

Those laws have contributed to the growth in the prison population and increased costs for the Department of Corrections.

When Scott ran for governor in 2010, he promised to cut $1 billion from the state's $2.4 billion budget for prisons. He made cuts but was unable to keep that pledge; the prison budget now is $2.1 billion.

With more than 100,000 inmates and 55 prisons, Florida, the third most populous state, has the third largest prison system in the country. But federal statistics also show Florida also has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, with 524 people behind bars for every 100,000 people in 2012.

7 of the prisons, with about 10,000 inmates, are privately run, and Scott has fought unsuccessfully to expand the privatization of prisons.

As governor and a state legislator, Crist also targeted prison budgets. In 2007, under Crist, Corrections Secretary James McDonough proposed saving money by erecting tents for some inmates and putting some to work in road crews.

When the economy slid in 2009, Crist wanted to use money set aside for building prisons to plug holes in the budget. A year earlier, his budget proposal called for a budget increase of $186 million for construction of facilities for 4,149 new prison beds.

Crist says he opposes further privatization. "Private prisons focus on filling beds rather than rehabilitating those who find themselves behind bars," he said.

The prison system has also been the focus of scandals, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigating 82 cases in which inmates died of nonnatural causes. The department has fired dozens of employees, several over allegations that they punched and beat inmates.

The controversies, Crist said, underscore that the department "needs a comprehensive review of both its prison operations and its budget. We need to improve correctional officers' training, basic services to inmates, and the rehabilitation programs that will reduce recidivism."

Asked if Scott still hopes to cut $1 billion from the prison budget and if he still plans to expand prison privatization, his campaign spokesman did not respond directly, saying Scott "is proud that his administration has saved money in the corrections system while achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate."

Crist and Scott differ sharply on how to treat felons after they have served their sentences.

Shortly after he became governor, Crist pushed through changes to grant nonviolent former felons an automatic restoration of their civil rights, including the right to vote. Crist said at the time that people convicted of crimes should be able to move forward after paying the price levied by judges and juries.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, an estimated 154,000 former felons had their civil rights restored under Crist after the reforms he initiated in April 2007, a rate that was previously about 8,000 annually. The change was supported by civil rights groups but opposed by some law enforcement organizations.

After Scott took office in 2011, he and Attorney General Pam Bondi rolled back Crist's changes, saying nonviolent former felons should have to wait up to 5 years and violent felons 10 years before applying to have their civil rights restored.

A 2012 study by a national group that advocates for post-release rights found Florida had the nation's highest percentage of people prohibited from voting because of a felony record - 10.4 % of the total adult population and 23 % of adult African-Americans.

Asked several questions about criticism of his rollback, the Scott campaign responded with a single sentence: "Governor Scott respects the process that is in place for restoring rights for convicted felons."

This hard-line vs. moderate approach carries over into the 2 candidates' positions relating to guns.

Earlier in his career, Crist and the National Rifle Association were the best of friends. The gun rights group endorsed Crist when he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio and gave him a grade of A on its report card designed to guide voters.

As governor, Crist was known for signing pro-gun rights measures into law, including one that allows people to bring their weapons to work and leave them in the trunks of their cars. This time around, the NRA has a different view of Crist. The organization's latest grade for him is a D, compared to A+ given for Scott.

NRA official Chris W. Cox said, "Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history."

Scott has signed 12 NRA-backed bills into law, nine more than Crist.

Asked if Scott supports restricting access to assault weapons or increasing background checks for gun purchases, his campaign said Scott "is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. In 2013, he signed legislation, with the support of Second Amendment advocates as well as mental health professionals, that helps keeps firearms out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves."

Among the laws signed by Scott was one recently upheld by a federal appeals court that bars doctors from asking patients about their guns or recording that information in records unless it was medically necessary.

Crist now favors expanded background checks for gun purchases.

"I'm a believer in the Second Amendment, and I grew up hunting," Crist said. "I don't think you need an assault rifle to hunt a deer. But what's most important is making sure we keep guns out of the hands of criminals."

The 2 men have different styles when it comes to picking judges, but both have been accused of trying to appeal to political constituencies in their judicial selections.

Crist picked 4 Supreme Court justices, with his 1st 2 very conservative and his 2nd focused on making the court more diverse. In each instance, he was described by observers as trying to shore up voting blocs.

Scott has not had the opportunity to appoint any Supreme Court justices but has clashed with the Legislative Black Caucus by telling members he won't pick judges who think differently than he does to achieve diversity.

In January, the caucus canceled a meeting with Scott, saying it was disappointed in part in his failure to promote diversity in the judiciary.

In May, the Florida Bar released a report critical of Scott and calling for more diverse judicial appointments. Saying the judiciary is "woefully unrepresentative" of the state, the report noted that just 16 % of 981 state judges are nonwhite, a portion that has remained about the same since 2000.

Source: Tampa Tribune, October 19, 2014

Zimbabwe High Court Rules Out Capital Punishment

The High Court cannot impose the death penalty on murderers in Zimbabwe until the legislature enacts a law spelling out the circumstances under which one can be hanged, Justice Charles Hungwe has said.

The landmark ruling spared Jonathan Mutsinze of the Jerusalem Church of Marondera the hangman's noose for killing a policeman and a security guard in the course of an armed robbery.

Justice Hungwe said there was no law defining "aggravated circumstances," a condition for one to be hanged.

In the absence of the Act, Justice Hungwe said, the courts cannot impose capital punishment.

He said life imprisonment was appropriate in Mutsinze's case.

Justice Hungwe ruled that the new Constitution under Section 48(2) stated that death penalty could only be imposed on a person who commits murder under "aggravated circumstances" but there was no Act defining the aggravated circumstances or setting out the conditions under which capital punishment can be imposed.

Justice Hungwe said before the introduction of the new Constitution, the death penalty would be imposed after the court found no extenuating circumstances and the extenuating circumstances were well-defined.

"Section 48 of the new Constitution brings in a new legal terrain, which recognises everyone's right to life including prisoners.

"Section 48 (2) of the Constitution permits death penalty to be imposed on a person convicted of murder committed with aggravated circumstances and that the law must allow the court a discretion on whether or not to impose the penalty.

"In my view what the Constitution has done is to unfetter the exercise of the discretion which was previously fettered under Section 337 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

"The omission of reference to extenuating circumstances and the introduction of aggravated circumstances, in my view, must be interpreted to mean that what is envisaged in an Act of Parliament, will define the term (aggravated circumstances) or set out conditions on which the court will impose death penalty," he said.

"Alternatively, and in any event, the absence of the definition of the term or what constitutes aggravated circumstances, must mean that they were to be defined in the envisaged law."

Justice Hungwe interpreted the situation to mean that Zimbabwe was moving away from the death penalty.

"I interpret the legal position to be that in keeping with its international obligations and best practices, Zimbabwe intends to move away from death penalty," he said.

Justice Hungwe's ruling confirms an argument by prominent Harare lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu in a separate case in which the National Prosecuting Authority was seeking an order barring the High Court from imposing the death penalty on Zimbabwean murder suspects extradited from countries that do not recognise death sentence.

Countries like South Africa are holding on to murder suspects for fear they will be executed when extradited to Zimbabwe.

When Adv Mpofu was asked to give his own analysis of the law as a friend of the court, he said while the old Constitution specifically made provisions for the death penalty, the new order left that decision to the legislature.

Mutsinze, who had been in remand prison for 10 years awaiting sentence, was finally sentenced after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application for stay of prosecution.

He was convicted of murder with actual intent, which usually attracts the death penalty, but the loophole saved him and he was slapped with a life sentence.

Source: The Herald, October 21, 2014

The Maldives: High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not "shy away" from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

"We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned," Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

"While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it".

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari'ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

"In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas," Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state's preferred method of implementing capital punishment.

Source: Minivan News, October 21, 2014

Iran: 13 executed in a day, 6 inmates die in prison due to dire conditions

Iran: Watching a public execution
The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 13 prisoners on Sunday October 19, 2014 in Ghezel-Hessar Karaj Prison, Tabriz Central Prison and Rasht Central Prison.

18-year-old Fardin Jaafarian was hanged in Tabriz prison for allegedly committing a crime when he was 14.

A group of 8 inmates hanged in Ghezel-Hessar prison while another group of 4 executed in Rasht prison.

Meanwhile, at least 6 inmates lost their lives due to the excruciating conditions at a death camp and inhumane pressures by henchmen.

The men arrested in city of Bandar Abbas as a part of mass arrests carried out in the city October 12-17 under the pretext of fighting against drugs. They were all imprisoned in Camp Jabal-Bor in Bissim area of the city,

Also at least 5 death row prisoners in Urumyeh Central Prison have been transferred to solitary confinement since October 18 to await their execution.

Meanwhile, Iranian regime officials continue to pledge to continue on violations of human rights in Iran.

Commenting on the latest reports by international bodies on the violation of human rights in Iran, Sadegh Larijani, the head of the mullah's Judiciary, said on October 15: "The more they attack us on the issue of human rights, the more we become determined to carry out sentences," IRGC affiliated YJC website reported.

Source: NCRI, October 21, 2014

Pakistan: Church to appeal Asia Bibi death penalty

Catholic leaders in Pakistan will appeal to their country's Supreme Court after a lower court upheld the death penalty for a blasphemy ruling against a Christian mother of 5 children.

"Like it or not, we have to accept the court order," Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, told Catholic News Service.

4 days earlier, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence handed to Asia Bibi in 2010. "The only option before us now is to appeal against the verdict. We have applied for a certified copy of the verdict. We will appeal against it in the Supreme Court," Father Mani said, adding Christians were praying for an acquittal.

A statement from the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, a Catholic group named for a critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

"Bibi has wrongly been convicted of blasphemy. We remain optimistic that the rule of law will prevail and justice will be done (when the appeal is heard in the Supreme Court). For now that is our only hope," said the statement by the Catholic advocacy group.

Bibi, an "untouchable" low caste, was accused of blasphemy after an argument with her Muslim neighbour over a drinking glass in the fruit field where they worked together. She was the 1st Christian woman convicted under the blasphemy law that provides for mandatory death sentence even for unintentional acts or words of blasphemy.

2 prominent critics of the blasphemy law lost their lives in their bid to get Bibi released on bail following her conviction.

Salman Taseer, a Muslim and governor of Punjab province, was shot dead on January 4, 2011, by his Muslim body guard after he initiated a clemency petition.

Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42-year old Catholic and federal minister for religious minorities who closely worked with Taseer with the clemency petition, was killed 2 months later in Islamabad.

More than 96 % of Pakistan's population of more than 180 million people are Muslims. While Christians and Hindus account for over 1.5 % each, Ahmadis, Sikhs, and tribals account for the remaining 1 %.

Source: Catholic Herald, October 22, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nigeria: Reprieve for Death Row Inmates in Kaduna

In an unprecedented turn of events, reprieve has eventually come the way of Thankgod Ebhos and Sunday Eze Onyeabor, two death row inmates formerly in Benin prison, following the signing of their release order by the governor of Kaduna State, Ramalan Yero.

The governor signed their release in exercise of his power of Prerogative of Mercy as outlined under Section 212 of the Nigerian Constitution. Ebhos is one of the nine prisoners whose release order was approved to commemorate Nigeria's 54th Independence Day celebration.

Onyeabor was sentenced to death in 1994 and had been on death row for 20 years, while Ebhos was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1995 and has been on death row for 19 years.

The duo, who have appeals pending at the Court of Appeal are beneficiaries of Avocats Sans Frontières France's Saving Lives (SALI) project initiated in 2011, which has since recorded the release of 48 inmates from prison.

Ebhos came into the limelight in June 2013 when he narrowly escaped execution alongside the famous four inmates of Benin prison after their death sentence warrants were signed by the Edo state government.

Ebhos, the fifth inmate, was actually taken to the gallows but was not hanged unlike the four who did not escape the hangman's noose.

The long winding road to Ebhos release, however, began with the intervention of the international human rights Organization, Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France) on the platform of their death penalty project, Saving Lives (SALI).

The pro bono team of SALI lawyers forestalled further threat of execution by immediately filing for an injunction at the ECOWAS community court of justice.


Source: allAfrica, October 20, 2014

Jodi Arias death penalty retrial begins

Jodi Arias
More than a year after she was found guilty of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Jodi Arias is back for her death penalty trial . The 34-year-old Arizona woman is facing a new jury who will decide whether or not she deserves the death penalty — something the original jury couldn’t agree on. Lawyers are expected to make their opening statements on the case on Tuesday.

To be clear, Arias is not on trial over the murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, who was stabbed 29 times and suffered a gunshot wound to the face at his home in Mesa, Arizona, in 2008. Arias contended that she killed Alexander in self-defense. The previous jury, however, rejected that claim. Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2013, and that conviction still stands.

However, the previous jury became deadlocked during the sentencing period, torn between the death penalty and life in prison. According to CNN, a source close to the previous jury said the vote was 8-4 in favor of the death penalty. A death penalty sentence needs an unanimous vote from a 12-person jury, so Judge Sherry Stephens declared a mistrial.

Arias’ retrial will only focus on what’s called the “penalty phase.” A new jury was carefully picked from a pool of about 400 applicants, with the court making sure prospective jurors were impartial on both Arias’ case and the death penalty.

What happens if this new jury can’t decide if Arias deserves the death penalty? Reuters reports that in the case of a second hung jury, Stephens will take the death penalty off the table altogether and hand down either sentence to Arias: life in prison or life without parole for 25 years.


Source: Bustle, October 21, 2014

Oscar Pistorius sentenced to 5 years in prison

Oscar Pistorius
(Reuters) - Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius started his five-year jail sentence on Tuesday for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, marking the end of a trial that has gripped South Africa and millions around the world.

His uncle, Arnold Pistorius, indicated he would not appeal.

As judge Thokozile Masipa gave her decision on the 27-year-old's culpable homicide conviction, Pistorius, whose downfall has been likened to that of American football star O.J. Simpson, stood resolutely in the dock.

His only reaction was to wipe his eyes before two police officers led him to the holding cells beneath the High Court in the heart of the South African capital.

Ninety minutes later, an armored police vehicle carrying Pistorius - still dressed in dark suit, white shirt and black tie - left the building through a throng of reporters toward Pretoria Central Prison, where he is expected to serve his time.

Once the execution site for opponents of South Africa's former white-minority government, the jail is now home to the country's most hardened criminals, including the man known as "Prime Evil", apartheid death squad leader Eugene de Kock.

Prisons officials said Pistorius, whose lower legs were amputated when he was a baby, would be housed in a separate and secure hospital wing of the massive complex.

In delivering her decision, 67-year-old Masipa stressed the difficulty of arriving at a decision that was "fair and just to society and to the accused".

She also rebuffed suggestions that Pistorius - a wealthy and influential white man - might be able to secure preferential justice despite the "equality before law" guarantee enshrined in the post-apartheid 1996 constitution.

"It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were created that there is one law for the poor and disadvantaged, and one law for the rich and famous," she said.


Source: Reuters, Joe Brock, October 21, 2014

Ohio: Austin Myers moved to death row

Austin Myers
The teen sentenced to death for the murder of 18-year-old Justin Back in Warren County has been transferred to the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

That's where male inmates on Ohio's death row are housed.

According to the website for the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, Austin Myers, 19, was admitted on Friday, one day after a judge handed down a death sentence.

Myers and Timothy Mosley, 20, were convicted of robbing and killing Back in his Wayne Township Home. Back was choked, stabbed and shot. The pair dumped Back's body in Preble County.

Mosley testified against Myers in accordance with a plea deal he made with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty. Mosley faces life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing in a few weeks.

Myers is now the youngest inmate on death row in Ohio. An execution date has not been set.

Executions in Ohio are on hold until February 2015 while the state reviews its lethal injection method.

Source: WDTN news, October 20, 2014

Iran: Juvenile offender Fardin Jafarian executed in Tabriz Central Prison

Execution in Iran (file photo)
"Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder at the age of 14 was executed yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), "Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder was executed by hanging yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison.

A close relative who preferred to remain anonymous told HRANA's reporter: "This teenager murdered his friend at the age of 14 with no intention and due to carelessness."

This source continued: "At the early hours of yesterday morning and at the age of 18, he was executed at Tabriz Central Prison's enclosure after the family of the victim refused to forgive him."

It is important to say that on 05 September, 1991, Iranian government have [signed] the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This international convention was also approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly on 20 February, 1994, and was legislated a domestic law in Iran. According to the article 37 of this treaty, death penalty, long term or life imprisonment sentences without the right to parole for under 18s are banned.

Source: Human Rights Activists News Agency, October 20, 2014


Human Rights: Juvenile offender executed in Tabriz

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged a juvenile offender who allegedly had committed a crime 4 years ago when he was 14.

The victim, Fardin Jaffarian was hanged early morning on Saturday, October 18, in the city's main prison.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1000 prisoners have been executed including many juvenile offenders.

In a message on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10, 2014), Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, stated that the religious dictatorship ruling Iran is a government of executions based on its history, ideology, laws and daily policies.

While noting "an alarming increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years" Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said in his latest report: "The human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of concern." "Various laws, policies and institutional practices continue to undermine the conditions needed for the realization of the fundamental rights guaranteed by international and national law."

Rights groups and regional analysts say Iran's record may be worsening in the backdrop of potential detente with the West," an article published Wednesday in The Washington Times reported.

An advance copy of a book-length report on the violation human rights in Iran titled "Behind Rouhani's Smile" provided to The Washington Times by the National Council of Resistance of Iran notes more than a dozen cases of juvenile offenders have been hanged during past year.

Source: NCR-Iran, October 20, 2014

Pakistan: Petition for abolition of death penalty admissible: SC

Chairman of Watan Party barrister Zafarrullah has filed a petition in Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday, which stated that the law of execution should be abolished in Pakistan.

The registrar of Supreme Court had objected to the petition earlier. However, today Justice Jawad S. Khawaja, during the hearing of petition in his Chamber rejected the objections by registrar office and ordered for the further hearing of petition.

The process of law requires that any person tried for a crime should have the right to full legal defense. The death penalty continues to be recognized as a form of punishment in Pakistan's judicial system. The hearing of removal of execution law can only be treated through constitutional petition.

During 2007, the UN General Assembly suggested governments who didn't abolish death penalty should suspend their execution process.

Source: Dunya News, October 20, 2014


EU Disappointed By Pakistan Court's Decision To Uphold Blasphemy Death Sentence

The European Union has expressed sadness and concerns over the recent decision of a Pakistani court to uphold the death sentence handed down to a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges.

On Thursday, The Lahore High Court had rejected the appeal against the death sentence handed to Asia Bibi in 2010 for making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

Soon after the court made its ruling, Asia Bibi's lawyer indicated that he will soon file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

"The EU considers the death penalty a cruel and inhumane punishment. We hope that the verdict will be appealed to the Supreme Court and struck down swiftly," the 28-member bloc said in a statement.

"We call on Pakistan to ensure for all its citizens full respect of human rights as guaranteed by international conventions to which it is party," the statement added.

Source: RTT news, October 20, 2014

Saudi Arabia steps up beheadings; some see political message

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Immediately after his sword falls, the Saudi Arabian executioner steps backwards to avoid soiling his clothes with the blood of the condemned man, whose headless body can be seen slumping over backwards in the shaky online film.

After perfunctorily checking the white folds of his robe for flecks of red, the executioner wipes his blade with a tissue, which he drops onto the corpse and walks away.

A sudden surge in public executions in Saudi Arabia in the last 2 months has coincided with a U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State. This has led to inevitable comparisons in Western media between Islamic State's beheadings and those practiced in Saudi Arabia.

Defenders of the Saudi death penalty say beheadings, usually with a single sword stroke, are at least as humane as lethal injections in the United States. They deplore any comparison between the kingdom's execution of convicted criminals and Islamic State's extra-judicial killing of innocent hostages.

But rights activists say they are more concerned by the justice system behind the death penalty in the kingdom than by its particular method of execution. And critics of the Al Saud ruling family say the latest wave of executions may have a political message, with Riyadh determined to demonstrate its toughness at a moment of regional turmoil.

Saudi Arabia beheaded 26 people in August, more than in the first 7 months of the year combined. The total for the year now stands at 59, compared to 69 for all of last year, according to Human Rights Watch.

"It's possible the executions were used as intimidation and flexing of muscles. It's a very volatile time and executions do serve a purpose when they're done en masse," said Madawi al-Rasheed, visiting professor at the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics.

"There's uncertainty around Saudi Arabia from the north and from the south and inside they are taking aggressive action alongside the U.S. against Islamic State, and all that is creating some kind of upheaval, which the death penalty tries to keep a lid on."

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry was not immediately available to explain the upsurge in executions in August, or to answer other questions about the kingdom's use of the death penalty.

"PARTICULARLY EGREGIOUS"

Whatever the reason for the timing, the wave of executions at the same time as jihadis in Iraq and Syria were beheading captives has brought new scrutiny to the practices of a country whose values are so different from those of its Western allies.

While Saudi Arabia has joined U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and has deployed its senior clergy to denounce militant ideology, its public beheading of convicts, particularly for non-violent or victimless crimes like adultery, apostasy and witchcraft, is anathema to Western allies.

"Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch.

Some diplomats have said the increase may be only a quirk of timing, as the appointment of more judges has allowed courts to clear a backlog of appeal cases, and as the rise began after the end of Ramadan, when fewer executions traditionally occur.

But the interpretation of it as a show of strength appeared to be reinforced last week by the sentencing to death of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a member of the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shi'ite minority who had backed protests in 2011.

2 other men, 1 of whom was younger than 18 at the time of the protests, have also been sentenced for their part in the demonstrations and were convicted of having thrown petrol bombs.

"If you look at the definition of what Nimr was sentenced for, instigating sedition, it shows they want to make sure they stop any form of activism," said Mai Yamani, a Saudi-born political analyst in London.

More than a dozen people convicted of terrorism or Sunni Islamist militancy have also been sentenced to death this year.

BLACK MAGIC, ADULTERY AND APOSTASY

Under the Saudi Sharia legal system it can actually be harder to avert execution for crimes without a specific victim, like drug smuggling, than for murder.

Of the 59 people executed by Oct. 16, 22 had been convicted for smuggling drugs, according to figures compiled by Human Rights Watch from Saudi media reports.

One Saudi man, Mohammed Bakr al-Alaawi, was put to death for sorcery so far this year, the third such case since 2011. Although such cases are even rarer, judges can also demand execution for adulterers or Muslims who abandon their faith.

In Saudi Islamic law, charges of violent crimes like murder are usually brought under the system of "qisas": retaliation on the principle of an eye for an eye.

While a murderer would normally be sentenced to death, the victim's family is permitted to accept "diyya", or blood money, instead of execution. The lives of women are worth half those of men, and non-Muslims a fraction of the value of Muslims.

Convicts from less wealthy backgrounds, or without tribal connections who might intercede with the family or tribe of the victim, are more likely to die because it is harder for them to arrange a blood money payment.

For other crimes, the punishment is usually up to the judge, employing his own interpretation of ancient Muslim texts. When there is no victim, there is no victim's family to offer mercy at a price. Saudi Arabia has no civil penal code that sets out sentencing rules, and no system of judicial precedent that would make the outcome of cases predictable based on past practice.

Bassim Alim, who defended 17 men who were sentenced to up to 30 years jail in 2011 for sedition and other crimes in a high profile political case, said judges saw no need for many protections seen as fundamental in the west, like ensuring defendants had legal representation.

"The judge actually told one of the accused to my face: 'Why do you need a lawyer? You don't need a lawyer'," he said.

Alim said capital convictions were often based on no evidence other than a confession, with judges under no obligation to consider mitigating circumstances, psychological factors or the possibility that a confession was coerced.

REFORM STALLED

King Abdullah announced plans for legal reform in 2007, but judges, drawn from the traditionally conservative clergy, have so far succeeded is putting off meaningful change.

In 2009 Abdullah replaced the long-serving, conservative justice minister with a younger scholar, Mohammed al-Issa. His attempts to introduce more modern training for judges and a system of precedent to make sentencing more predictable have so far been blocked by strenuous opposition from conservatives.

Even Saudis who want reform generally do not oppose the use of the death penalty by public beheading. Khalid al-Dakheel, a political sociology professor in Riyadh, said the turbulence in the region meant people wanted the justice system to be tough.

'Crucifixion' of beheaded bodies in KSA
"You don't want to have a dictatorship similar to that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria or (former Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein. But at the same time you don't want to have a government which is weak, especially in such a region and at such a time," he said.

In the most extreme version of the Saudi death penalty, known by the Arabic word for "crucifixion" and reserved for crimes that outrage Saudi society, the corpse is publicly hanged in a harness from a metal gibbet as a warning to others.

An online film dated April 2012 on the LiveLeaks website shows a man being executed and then "crucified" in this manner, reportedly for robbing a house and killing its occupants. A group of 5 men suffered this fate in May last year in the southern province of Jizan for a series of robberies.

The reformist Jeddah lawyer, Alim, said he supported capital punishment in Saudi Arabia but that the legal system needed to be strengthened to ensure verdicts were just.

"I'm not someone who shies away from it. It's part of Sharia. But it has to be handled with extreme sensitivity and care. At the moment it can be done on the basis of no other evidence if the accused confesses," he said.

Source: Reuters, October 20, 2014

China Executed 2,400 People in 2013, Dui Hua

A Chinese police officer lights a
last cigarette for an inmate moments
before his  execution. 
The Dui Hua Foundation estimates that China executed approximately 2,400 people in 2013 and will execute roughly the same number of people in 2014. Annual declines in executions recorded in recent years are likely to be offset in 2014 by the use of capital punishment in anti-terrorism campaigns in Xinjiang and the anti-corruption campaign nationwide.

Dui Hua bases its 2013 estimate on data points published in Southern Weekly that are consistent with information provided to Dui Hua by a judicial official earlier this year.

The mainland magazine reported that a former senior judge of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) stated at a seminar in July that the number of executions had reached 1/10 of the highest number recorded since 1979. In 1983 - the 1st year of the Strike Hard campaign during which the power to approve capital punishment was given to provincial high courts - 24,000 people were sentenced to death, according to a report by southcn.com citing The Communist Party of China: 40 Years in Power (Zhongguo gongchandang zhizheng sishi nian). The book called the 1st year of the Strike Hard campaign the largest centralized attack since the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries in 1950.

A judicial official with access to the number of executions carried out each year, which is a state secret, told Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm in early 2014 that the number of executions dropped by around 20 % in 2013 compared to the previous year. Dui Hua previously estimated that China executed 3,000 people in 2012.

China currently executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, but it has executed far fewer people since the power of final review of death sentences was returned to the SPC in 2007. Since then, the number of executions nationwide may have dropped by more than 1/3 with declines of nearly 50 % in some locales, Southern Weekly reported citing an expert familiar with the court system. Other experts have said that the national figure dropped by 50 % 4 years after 2007.

In 2013, 39 percent of all death penalty cases reviewed by the SPC were sent back to provincial high courts for additional evidence, Southern Weekly reported citing an SPC official speaking at a legal seminar. Domestic violence survivor Li Yan was among the defendants whose cases lacked sufficient evidence; the verdict against her was ultimately overturned.

The SPC currently overturns fewer than 10 % of death penalty verdicts, a former SPC senior judge told Southern Weekly. In the years immediately after 2007, the rate was about 15 %. (This percentage varies considerably by province.)

Between July 2, 2013, and September 30, 2014, the SPC published 152 death penalty review decisions online, Southern Weekly reported in a separate article. The 152 decisions involved 129 murder cases and 17 drug cases. Only 5 verdicts were fully or partially overturned, and defense lawyers participated in just 13 % of death penalty reviews. Amendments to Article 240 of the Criminal Procedure Law, effective January 1, 2013, state that if the defense attorney requests, the SPC shall listen to the opinion of the defense attorney during its review.

Provinces with the most review decisions were Yunnan (14), Xinjiang (13), Zhejiang (11), Guangdong (8), and Henan (8). The average time for reviewing a death penalty verdict was 6 months, with 2 years as the longest period.

Source: duihua.org, October 20, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Boston Marathon Bombing: Judge rejects Tsarnaev request for dismissal of charges

D. Tsarnaev
A federal judge refused Friday to suppress evidence in the case of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that was uncovered when the FBI searched his computer, Dartmouth dorm room, and his family's Cambridge apartment in the days and months after the bombings.

US District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. also rejected a defense request to dismiss the case, after Tsarnaev's lawyers said the secret grand jury that indicted Tsarnaev was improperly empaneled.

O'Toole refused to hold a hearing on the requests, finding that Tsarnaev's defense "has failed to prove a violation of the fair cross section requirements" of federal law.

The judge's rulings come as lawyers are scheduled to meet Monday for a status hearing in federal court in Boston, to go over evidence in the case.

Tsarnaev, now 21, is slated to stand trial in January on charges that he and his brother set off the bombs at the Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, that killed 3 people and injured more than 260. The brothers also are accused of fatally shooting an MIT police officer.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police.

In his rulings Friday, O'Toole found that Tsarnaev failed to show that his rights were violated by a flawed jury selection process. Tsarnaev's lawyers had argued that the selection system was flawed because not enough African-Americans were represented, because the court allowed people over 70 to excuse themselves, and because the court did not follow its own rules to replace jurors whose summons were returned as "undeliverable."

O'Toole also refused to suppress evidence gathered by federal investigators. Defense lawyers had argued items that were confiscated went beyond what was authorized by search warrants.

The judge ruled that investigators properly obtained the warrants for the searches, but O'Toole said defense lawyers could contest specific pieces of evidence that prosecutors want to introduce to jurors during the trial.

"The defendant has failed to present any specific facts to support a showing that general rummaging occurred," the judge said.

Source: Boston Globe, October 20, 2014

Iran: Four hanged in Rasht

(file photo)
October 19, 2014: four men were executed in the main prison of Rasht, the official IRIB news agency reported.

The head of the judiciary in Gilan province did not identify the prisoners but said they were 32, 46, 44 and 32 years old and had been arrested on drug related charges.

One of the hanged men was previously arrested for heroin possession, while another 46-year old man was arrested and charged for carrying and selling opium. The other two hanged men were hanged upon charges for buying methamphetamine and heroin.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1,000 prisoners have been executed whilst the news on the execution of many prisoners never gets out.

At least 27 women and 12 prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest, together with 20 political prisoners, are amongst those executed with 57 of these executions carried out in public. During this period, a number of prisoners were killed under torture.

Source: NCRI, 0ctober 19, 2014; en.trend.az, October 20, 2014

Death Penalty Fuels Violence in Iraq, Says U.N. Report

Iraq should stop its widespread use of the death penalty, which is unjust, flawed and only fuels the violence it purports to deter, the United Nations said in a report on Sunday.

Sixty people were hanged in Iraq by the end of August this year, and although that is fewer than the 177 who were executed in 2013, 1,724 people remained on death row.

Iraq tends to carry out the sentence in batches because President Jalal Talabani opposes the death penalty so a vice president orders executions when he is out of the country, said the report, published jointly by the U.N. Mission in Iraq and the U.N. Human Rights Office.

Judges often pass death sentences based on evidence from disputed confessions or secret informants, condemning suspects who are unaware of their rights, may have been tortured and have no defense attorney until they arrive in court, the report said.

"Far from providing justice to the victims of acts of violence and terrorism and their families, miscarriages of justice merely compound the effects of the crime by potentially claiming the life of another innocent person and by undermining any real justice that the victims and families might have received," the report said.

Some convicts' relatives said they had been offered a chance to avoid the death penalty by hiring a particular lawyer for $100,000, while many women detainees said they had been detained in place of a male relative, the report said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and U.N. Special Representative forIraq Nickolay Mladenov said Iraq should impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

The report said the Iraqi government's view that the death penalty deterred violence "appears not to be valid given the deteriorating security situation over the past years" and said the executions appeared to be merely a reaction to the violence.

It added that the death penalty would not deter extremists who were prepared to die to achieve their objectives.

The report also rejected the government's claim that its use of the death penalty enjoyed popular support in Iraq.

"Once informed of the facts, including that it has no deterrent effect whatsoever on levels of violence and the risks of serious and irreversible miscarriages of justice, it is unlikely that the death penalty would continue to enjoy the public support that it now allegedly receives," it said.

It also called on the autonomous Kurdistan Region, which has a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, to abolish it permanently.

Source: Reuters, October 20, 2014

Tennessee death row inmate Olen Hutchison dies of natural causes

Olen Hutchison
NASHVILLE, TN (AP) - Tennessee officials say a death row inmate convicted of a 1988 murder in Campbell County has died of natural causes.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa E. Taylor says 61-year-old Olen E. Hutchinson was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. Sunday at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Hutchison was convicted in 1991 in the drowning death of 46-year-old Hugh L. Huddleston of Knoxville.

Huddleston was lured to Norris Lake under the guise of going fishing.

Hutchison's case became the focus of demonstrations and forums on disparities in the state's death sentences.

Hutchinson was one of seven men accused of plotting to kill Huddleston in an insurance fraud scheme. Hutchison was the only person sentenced to death.

The man convicted of pushing Huddleston into the lake received a life sentence.

Source: The Associated Press, October 20, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Plaque in Memory of Last Two Men Executed for Homosexuality in France Officially Unveiled

Unveiling of the plaque (Photo: G. Koskovich)
On the morning of Oct. 18, 2014, the City of Paris formally unveiled a historical plaque in memory of Jean Diot and Bruno Lenoir, arrested for sodomy and burned at the stake in 1750 — the last two victims of an execution for homosexual acts in the history of France.

The plaque is located in the pavement at the corner of the rue Montorgueil and the rue Bachaumont, near the location where the men were seized in flagrante on Jan. 4, 1750. 

Among the speakers at the ceremony: Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris (the first woman and the second Socialist to hold the post) and Jacques Boutault, district mayor for the second arrondissement, where the plaque is located.

Mayor Hidalgo's speech was both very moving in its evocation of the long struggle for respect and equality for LGBT people and in making a strong commitment to public policy measures supporting LGBT public history. 

Notably, the mayor said that she wanted to see Paris establish an institution for documenting and making LGBT history available to all residents of the city — and she specifically cited San Francisco as a model to follow in this regard.


Source: Gerard Koskovich, October 18, 2014

Photo: Têtu

Botswana: Wrongly Repatriated Man Will Not Be Spared Execution

October 17, 2014: Botswana’s defence minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, has insisted that his government will not give South Africa an undertaking that a Botswana citizen wrongly repatriated to face murder charges will be spared the hangman’s noose.

Seretse said that, when Botswana applied for his extradition, the South Africans had asked for an assurance that Botswana would not apply the death penalty if he was found guilty, but this had not been given.

This follows the deportation of the suspect, Edwin Samotse, to Botswana in August, contrary to South African government policy and a ministerial court order.

South Africa’s home affairs spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, told amaBhungane that there was no possibility that Samotse would be returned to South Africa because Botswana had its own sovereign judiciary.

He said the South African authorities were, however, preparing to make representations to the Botswana government asking for an assurance that Samotse will not be hanged.

Tshwete confirmed that three home affairs officials are being investigated in connection with the illegal deportation of Samotse.

Source: mg.co.za, October 17, 2014