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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jury seated in US death penalty trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

D. Tsarnaev in court
After 2 months of jury selection, a panel of 12 jurors and 6 alternates was seated Tuesday for the federal death penalty trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The panel consists of 8 men and 10 women. Opening statements in the case are scheduled for Wednesday.

Tsarnaev, 21, faces 30 charges in connection with twin bombings at the finish line of the marathon April 15, 2013. 3 people were killed and more than 260 were injured. He is also charged in the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer days after the bombings.

If the jury convicts Tsarnaev, the trial will move on to a 2nd phase to determine his punishment. The only 2 options available for the jury are life in prison or the death penalty.

Judge George O'Toole Jr., prosecutors and Tsarnaev's lawyers questioned prospective jurors individually.

Many potential jurors were excused when they said they had already formed an opinion on Tsarnaev's guilt or were morally opposed to the death penalty. Many others were dismissed because of personal connections to the bombings, including people who have friends or family who were near the finish line when the bombs went off or who knew first responders who treated victims.

During the jury selection process, Tsarnaev's lawyers tried repeatedly to get the trial moved out of Massachusetts, saying he could not find a fair and impartial jury because of the emotional impact the bombings had in the state.

O'Toole rejected 3 change-of-venue motions, saying the process of carefully questioning jurors to detect bias was successful in finding impartial jurors. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals twice refused to order the trial moved.

Source: Fox News, March 4, 2015

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Indonesia’s Death Penalty Hypocrisy

Jokowi’s hardline policy on executions may be imperiling the fight to save hundreds of Indonesian migrants on death row.

What a difference a few months make. Last year, thousands of Indonesians collected coins in a last-minute attempt to save a migrant worker, Satinah, from imminent execution while on death row in Saudi Arabia. The campaign galvanized the country, led to a trending hashtag #savesatinah, and forced then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to intervene and pay the remainder of the blood money to get Satinah taken off death row.

Today, it is the world that is campaigning against Indonesia’s new administration, led by President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, and its use of the death penalty against foreign citizens in its fight against drug trafficking. Even more worrisome, the government’s insistence on using the death penalty may be imperiling the ongoing fight to save the lives of hundreds of other Indonesians like Satinah, still on death row all around the world.

A Vulnerable Population

Satinah was one of what Migrant Care, an Indonesian NGO that raised awareness of her case and fights for the rights of Indonesian migrant workers around the world, estimates are an astounding 360 Indonesian citizens facing the death penalty in countries around the world right now.

“In Saudi Arabia there are 48 [on death row], in Qatar one, in China 22 and in Malaysia 288,” said Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care. “Right now, eighteen of them are awaiting execution. Four in Malaysia, five in Saudi Arabia and nine in China.”

Indonesia’s migrant workers form one of the world’s largest foreign worker populations, numbering, according to Migrant Care, 6.5 million, and find themselves primarily in countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Qatar, that have terrible human rights records and justice systems that do not provide fair trials to migrants. Reports by international NGOs including Amnesty International and HRW in the past years demonstrate the peril that many Indonesian migrant workers face. Sexual exploitation, torture, and even modern slavery are not uncommon.

Just last year, the country was galvanized by the story of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a domestic worker from Central Java who was tortured for eight months in Hong Kong, considered a “safe” country, and then sent home without receiving any pay.

The actions of the Indonesian government in the past – calls for leniency, willingness to pay blood money, politicians making personal interventions to foreign governments, and even threats of diplomatic revenge, are not too dissimilar to the actions taken in recent weeks by Australia, Brazil, and the Netherlands on behalf of their citizens who are facing the firing squad in Indonesia.

“Indonesia usually spends a lot of energy, money and effort to save any Indonesian citizens on death row abroad,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW), adding that he was shocked no one told Jokowi about the potential consequences of using the death penalty before December’s executions.

It is likely, with hundreds of citizens on death row abroad, that in 2015, there will be another situation like Satinah’s where the country will try to apply international pressure to save an Indonesian from execution. This time, however, Indonesia may find that it has fewer friends prepared to stand with it. Already, the use of the death penalty last month has hurt its relations with Brazil, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Malawi, and Vietnam. If plans move forward with the next round of executions, which includes citizens from France and Australia, despite pleas from clemency from civil society groups, foreign leaders, and human rights activists, it is almost certain cries of hypocrisy will be loud in the future.

Source: The Diplomat, Nithin Coca, March 3, 2015

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California man sues state for not executing family's killer sentenced to death decades ago

California death chamber
A family in Washington is undergoing a similar situation.

30 years after the murder of his mother, sister and 2 nephews, a California man is suing that state for not executing the killer, even though he was sentenced to death.

It has some people in Washington state wondering if they can pursue the same option.

Kermit Alexander said he trusted in the legal system for years. But, the killer is still sitting in prison decades later. Because of that, Alexander filed a lawsuit demanding California put in place an execution protocol and end the murderer's life.

Alexander won a small victory last month when a superior court judge agreed that he had standing to bring the action, so there will be a hearing on the merits of the suit.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee put a moratorium on the death penalty last year, but the California case has some Washington families looking at their options.

Jane Hungerford Trapp was found dead at the top of a stairwell in Tacoma in 1996. Cecil Davis was convicted of her murder, and another, and was sentenced to death.

20 years later, Davis remains in the state penitentiary in Walla Walla.

"We grew up learning that if you break the law, the law will punish you," said Kathy Obert, Hungerford-Trapp's niece. "Where is his punishment? He gets a new free home, paid for by us. This is just outrageously wrong."

Obert said her family will be following the California case closely as they work to figure out if there are any other options when it comes to getting Davis executed.

Jessie Ripley is Hungerford Trapp's daughter. She said it's been exceptionally difficult having her children grow up without a grandmother and spending most of her adult life without a mom.

"He (Davis) doesn't get to say, 'Oh I wish I could see my family,' because, guess what? His family can go visit him. I don't get any of that. My children don't get any of that," Ripley said. "I'm sitting here working. My family is sitting here working to support him in a prison. Somebody who took something from us. Now I have to support him? Where's the justice in that."

Governor Jay Inslee's office declined comment on this story, but it is expected that as long as he is in office, the moratorium on the death penalty in the state will remain in place.

Source: KREM news, March 4, 2015

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Saudi Appeal Court Upholds Sheikh Nimr's Death Sentence

A Saudi Arabian appeal court on Wednesday approved the death penalty of the prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Saudi criminal court had earlier referred Sheikh Nimr's case to an appeal court, where the sentence was upheld on Wednesday, according to a Sky News report.

Sheikh Nimr was detained in July 2012 following demonstrations that erupted in Qatif region, Saudi Arabia. He is accused of delivering anti-regime speeches and defending political prisoners.

His arrest has sparked widespread protests in the Arab country, leaving several people dead.

On October 15, Sheikh Nimr's family reported that a Saudi judge has found him guilty of "sedition" and sentenced him to death.

Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. 

They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Source: Tasnim News Agency, March 4, 2015

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Iran: Six Sunni political prisoners hanged

NCRI - The Iranian regime’s henchmen hanged six Sunni political prisoners early morning on Wednesday despite international calls to spare their lives.

Hamed Ahmadi, 33, Jahangrir and Jamshid Dehghani (two brothers, 28 and 29), Kamal Mowlaie 30, Seddiq Mohammadi, 28, and Hadi Hosseini, 31, were hanged in Gohardasht Prison in the city of Karaj.

The regime’s judiciary had sentenced to death these Kurdish prisoners after being convicted of the vaguely worded offence of “enmity against God.”

Iran under mullahs rule, remains the world highest executioner per capita. Since Hassan Rouhani has taken office as president some 1300 prisoners have been executed.

Amnesty International had issued a statement yesterday, March 3rd to spare the lives of the six Sunni political prisoners on death row.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International had urgently appealed to the Iranian authorities to halt the execution of these men, and quash their death sentences which followed grossly unfair trials.'

They were among 33 Sunni men currently on death row in Iran. All of the men maintain that they were targeted solely because they practiced or promoted their faith, such as taking part in Sunni religious seminars and distributing Sunni religious reading materials, the statement said.

Source: NCRI, March 4, 2015

6 Sunni Kurdish Prisoners Were Executed This Morning

6 death row Kurdish Sunni prisoners who had been transferred to an unknown location yesterday, have been executed. Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns this inhumane act and holds the Iranian authorities' leader Ali Khamenei responsible for this barbaric act.

According to reliable reports from Iran, the 6 Sunni Muslim prisoners,Jamshid and Jahangir Dehgani (brothers), Hamed Ahmadi and Kamal Molayee, Sedigh Mohammadi and Hadi Hosseini belonging to the Kurdish ethnic minority in Iran were executed early Wednesday morning in Rajaishahr prison of Karaj.

Their families and several well known human rights defenders and other people had gathered outside the prison several hours before the execution.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns executions of the 6 prisoners and urges the international community to condemn this barbaric act. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "We hold Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of the Iranian authorities responsible for this inhumane act. The international community, and especially the countries involved in the dialogue with Iran must condemn these executions. Anything else will send the wrong signal to the Iranian people and the authorities. The world must show that their dialogue with the Iranian authorities also benefits the human rights".

Hamed Ahmadi, Jamshid Dehghani and his younger brother Jahangir Dehghani, Kamal Molayee, Hadi Hosseini and Sedigh Mohammadi were sentenced to death after being convicted of vaguely-worded offences including Moharebeh (enmity against God) and "corruption on earth". They had been subjected to torture, ill-treatment and unfair trial.

Background: Jamshid and Jahangir Dehgani (brothers), Hamed Ahmadi and Kamal Molayee were arrested in 2009. They were accused along with 6 others of involvement in the assassination of a senior Sunni cleric with ties to the Iranian authorities.

They have denied any involvement, saying that their arrest and detention preceded the assassination by several months. They were sentenced to death by the branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, convicted of "Moharebeh" (enmity against God) and "acts against the nation's security". Their trial lasted about 10 minutes and they haven't seen their lawyer, according to sources who have been in contact with Iran Human Rights (IHR).

The 6 other prisoners were executed in December 2012, but the death sentences of the 4 prisoners were postponed.

Their execution was scheduled to be carried out in on September 25, 2013, and June 15, 2014, but it was postponed possibly due to the international attention.

In 2014 more than 19 human rights group called on the Iranian authorities to stop the execution of 33 Sunni prisoners.

Source: Iran Human Rights, March 4, 2015

UN ‘deeply troubled’ by high number of executions in Iran

Iran had a 'deeply troubling' number of executions last year and did not keep a promise to protect ethnic and religious minorities, the United Nations said on Tuesday in its annual report on the Iranian regime’s human rights record.

The report from the office of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the U.N. Human Rights Council cataloged U.N. concerns about rights violations in Iran against women, religious minorities, journalists and activists.

The reports said: “The Secretary-General remains deeply troubled by the continuing large number of executions, including of political prisoners and juveniles”.

It repeated a U.N. call for a death penalty moratorium and a ban on executing youths.

The report said Hassan Rouhani had not kept its promise to 'extend protection to all religious groups and to amend legislation that discriminates against minority groups'.

“The above-mentioned commitments have not ... been translated into results,” the report said. “Individuals seeking greater recognition for their cultural and linguistic rights risk facing harsh penalties، including capital punishment.”

Tehran also continued a crackdown on freedom of expression. The regime has blocked 5 million websites and has jailed journalists.

The report said that the prisoners were allegedly tortured, ill-treated, held for months in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer and risked the death penalty for crimes such as 'corruption on earth' and 'enmity against God'.

The report added Iran had not invited the U.N. investigator on Iranian human rights, and 24 of 29 U.N. inquiries on specific cases had gone unanswered.

Source: NCRI, March 4, 2015

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Iran: Man hanged in public in Darab

NCRI – The Iranian regime’s henchmen in the city of Darab (southern Iran) hanged a man in public on Wednesday [March 4, 2015]. The information Website 'Iran Human Rights' reports that the execution was carried out on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

Quoting Mousavi, the Prosecutor of Darab, the local news website Darab Online reported that the prisoner hanged outside the city's silo was convicted of rape.

The prisoner was not identified by name. 

The public hanging takes place a day after the United Secretary General has described the high rate of executions in Iran as ‘deeply troubling.’

The report from the office of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the U.N. Human Rights Council cataloged U.N. concerns about rights violations in Iran.

The reports said: “The Secretary-General remains deeply troubled by the continuing large number of executions, including of political prisoners and juveniles”.

Also on Wednesday the clerical regime hanged six Sunni political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison in the city of Karaj.

The report by the Secretary General repeated a U.N. call for a death penalty moratorium and a ban on executing youths.

Sources: NCRI, Iran Human Rights, March 4, 2015

Photos of the execution (source: NCRI):

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Lawyers for Filipina on death row: Her translator was just a student

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso's lawyers argue that she deserves a case review because of this

When Philippine citizen Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for smuggling heroin into Indonesia, the translator provided her was only a student.

Lawyers for Veloso, a 30-year-old single mother of 2, told the Sleman District Court in Yogyakarta on Tuesday, March 3, that this should be grounds to grant the request for her case to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

If the court's 3 judges don't agree, Veloso will be sent to face the firing squad on Nusakambangan prison island along with 9 other convicts, including the Bali 9 pair from Australia. A case review request is the final legal option open to her.

'Only Tagalog' "The defendant does not speak English and Indonesian. She can only use Tagalog, but she was not provided a competent interpreter," lawyer Agus Salim told the court, according to Okezone.com.

The interpreter provided was a student and did not have a license from the Association of Indonesian Translators, he added.

Veloso, who comes from a poor family in Bulacan, north of Manila, only finished high school. She was in Malaysia supposedly to work as a domestic helper, but her would-be employer failed to meet her, the court heard on Tuesday. With 2 children back home, she agreed to an offer by foreigners to bring two suitcases to Indonesia.

She was only supposed to bring the two suitcases with her on board the April 25, 2010, AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta, and someone was supposed to pick her up at the airport and get the package from her.

But that last part never happened, because she was arrested before exiting the airport. Concealed inside the suitcases were packs of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil estimated to have a street value of IDR6.5 billion at the time (about $500,000 today).

Veloso maintains she did not know the suitcases contained heroin, according to local news outlet Radar Jogja. But subsequent appeals have failed and, in January, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo rejected her clemency request along with all others from drug convicts as part of his new administration's harsh stance on the death penalty.

'No correlation'

Prosecutors did not agree with Veloso's lawyer, however. Any objection to the translator should have been filed at the beginning of the 1st trial, prosecutor S Anggraeni said.

"The translator was also sworn in," he added, according to Okezone. "There are no rules about the interpreter having to meet certain qualifications."

There was also no correlation between the status of the translator and the substance of the trial, he said, arguing that this meant Veloso's lawyers failed to present new evidence - the requirement for a case review to be granted.

The trial will resume on Wednesday, with Veloso's camp expected to present witnesses to bolster her case.

Indonesia's Attorney General has previously stated that Veloso was included in the next batch of 10 drug convicts to face the firing squad - the only woman and the convict who has spent the shortest time on death row in the list.

However, Philippines Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the execution had been "deferred because of the judicial review we requested."

During a state visit to the Philippines on February 9, Jokowi and Philippines President Benigno Aquino III signed 4 agreements, including one to combat illegal drug-trafficking. Contrary to previous reports, Charge d'Affairs Roberto G. Manalo of the Philippine Embassy said Aquino brought up Veloso's case with Jokowi during the visit.

Jokowi has issued a blanket rejection of all clemency requests from drug convicts on death row, citing Indonesia's drug emergency, despite mounting international pressure and calls for him to consider each case on its own merit.

Source: rappler.com, March 3, 2015

Indonesia may delay execution of 'mentally-ill' Brazilian convict

Rodrigo Gularte
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla says the execution of a convicted Brazilian drug smuggler could be postponed, if he is proved to be mentally ill.

"If he has a certain illness, he has to be treated first, let alone mental illness," the Media Indonesia daily quoted the vice president as saying on Tuesday.

Brazilian national Rodrigo Gularte, 42, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 for smuggling cocaine into Indonesia and is among 11 death-row prisoners who are expected to be executed this month.

Inmates who are set to be executed include 2 Australians and 1 each from the Philippines, France, Nigeria, Indonesia and Ghana.

Last year, Gularte's family managed to file a request for a thorough examination of his mental health with the help of the Brazilian embassy in Jakarta.

Eventually, the offender's family appealed for a pardon on the grounds that he had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, who is delusional with psychotic tendencies.

However, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has warned that nothing can derail the planned execution of the 11 convicts, calling on foreign countries not to intervene in the Asian country's internal affairs.

6 of them were executed in January.

Indonesia's Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said on February 27 that Jakarta may go ahead with plans to execute the Brazilian drug smuggler despite claims by the convict's family that he is suffering from schizophrenia.

"We are seeking a 2nd opinion from an independent doctor because the one who certified him as mentally ill was a doctor appointed by his lawyers," Prasetyo said.

He added that Gularte could still face execution under the country's law regardless of his current health condition.

Attorney General spokesman Tony Spontana said on Monday the inmates would be transferred to the Nusakambangan island prison complex off Java this week, where they are due to be shot. He, however, did not give a precise date for the executions.

Indonesia is also currently engaged in a standoff with Australia over the execution plan of Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, who were arrested in 2005 on charges of smuggling 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of the Indonesian resort island of Bali into Australia.

Australia says the 2 convicts should be spared on the grounds that they have been fully rehabilitated.

More than 138 people are on death row in Indonesia mostly for drug crimes. Drug offenders face harsh punishments including the death penalty in the country. About 1/3 of the convicted are foreigners.

Source: Press TV, March 3, 2015

Death row convict executions imminent: Attorney General

Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Tuesday that preparations for the executions of 10 death row convicts were nearly complete, with the convicts set to be transferred before the end of the week.

“We have only 5 percent left to prepare. This includes transferring the convicts to Nusakambangan,” he told reporters at the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in South Jakarta, referring to the prison island where the first batch of drug-convict executions were held in January.

The attorney general also denied that he had been instructed to postpone the execution of a Brazilian convict, 42-year-old Rodrigo Gularte, as the latter might be mentally ill. He insisted that Gularte’s mental health was perfectly fine when he acted as a drug courier.

Prasetyo added that the law stipulated that only children and pregnant women were exempt from the death penalty.

Meanwhile in Cilacap, death row convicts have been receiving visits from their families. Serge Areski Atlaoui of France and Gularte were visited by their relative on Tuesday. Atlaoui was visited by his wife and his young child and other family members, while Gularte was visited by his cousins.

Gularte was found guilty of smuggling 19 kilograms of cocaine in his surf board in 2004, while Atlaoui was found guilty of being involved in the operations of an ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine factory in Banten in 2005.

In Yogyakarta, a hearing began on Tuesday on the case review of death-row drug convict Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso of the Philippines at the Sleman District Court in Yogyakarta.

Veloso’s lawyers argued that she had not been able to understand the trial that lead to her death sentence because she had been provided with an incompetent translator.

Veloso was arrested in Yogyakarta in April 25, 2010, in possession of 2.5 kilograms of heroin when she arrived on a flight from Kuala Lumpur. She is currently an inmate at the Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogykarta.

She was intended to be one of the convicts to be executed in the second batch.

The other convicts facing imminent execution are drug convicts Zainal Abidin of Indonesia, Martin Anderson alias Belo of Ghana and Raheem Agbaje Salami of Nigeria, as well as three Indonesian murderers: Syofial alias Iyen bin Azwar, Harun bin Ajis and Sargawi alias Ali bin Sanusi.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Jakarta Post, March 4, 2015

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Iran: Man sentenced to be blinded by Sharia court has sentence carried out

One eye of a prisoner was gouged off yesterday as part of “an eye for an eye” punishment for an acid attack. Iran Human Rights (IHR) condemned the inhumane and brutal punishment by the Iranian authorities and urges the international community to react.

Iran Human Rights, March 4, 2015: Iranian state media reported about a blinding punishment of a man in the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj. According to Hamshahri newspaper a man who was not identified by name was blinded in the left eye on Tuesday March 3. According to this report the eye was gouged off. It is not known whether the blinding was conducted by the medical staff or by the offended.

The prisoner was convicted of pouring acid on the face of another man, leading to blindness in both eyes. He was sentenced to blindness in both eyes, payment of “Diyeh” (blood money) and 10 years in prison. Blindness of the right eye was postponed according to the report.

Iran Human rights (IHR) strongly condemned the barbaric punishment by the Iranian authorities. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: Iranian authorities have shown yet another side of their brutality and inhumane practice. Lack of condemnation by the international community is a sign of accept for such inhumane acts”. “Medical staff who cooperate with the Iranian authorities in this act have broken the Hippocratic oath and cannot call themselves doctors”.

Blinding punishment of another prisoner was scheduled to take place yesterday but it was postponed for two months. This prisoner was convicted of an acid attack leading to blindness in one eye and loss of one ear of another man identified as Davoud Roushanaei. However, while everything was ready for implementation of the blinding, Davoud Roshanaei agreed to postpone the sentence until the first month of the Iranian news year starting on March 20. This is the same case that was postponed due to unwillingness of the medical staff in January 2015.

Source: Iran Human Rights, March 5, 2015

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Two Germans to be caned, jailed for Singapore train graffiti

"Singapore: Disneyland with the death penalty"
A Singapore court sentenced two Germans to nine months in prison and three strokes of the cane on Thursday after they pleaded guilty to breaking into a depot and spray-painting graffiti on a commuter train carriage.

Andreas Von Knorre, 22, and Elton Hinz, 21, both expressed remorse while being sentenced in the state courts of the island republic.

“This is the darkest episode of my entire life,” said Von Knorre. “I want to apologise to the state of Singapore for the stupid act ... I’ve learnt my lesson and will never do it again.” Hinz added: “I promise I will never do it again. I want to apologise to you, and my family for the shame and situation I’ve put them into.” 

Both were dressed in prison uniform — a white T-shirt and brown trousers with the word “Prisoner” down the sides and on the back. They spoke to the court in English.

Singapore sentences hundreds of prisoners to caning each year as part of a system that has been criticised by rights groups. 

Vandalism and overstaying by foreigners are offences that can be punished by caning along with other crimes like kidnapping, robbery, drug abuse and sexual abuse.

According to the US State Department, 2,203 caning sentences were carried out in 2012, including 1,070 foreigners caned for committing immigration offences.

“The Singapore judicial system’s shameful recourse to using torture — in the form of caning — to punish crimes that should be misdemeanours is indicative of a blatant disregard for international human rights standards,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

“One of the defendants said that sentencing day was the darkest day of his life, but in reality every day that Singapore keeps caning on its books is a dark day for the country’s international reputation,” he said in an email.

In Berlin, a foreign ministry official said the government respected the sovereignty of Singapore.

“But it speaks out against corporal punishment as a form of sentence worldwide — and that also means in Singapore,” the official added. “The German government has made that clear.” The two Germans were accused of vandalism and trespass after they broke into one of Singapore’s train depots last November to spray-paint a carriage.

They then fled Singapore, only to be tracked down in neighbouring Malaysia in an international manhunt and were brought back to the city-state to face trial.

Their lawyers said they would meet the prisoners on Monday to decide on whether to appeal.

Almost five years ago, Swiss national Oliver Fricker was sentenced to seven months in jail and three strokes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to cutting through the fence of a train depot and spray-painting graffiti on train carriages.

Singapore, well known for its cleanliness and its zero tolerance for crime, uses the rattan cane to carry out the sentence. Prisoners are stripped and strapped to a wooden trestle with a medical officer on hand to intervene if necessary.

People who have been caned have called the pain excruciating.

For the two Germans, the court ordered four months imprisonment for entry into a protected area and another five months jail and three strokes of the cane for vandalism.

Singapore’s vandalism laws became global news in 1994 when American teenager Michael Fay was caned for damaging cars and public property, despite appeals for clemency from the US government, including then President Bill Clinton.

In recent years, Singapore has poured funds into nurturing and promoting its arts scene, including opening some public space for graffiti, as it works to change the city-state’s image beyond just an efficient business hub.

But its artists remain hindered by strict censorship and a tight government grip on the media. In 2012, local artist Samantha Lo was arrested for placing humorous stickers on traffic light poles and spray-painting road signs, triggering outcry and heated debates on the vandalism laws.

Source: Reuters, March 5, 2015

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Indonesia rejects Australia Bali Nine prisoner swap offer

Senior Commissioner Djoko Hari Utomo with Myuran Sukumaran, on the plane
taking Chan and Sukumaran to Nusakambangan Prison Island. Photo: Kompas TV
Indonesia has rejected a last-ditch offer from Australia of a prisoner swap aimed at saving the lives of two Australian men on death row.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told the BBC that Indonesia had no law to provide for such an exchange.

Earlier Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the swap offer was among options being explored.

Ms Bishop had announced the offer to repatriate three Indonesian convicts in return for the two Australian men in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"What we are seeking to do is have an opportunity to talk about options that might be available in the area of prisoner transfer or prisoner swap," she said.

The offer was made to Ms Bishop's Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi, who "undertook to provide that information to the president", Ms Bishop said.

The Australian government was exploring "every avenue that might be available to save the lives of these two men", she added.

Mr Abbott said that he was seeking another telephone call with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to attempt to persuade him to show the men mercy.

"I've put in a request. I can't guarantee that the request will be met, but I've certainly put in a request," said Mr Abbott.

Source: BBC News, March 5, 2015

Bali nine executions: Prisoner swap 'unthinkable' says Indonesian Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo

Senior Commissioner Djoko Hari Utomo poses for
a photo with Andrew Chan. Photo: Kompas TV
A prisoner swap suggested by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in a last ditch bid to spare the lives of the Bali nine ringleaders is "unthinkable", according to Indonesia's Attorney General.

And Defence minister Ryamizard Ryacudu even suggested Australia execute Indonesian drug smugglers.

Ms Bishop raised the prospect of a prisoner swap with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on Tuesday.

The deal could involve three Indonesians in prison in Australia over their role in an infamous 1998 drug bust.

However Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said a prisoner swap was irrelevant to Indonesia's plans to execute Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

"What is certain is that it has never been done and is unthinkable," he said.

Meanwhile Indonesian diplomats told the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that a moratorium on the death penalty could be reintroduced - just as the country prepared to execute 10 drug felons including Chan and Sukumaran.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera Indonesian president Joko Widodo said the executions would not be held this week but would take place soon.

Chan and Sukumaran are now incarcerated in isolation cells in Besi prison on Nusakambangan, which means 'iron prison', a reference to the original iron walls and roof.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, March 5, 2015

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Bali nine executions: Julie Bishop offers prisoner swap to spare lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has raised the prospect of a prisoner swap in a last-ditch attempt to spare the lives of two Australians on death row in Indonesia.

Ms Bishop confirmed on Thursday she brought up the idea with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi during a phone call on Tuesday evening.

"What we are seeking to do is have an opportunity to talk about options that might be available in the area of prisoner transfer, a prisoner swap," Ms Bishop said in Canberra.

"Absolutely no details [were discussed] but we are seeking an opportunity to explore every option that might be available, every avenue that might be available to save the lives of these two men."

Later, Ms Bishop told the ABC she hoped Indonesia and Australia could sign a memorandum of understanding should a prisoner swap occur.

"I didn't go into any specific detail but I did note there were Australian prisoners in Jakarta and there were Indonesian prisoners in Australia and that we should explore some opportunity, a prison swap, a transfer, whether that could be done under Indonesian law," she said of the phone call.

The Foreign Minister said she was waiting to hear back from her counterpart, who promised to take the idea to President Joko Widodo.

The deal could involve three Indonesians in prison in Australia over their role in an infamous 1998 drug bust.

Kristito Mandagi, Saud Siregar and Ismunandar were the captain, the chief officer and the engineer of a boat carrying 390 kilograms of street-ready drugs and a loaded Glock pistol to a beach near Port Macquarie, NSW.

At the time, the haul found in 31 designer sports bags was Australia's largest drug bust. The drugs, of which the pure heroin component weighed 252.3 kilograms, was worth $600 million on the street.

Their heroin importation was 47 times bigger than Chan and Sukumaran's.

The men were caught in 1998 in an operation that involved 76 federal, NSW and Customs officers, a Polair helicopter, two police vessels, the naval frigate HMAS Bendigo and two Customs ships.

All three pleaded not guilty, but Mandagi was sentenced to life with a non-parole period of 25 years. The other two men received 20-year sentences - the same as Schapelle Corby for her boogie board bag of 4.7 kilograms of marijuana.

Eight other Indonesians on the boat were never tried, and were sent home, because police could not prove they knew of the drugs. Mandagi appealed and had six years knocked off his sentence.

He will be eligible for parole in October 2017. The other two can apply a year later.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, March 5, 2015

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Saudi Arabia executions now at 'unprecedented rate' after kingdom kills four more in two days

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
The rate of executions in Saudi Arabia has reached “unprecedented” levels, a charity has warned, as the kingdom killed four criminals in two days on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Amnesty International said the latest state-sanctioned deaths took its tally of executions for the year so far in Saudi Arabia to 39 – almost three times the equivalent number for this time last year.

Local media say the Saudi authorities have attempted to hail the killings as an example of the government’s commitment to “maintaining security and realising justice”, a crackdown in response to the rise of extremism and the threat of Isis.

But Amnesty’s Saudi Arabia researcher Sevag Kechichian said the growing number of executions was all the more worrying because of the lack of “rhyme or reason” behind it.

“Since the beginning of the year we’ve seen an unprecedented rate of executions in the country,” Mr Kechichian told The Independent.

“Despite claims sometimes made by the authorities about carrying out executions to deter terrorism and other violence in the kingdom, almost half of this year's executions have actually been for non-violent drugs-related offences.

"There’s no real rhyme or reason for this upsurge in executions, and in a way this makes it all the more alarming.

While there was no indication yet why the authorities carried out the single execution on Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency quoted officials as saying two murderers and a rapist were killed on Tuesday “as punishment and to serve as a deterrent to others”. At least one of them was beheaded.

Last week Amnesty said in an annual report that people can be executed in Saudi Arabia following unfair trials and that some defendants claimed to have been “coerced or misled into making false confessions”.

The kingdom carried out 87 executions last year in total, and numbers have risen sharply since the figure of 27 in 2010. A wide range of crimes are punishable by the death penalty in the country, and hopes of a change with the new King Salman have proved unfounded.

“Saudi Arabia already has one of the highest rates of execution in the world, including for non-offences like ‘apostasy’ and ‘sorcery’,” Mr Kechichian said.

“King Salman should put an end to this shameful record and impose a moratorium on executions in Saudi Arabia with immediate effect.”

Source: The Independent, March 4, 2015

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

ISIS releases new images of gay man thrown off building

A blindfolded "gay man" is about to be thrown from a building
before being stoned to death by ISIS militants in Syria.
Islamic State (ISIS) has released yet more images of another man being thrown from a building for being gay, before being stoned to death.

Last month ISIS released extremely graphic images of the execution of a man for being gay. After surviving a seven-storey drop, the man was stoned to death.

Back in January, the extremist group executed two men for being gay. The men were thrown from a tall building. Some of the images were too graphic to display on PinkNews.

Now images reportedly out of Syria show another man accused of being gay being thrown from a building, before stoning him to death as he also survived the ordeal.

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the killing took place on Tuesday in Syria.

Rami Abdurrahman, director of SOHR, told the Independent that the man was aged between 25 and 30 years old, and that he was believed to have survived the drop before being stoned.

Source: PinkNews, March 4, 2015

Photos of the "execution": (Warning: Graphic Content)

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Bali 9 Chan and Sukumaran arrive on prison island

Australian death row inmates Sukumaran and Chan arrive
in Cilacap, Indonesia. Photo: ABC
Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have arrived at the island where it is expected they will be executed.

Earlier, two Sukhoi jets left Bali ahead of the Wings airplane that was chartered to take the Australians to the seaside town of Cilacap, Central Java, which is the departure point for Nusakambangan island, where the executions will take place.

Sukumaran reportedly boarded the plane ahead of Chan, who said: 'Goodbye Bali'.

Indonesia is yet to announce when the pair and eight other drug offenders will be executed.

Sukumaran and Chan did not say a word when they were taken from Kerobokan prison for execution, authorities say.

Two armoured vehicles known as barracudas took the men from the Bali jail in the pre-dawn dark of Wednesday morning.

Komang Gede Tri Utama Aria, of Bali Provincial Law and Human Rights Office, said prison guards entered the men's cells to remove them.

'When they were picked up from cells, they didn't seem tense, they were relaxed,' he said.

'There was no fighting.'

Prison governor Sudjonggo said the Bali Nine pair were aware it was time to go when guards entered the supermax cells.

'We didn't have to say 'wake up! Wake up,' they knew it was the morning because we had told them during the night.' The pair washed quickly and were dressed in less than ten minutes.

After some administrative procedures, the Australians were handcuffed and taken to separate armoured vehicles each with 10 heavily-armed police.

Nyoman Putra Surya, Head of the Corrections Division at Bali Provincial Law and Human Rights Office said the men thanked authorities for their care while they were in Bali.

'They were ready,' he said.

'They even said thank you.'

Mr Nyoman said the men smiled and shook their hands before they were searched and handcuffed.

The pair said 'not a word'.

'We handcuffed them, they were silent,' he said.

'We handcuffed them to the front. We didn't cover their eyes.

'We treated them well.'

Mr Nyoman defended the decision not to allow Chan's brother Michael into the jail as he men were leaving.

'Yesterday, we gave all day,' he said.

'Today was not visiting time.

'We gave the maximum chances last week.

Source: SkyNews Australia, March 4, 2015

Bali Nine duo placed in isolation on ‘death island’

Andrew Chan arrives in Cilacap, Central Java.
Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have been placed in isolation cells in Central Java while they wait for news about the timing of their executions.

Chan and Sukumaran finished their journey to the port of Cilacap shortly before 9am (local time), after being taken out of Bali’s Kerobokan prison in a police armoured vehicle before dawn this morning.

The men were then taken off the plane in Java and driven to Cilacap, where they were put on a ferry for the short journey to the Nusakambangan island prison, where they are due to be executed.

Their transfer, in paramilitary vehicles with a helicopter overhead and elite guards, was a relative show of strength compared to the third prisoner transferred on Wednesday – an Indonesian drug trafficker who came in a little van.

An announcement on the timing of the executions could be made within hours or days, but Indonesian attorney-general Muhammad Prasetyo is required to give them 72 hours’ notice.

The attorney-general said the process would be carried through properly and not rushed, and that was why no execution date had been set.

Mr Prasetyo said some of those on the list to be executed were yet to be moved to Nusakambangan.

Lawyer Peter Morrissey said the Australians were now going through a “very serious” process of dealing with the news they might be at the end of their lives.

Chan and Sukumaran were handling it, he said: “But they don’t have much choice”.

“It’s not like somebody who has an injury before a football game or something like that where they say I’m devastated,” he told ABC Television on Wednesday.

“They’re coming to terms with that and trying to make sure their community around them and families are with them, supporting them and not too upset.

“It’s a very raw time for them.”

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Daily News, March 4, 2015

Bali nine's Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan could be executed this weekend after transfer

Armoured police vehicles carrying the two Australian prisoners
are unloaded from a ferry on the prison island of Nusakambangan.
Photo: Reuters
Cilacap: Bali nine ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are waiting to die on Nusakambangan island, with the Indonesian Attorney-General expected to announce they will be killed as early as this weekend.

The Australians were on Wednesday transferred to the penal island known as Indonesia's Alcatraz in a massive display of military might.

Chan and Sukumaran, who will be executed with eight other drug felons, will be given 72 hours' notice of their deaths.

Attorney-General H. M. Prasetyo is expected to hold a news conference on Friday to announce the timing of the executions.

This could mean they would be held as early as Sunday night. Executions in Indonesia are usually held at midnight.

Asked on Wednesday if the executions would take place this week, Mr Prasetyo said "We will see", adding that he was waiting on the latest report on the killing field, the firing squad and the religious counsellors who will accompany the prisoners in their final hours.

He has repeatedly said the executions would be held as soon as possible once all those facing the firing squad were on Nusakambangan. This is because prison authorities are concerned about the unsettling effect of condemned men and women on other prisoners.

The Australian government, which was not informed of the plan to transfer Chan and Sukumaran on Wednesday, warned of repercussions if the men were executed.

Click here to read the full article (+video)

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfield, March 4, 2015

A Look At Indonesia’s Prison Island: Nusakambangan

Pasir Putih supermax prison, where death row prisoners are
housed, on Nusakambangan Island, Central Java.
As Indonesia prepares to execute a number of convicted drug smugglers, attention has turned to the place where they’ll face the firing squad, a small island off the southern coast of Central Java called Nusakambangan.

Home to Indonesia’s highest security prison, the jail island is separated from the mainland by a strait and is sometimes referred to as Indonesia’s Alcatraz. The island is part of Tambakreja village in Cilacap district, though it falls under the administration of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry.

“It became known as Prison Island during the Dutch [colonial] era,” officially taking that name in 1912, said M. Akbar Hadiprabowo, spokesman for the ministry’s directorate general of penitentiaries. In 1922, the government issued a decree that defined Nusakambangan as a prison and restricted its access to the public.

Decades later, in 1995, the justice ministry opened the island to visitors. Though it’s not a prime tourism destination, the ministry says tourists are welcome to enjoy the island’s scenery, which it says includes several quiet beaches and forest areas complete with deer and many bird species.

Muhammad Yusuf, a 33 year-old entrepreneur from Solo, visited Nusakambangan in 2011 to enjoy Permisan beach and the surrounding forest.

“Tourists are allowed to visit the southern part of the island,” he said. “The forest is very pretty, I went forest trekking.”

The prison, however, is under heavy guard, and visitors need special permission from the ministry to enter the prison complex. Guards escort visitors from the main land to the island.

Click here to read the full article

Source: Indonesia Real Time, WSJ, Anita Rachman, March 4, 2015

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Nitrogen gas executions approved by Oklahoma House

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma would become the first state to allow the execution of death row inmates using nitrogen gas under a bill overwhelmingly approved on Tuesday by the House of Representatives.

The House voted 85-10 for the bill by Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Mike Christian, who began studying alternative methods after a botched lethal injection in the spring that led the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of Oklahoma's current three-drug method.

Christian said numerous studies have been conducted on nitrogen hypoxia, which is similar to what pilots at high altitudes can encounter when oxygen supplies diminish. He described the method as humane, painless and easy to administer.

"I believe it's revolutionary," said Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper and a staunch advocate of the death penalty. "I think it's the best thing we've come up with since the start of executions by the government."

Christian said prison officials in several other states expressed an interest in his proposal, but he declined to name them.

Rep. Kevin Matthews, who voted against the bill, said he wished the Legislature would spend more time trying to solve such problems as low wages, a lack of affordable health care and poor education outcomes.

"I just don't have the stomach for looking for new ways to kill people," said Matthews, a Tulsa Democrat.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where a similar measure passed a committee earlier this year with bipartisan support.

Under the bill, lethal injection would remain the state's first method of execution, but nitrogen gas would become the second alternative method and be used if injection were declared unconstitutional or if the drugs became unavailable. 

Under current law, electrocution is the second option, followed by firing squad. The bill would make electrocution the third method, followed by firing squad.

Source: WHDH, Associated Press, March 3, 2015

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Utah: Firing squad bill passes Senate panel

Firing squad 'armchair' used for the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner
Firing squad 'armchair' used for the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner
A bill to reinstate Utah's firing squad as a backup execution method easily passed in a Senate committee Monday.

The bill advances closer to becoming law, but not without the committee making an official motion to submit a request to take up the issue of the death penalty after the legislative session.

HB11 would legalize firing squad executions in Utah if drugs needed for lethal injections aren't available 30 days before the date of the death warrant, which would add to current Utah law that allows the firing squad if lethal injection executions ever become unconstitutional, said bill sponsor Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.

Utah may require a backup method to lethal injections, Ray said, in wake of recent botched executions that have lead to a U.S. Supreme Court case that may cause lethal injections to become unconstitutional.

He said Utah potentially faces the same costly litigation risks if the state continues to carry out lethal injections, as drugs previously used for lethal injections have become unavailable because European pharmaceutical companies that sell the drugs oppose the death penalty and refuse to sell to U.S. prisons, Ray said.

Anti-death penalty groups spoke against the bill, saying the Legislature should instead be spending its time having serious discussions about the moral issue of the death penalty itself, especially as it considers moving the state prison.

"That's the only way that we'll ensure we won't be back here over and over engaging in what is ultimately a doomed effort of deciding on a decent way for the government to kill people," said Anna Brower, public policy advocate with American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said the purpose of HB11 is not to change the Utah law regarding to death penalty.

"The fact of the matter is that is the law, and if we don't like it then that is a separate conversation to have," Thatcher said. "What we shouldn't be doing is allowing a manufacturer of a product to tell the state of Utah that because they don't like our policy they will deny us the product and use that to get around existing law."

Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, proposed a motion for legislative leadership to address Utah's death penalty during the upcoming interim session. The proposal passed with 1 dissenting vote from Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who said the motion would just "clog up" the system with another "misfit bill" that no lawmaker wants to address.

Davis said Utah's death penalty is an appropriate issue that an interim committee needs to debate.

"If we can't get those cocktails, then we need to change the law," he said. "And it's looking like we cannot get those cocktails anymore - not without horrendous side effects."

The Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 4-1 to favorably recommend HB11 to the full Senate. Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, was the sole dissenting vote.

Source: Deseret News, March 3, 2015

Brother of executed Utah killer Ronnie Lee Gardner opposes reviving firing squad

The brother of the last man executed by firing squad in Utah urged lawmakers Monday not to bring back the practice as an alternative to lethal injection, calling it cruel and unnecessarily brutal.

"I got a chance to look at my brother's chest after he was shot," said Randy Gardner, the brother of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was executed by firing squad in Utah in 2010.

"I could have stuck all 4 fingers in his chest," Gardner said, adding he believed it blew his brother's heart through his back. "To me that's totally cruel and unusual punishment."

But a committee endorsed 4-1 and sent to the full Senate HB11, which would make the firing squad the alternative to lethal injection if the state is unable to get access to the chemical cocktail used in the executions. The bill already passed the House.

"[A firing squad] may seem a little more barbaric, but it does what we need it to do in the end," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.

Oklahoma, Arizona and Ohio have recently experienced botched executions by lethal injection, when the drugs administered did not kill the condemned men quickly, leaving them gasping or convulsing on the gurney.

Ray said a study by the University of Utah found that there is a 34 percent chance executions using a new blend of lethal chemicals will be botched. So an alternative is needed if the state can't get the chemicals it has traditionally used, and that alternative, he argued, should be the firing squad.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake and the Coaltion of Utahns Against the Death Penalty argued that the state should look at doing away with all executions.

The Utah prison inmate who may be the closest to execution is Douglas Carter, convicted of killing Eva Olesen during a 1985 robbery at her Provo home, although he still has legal actions pending in state and federal courts.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, March 3, 2015

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