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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Swiss Catholic Bishop Says Bible Calls For Execution Of Gay People

Vitus Huonder
Vitus Huonder
Vitus Huonder, the controversial Catholic bishop of Chur in eastern Switzerland, has once again attracted criticism for quoting homophobic Bible passages and denouncing non-traditional family models. 

At the “Joy in Faith” forum in the German city of Fulda, he quoted a passage from the Bible which said homosexuals should be punished by death. 

An LGBT rights group in Switzerland is looking into possible hate speech charges against the Catholic Bishop.

Hounder, while speaking at the "Joy In Faith" forum, may have broken the law when he said that the Bible calls for the execution of gay people. 

Swiss Info reports:

In his 50-minute address on Friday, titled “Marriage – a gift, sacrament and order”, Huonder quoted various passages backing up his views. He also slammed gender theory, divorce, sex education and gay marriage.

Regarding homosexuality, the 73-year-old bishop quoted two verses from the book of Leviticus, including Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

In response to applause, he continued: “Both of these passages alone suffice to clarify unambiguously the church’s position on homosexuality”.

In his opinion, the passages also had implications for the definition of marriage and the family. “There is no diversity when it comes to marriage and family models, although a book has just come out in my bishopric called ‘Family Diversity’,” he said.

“Even speaking of family diversity is an attack on the Creator.”

Pink Cross, the Swiss LGBT group that's seeking to have Hounder charged, reminded the world what this kind of religious hate speech inflames. "It was in the name of these same Bible passages that a Jewish extremist stabbed six people.”

This is far from the first controversy that Huonder has found himself embroiled in since being appointed bishop of Chur, the capital of canton Graubünden, in 2007. 

His fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible has resulted in his opposing issues including women priests and sex education. He believes parents should have the right to have their children exempted from sex education classes in school and that divine law comes before human rights. 

Earlier this year Huonder called for a Swiss priest who had blessed a lesbian couple to be sacked. The priest kept his job after apologising to Huonder for causing him any “inconvenience” and promising not to bless any more gay couples.

Sources: swissinfo.ch, Instinct Magazine, August 4, 2015

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Prosecutors launch last push for James Holmes' execution

James E. Holmes
James E. Holmes
The jury in the Colorado theater shooting trial will hear even more heart-wrenching testimony Tuesday from those who lost loved ones in the attack, as prosecutors begin their final push to have James Holmes sentenced to death..

It comes after jurors rejected arguments Monday that the former neuroscience student's mental illness should remove the death penalty as an option. They deliberated for less than 3 hours.

"The case for death is only going to get stronger from this point forward," said Denver attorney and former prosecutor Craig Silverman. "This jury is not going to want to disappoint the families of these victims. ... I'd be very surprised if the verdict was anything other than death."

The same jury swiftly rejected Holmes' insanity defense, deciding he was capable of telling right from wrong when he opened fire during a Batman movie in the Denver suburb of Aurora on July 20, 2012. Their quick decision Monday also bodes well for prosecutors, Silverman said.

Other legal experts said there's no way to predict the final decision by the nine women and three men who already convicted Holmes of murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 others.

Jurors Monday found simply that Holmes' mental problems and the portrait his attorneys painted of a kinder, gentler younger man did not outweigh the horrors of his calculated attack on defenseless moviegoers.

This final stage can be more challenging for each juror. To choose capital punishment, they must be unanimous, said another Denver defense attorney, Karen Steinhauser. Otherwise, Holmes would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

"When jurors have to decide if life or death is an appropriate sentence, nothing should be taken as a given," she said. "It's not over yet."

Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed, said prosecutors advised her that she would testify Tuesday.

"I'm a little overwhelmed, but at the same time, my job is to share Jessie with the jury, and I will do that to the best of my ability," she said outside the courthouse.

Phillips won't be able to tell jurors that she attended the trial every day in honor of her daughter or talk about her effort to change gun laws. Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. set limits on the victims' testimony, saying he would allow prosecutors to convey the magnitude of the crime without overwhelming jurors with emotion.

For example, speakers will be able to talk about the last time they saw their loved ones, but only briefly. Friends of victims can testify, but they can't talk about the impact the shooting had on them, Samour said.

"I'm going to be watching the jury closely," Samour said.

As they have throughout the trial, Holmes' lawyers objected to photos and testimony they said was repetitive and overly dramatic.

Holmes had been a promising scholar in a demanding neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado until his life went awry amid the pressures of laboratory work. He broke up with his first and only girlfriend and dropped out of school, abandoning his longtime goal of becoming a scientist.

He saw a campus psychiatrist but hid the depth of his turmoil from everyone, describing it instead in a secret journal where he methodically laid out his plans to kill.

Shortly after midnight, he slipped into the premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises," stood before the capacity crowd of more than 400 people and opened fire with a shotgun, assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol before surrendering to police outside.

Source: Associated Press, August 4, 2014

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Saudi Arabia on track to beat annual record of 192 executions

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
A man has been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of executions in the Kingdom to 110 for the year so far. This is already a 26-% increase on the number of people put to death in 2014.

Mugrib al-Thanyan was executed after he was found guilty and sentenced to death for shooting and killing a fellow citizen following a dispute, a statement from the Interior Ministry read.

The man was sentenced to death according to the nation's strict version of Sharia law, under which such crimes as murder, rape, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking are punishable by death. Public executions are mostly conducted by decapitating the accused with a sword.

He is the 110th person to be executed in the country in 2015 and Saudi Arabia has already seen a 26-% increase in death sentences. In 2014, 87 people were executed.

The number of executions in 2015 is catching up with the Kingdom's all-time annual record of 192, which was documented by Amnesty International in 1995. The watchdog has been scathing of the Kingdom's human rights record, saying they "fall far short" of global norms.

"Almost 1/2 of the executions carried out so far this year have been for drug-related offences, which don't fall into a recognized international category of 'most serious crimes,' and the use of the death penalty for such offences violates international law," a statement on Amnesty International's website read in May.

The "fast pace" of executions in Saudi Arabia was deemed "very disturbing" by a UN special rapporteur.

"If it continues at this pace we will have double the number of executions, or more than double the number of executions, that we had last year," Christof Heyns, who submits annual reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly, told AFP on May 27.

Also in May, Saudi Arabia, which executes more criminals than any nation except China and Iran, announced it wanted to hire 8 new executioners, following a surge in executions witnessed under new King Salman's rule.

The job description, published online, mentioned that no special training was required. The executioners would be required to behead condemned criminals in public as well as carry out amputations on those convicted of lesser offenses, Reuters reported.

The executioners would be considered as 'religious functionaries', since they would be serving religious courts and be on the lower end of the civil service pay scale, the ad said.

Source: rt.com, August 4, 2015

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Shafqat Hussain execution a "deeply sad day" for Pakistan

Pakistan must immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty after the execution of a man who was below 18 years old at the time of the crime, according to his lawyers, and who was tortured into a "confession" by police, Amnesty International said.

Shafqat Hussain, who was sentenced to death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter in 2004, was this morning hanged in Karachi Central Jail. He was convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act of Pakistan despite no known links to any terrorist organisation. His execution had been stayed 4 times since Pakistan lifted the moratorium on executions in December 2014.

"This is another deeply sad day for Pakistan. A man whose age remains disputed and whose conviction was built around torture has now paid with his life - and for a crime for which the death penalty cannot be imposed under international law," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's South Asia Research Director.

"The government has shown a callous indifference to not just human life, but also to international law and standards. It has even ignored recommendations by one of its own bodies, the Sindh Human Rights Commission, to request the Supreme Court to consider the evidence relating to his juvenility and 'confession' extracted through torture."

Since Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions in December 2014, Amnesty International has recorded at least 200 executions.

"It is too late to save Shafqat Hussain's life, but there are still thousands of others on death row in Pakistan who are at risk. The government has taken at least 200 lives already over the past 8 months - this must end immediately. Authorities must impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its eventual repeal," David Griffths said.

Source: Amnesty International, August 4, 2015

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Indonesia: Malaysian faces death penalty for drug trafficking

A 55-year-old Malaysian, Ng Huk Kwan or Jimmy, will likely face the death penalty for his alleged involvement in the trafficking of 46.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.

Prosecutor Zainal Abidin from the Riau Prosecutor's Office told a panel of judges at Pekanbaru District Court in Riau on Tuesday that the defendant had violated articles 113 and 132 of the 2009 Narcotics Law, which carried a possible death sentence.

"For his crimes, we ask the judge to hand down the maximum sentence: the death penalty," he said.

According to Zainal, Jimmy played a role as a courier to deliver the meth, which was worth Rp 180 billion (US$13.3 million), from 1 Malaysian with initials ABE to another man in Palembang, South Sumatra. For the service, Jimmy, who entered Indonesia through Dumai Port, was paid 5,000 Malaysian ringgit ($1,301).

Jimmy looked surprised upon hearing the prosecutor's request.

The presiding judge, Amin Ismanto, then adjourned the court until next week to hear defense pleas.

Source: Jakarta Post, August 4, 2015

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Another gay man thrown to his death by ISIS militants in Iraq

Barbarians: Gay man thrown to his death by ISIS militants in Iraq
Barbarians: Gay man thrown to his death by ISIS militants in Iraq 
Photos have revealed the moment that a gay man, blindfolded and bound, was murdered by Islamic extremists in northern Iraq.

Children are among the crowd as ISIS militants pushed the man off the top of a silo.

A jihadi appears to commentate on the killing using a microphone to talk to the baying mob below.

Tweeted by an ISIS Twitter account, it shows the victim at the top of the building with three extremists before he was thrown to his death.

These deaths are just adding to the dozens of killings of gay men under the depraved ISIS regime. ISIS have branded LGBTI people the ‘worst of creatures’. 

Many Muslims have criticized this, with some saying these extremists are misinterpreting the Qu’ran and that it does not state that homosexuality is a sin at all.

To ‘celebrate’ the US passing marriage equality, terrorists threw four gay men off a building in Raqqa, Syria on 26 June.

Mocking the message of victory, they posted: ‘Executed 4 GAY people by throwing him from High building in front of the people #LoveWins #IS.’

Source: Gay Star News, Joe Morgan, August 4, 2015

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- UN: Islamic State Committing Atrocities on an "Industrial Scale"
- Iraq: Crowd gathers to watch ISIS murder three gay men
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- Syria: "Gay man" pushed from top of 7-storey building by ISIS militants
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- ISIS stones 2 ‘gay men’ to death in Syria

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Shafqat Hussain hanged in Karachi Central Jail

Shafqat Hussain
Shafqat Hussain
KARACHI: Shafqat Hussain, who was awarded a death sentence for kidnapping and later killing a seven-year-old boy, was hanged till death in Central Jail Karachi at 4:00 AM on Tuesday.

IG Prisons confirmed that Shafqat Hussain's execution has been performed.

Earlier, a team of doctors examined Shafqat Hussain's health and declared him to be well.

Later, Shafqat Hussain’s family was allowed to meet him for the last time.

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had issued Shafqat Hussain’s death warrant for the fifth time. Earlier, his sentence was postponed on four occasions.

Shafqat was sentenced in 2004 for the kidnapping and involuntary murder of a seven-year-old boy who lived in a Karachi apartment building where he worked as a security guard.

Confusion over Shafqat’s date of birth raised questions of whether he was a juvenile or of lawful age in 2004 when he was handed down the death sentence.

Last month the Islamabad High Court dismissed Shafqat's plea for a judicial inquiry into his age, and lifted the stay order, paving way for the execution of the death row convict.

Pakistan lifted a moratorium on capital punishment in December following a deadly attack by Taliban militants on Peshawar’s Army Public School which killed over 150 people, 134 of them children.

The moratorium, in force since 2008, was initially lifted only in terrorism cases, but in March the government extended it to all capital crimes.

Source: Geo News, August 4, 2015

Pakistan Hangs Inmate Said to Have Been Tortured Into Confessing

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A man whose lawyers said he had been tortured into confessing to murder, and who they said was a minor at the time of the crime, was hanged early Tuesday, despite pleas from rights groups in Pakistan and overseas.

The case of the man, Shafqat Hussain, had become a cause célèbre in Pakistan, where rights groups portrayed it as a stark example of the country’s flawed judicial system as they renewed calls for abolishing the death penalty. Since lifting a moratorium on executions in December, Pakistan has put more than 200 people to death, according to Amnesty International, a human rights group.

Mr. Hussain, a night watchman, was convicted in 2004 of killing a 7-year-old boy in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, after abducting him and demanding ransom. The conviction was based on Mr. Hussain’s confession to the police, but Justice Project Pakistan, a law firm specializing in human rights cases that took up Mr. Hussain’s case, said he had confessed only because he was tortured.

Advocates for Mr. Hussain have also said that he was under 18 when he was sentenced to die, which would have made him legally ineligible for the death penalty. The Pakistani Interior Ministry said that it had investigated that claim and found that he was 23 at the time.

Mr. Hussain was hanged in a prison in Karachi. He was allowed to see family members before the execution, prison officials said.

Mr. Hussain’s execution was delayed four times, most recently in June, amid the controversy surrounding his case. The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled in June that it could not overturn his conviction and that it could not interfere in the matter of Mr. Hussain’s age, because that issue had not been raised by his lawyers at trial.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The New York Times, Salman Masood, August 4, 2015

Pakistan executes Shafqat Hussain, sentenced to death as a juvenile

Shafqat Hussain was this morning executed in Pakistan, despite widespread calls both within and outside the country for a stay. The governments of the Sindh and Azad Kashmir regions, the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC), UN experts, and international NGOs had all called for the hanging to be halted in order for an investigation to take place into Shafqat’s young age when he was sentenced, and the reliance by prosecutors on a “confession” extracted through torture.

Despite the calls, the Pakistan authorities have never undertaken a proper, judicial investigation into either issue, instead seizing and refusing to release key evidence such as Shafqat’s school record, which could have provided proof that he was under 18 when he was sentenced to death. The SHRC, headed by a former Supreme Court judge, questioned how he could “be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking,” and declared the only inquiry carried out by the government into his age to be “inadmissible.”

Some of Shafqat’s final words, provided to CNN via his lawyers, were published earlier today. He described what it was like to have been told he was going to be executed seven different times, and the process of waiting for the hanging to take place.

“When the jailer tells me that my execution date has been set, he separates me immediately from the other prisoners. I spend all seven days by myself in a cell in the barracks for prisoners about to be executed. They conduct a physical exam every one of those seven days. They weigh me every day, take my blood pressure and temperature as well. On the last two days they also measure my height, my neck and my body for the clothes I am to wear when they hang me. One day before my hanging, they tell me about my final visit with my family and that I need to execute my will. I cannot really say what I am thinking in those last seven days. My brain is thinking all sorts of things.”

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said:

“Shafqat’s execution speaks to all that is wrong with Pakistan’s race to the gallows. He faced a catalogue of injustice, sentenced to death while still a child after being tortured by the police until he produced a so-called confession. The government’s decision to push ahead with the execution despite calls to halt it from across Pakistan and around the world seems to have been more a show of political power than anything to do with justice. It is hard to see how anyone can now believe their claims that their enthusiastic resumption of hangings is anything to do with the safety and security of the country.”

Source: Reprieve, August 4, 2015

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Jury keeps death penalty as option for Colorado movie gunman Holmes

James E. Holmes
James E. Holmes
James Holmes, the Colorado movie massacre gunman, could face the death penalty after jurors found on Monday that aggravating factors including the cruel nature of his crimes counted for more than mitigating ones such as mental illness.

The panel of nine women and three men will now hear from victims of the July 2012 rampage at a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." They will then deliberate on whether the 27-year-old shooter should be executed by lethal injection.

After cautioning members of the public against making any emotional outbursts in the small, windowless courtroom on the outskirts of Denver, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour began reading the jurors' forms.

Holmes, who killed 12 people and wounded 70, showed no reaction as the verdicts were delivered, staring straight head, hands in pockets. He has been mostly expressionless throughout the trial, which began in late April.

Sitting in the public gallery, Holmes' father, Bob, put an arm around the shoulders of his wife, Arlene, and the couple bowed their heads together.

The jury had deliberated for less than half a day on whether mitigating factors outweighed aggravating ones.

If just one member of the panel had found that they did, the former neuroscience graduate student would have received a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

"The handwriting is on the wall for James Holmes, and the writing says 'execution,'" said Denver-based legal analyst and defense attorney Scott Robinson.

"He faces an uphill battle from here on in. That was the last best chance for him to be spared capital punishment," Robinson added.

The jurors had already rejected Holmes' insanity plea and found him guilty on all 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and explosives charges relating to the mass shooting inside the Century 16 multiplex in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

They had also determined there were proven aggravating factors that could justify the death penalty. During the next phase of the trial, prosecutors have said they expect to call 15 victims to testify over two or three days.

Source: Reuters, August 3, 2015

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Texas: Cathy Lynn Henderson, babysitter convicted of murder, dies in hospital

Cathy Lynn Henderson
Cathy Lynn Henderson
Cathy Lynn Henderson, who dominated national headlines in 1994 for the the killing of 3-month-old Brandon Baugh, died Sunday after a month of hospitalization, her lawyer said Monday. She was 58.

Once just two days away from execution, the former babysitter spent nearly two decades in prison before winning a new trial in 2012. On June 12, just months before her case was to go to trial a second time, Henderson hobbled into the courtroom on crutches with the help of her lawyers and pleaded guilty to murder. She was sentenced then to 25 years in prison, but with credit for time served, she could have been released in four years.

Henderson was taken to the hospital on June 25 after she had trouble with her breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and had a stroke during her stay.

Cathy Lynn Henderson passed away last night, at peace and without pain,” her lawyer, Jon Evans, told the American-Statesman. “In the last few weeks of her life she was relieved of a 21-year burden. Her version of the events of the tragedy of Brandon Baugh finally was given the proper respect and credence it deserved. She passed with that satisfaction.”

A sharply divided Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Henderson’s capital murder conviction and sentence in December 2012. The court upheld a recommendation by District Judge Jon Wisser that she have a new trial based on new scientific discoveries into the nature of head injuries.

Henderson claimed that Baugh died after slipping from her arms and falling about 4 feet to the concrete floor in her home in the Pflugerville area. She said she panicked, burying the boy’s body in a Bell County field before fleeing to Missouri, where she was found and arrested 11 days later.

Some supporters of the Baugh family said they were relieved to see Henderson plead guilty after years of lies and denials. But Brandon’s parents, grandmother and sister said they had been surprised and disappointed to learn she would not face a jury once more.

“I have no doubts that your plea today is not an act of contrition but another act of selfishness in order to gain your freedom,” Brandon’s father, Eryn Baugh, told Henderson on the witness stand on the day she took her plea.

Source: Statesman, Jazmine Ulloa, August 3, 2015

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UK Government to scrap Death Penalty Strategy

The British Government will not renew its Strategy for working to end the death penalty around the world, international human rights organisation Reprieve has been told by the Foreign Office (FCO).

Reprieve also understands that the Government plans to abandon the term ‘countries of concern’ when assessing the human rights records of states such as China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Although a formal written statement has not yet been made, Reprieve has received verbal confirmation from the FCO of the proposed changes, and has written to the Foreign Secretary, urging him to reconsider.

The UK’s Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty has been in place since 2010, and was last year cited by Foreign Minister David Lidington as the mechanism by which the Government was pursuing its “firm goal” of “global abolition of the death penalty.”

In its letter to Philip Hammond, Reprieve points out that any “retreat from the fight for global abolition” could be “disastrous” at a time when countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are seeing a surge in executions.

Reprieve also notes concerns that UK support for counter-narcotics operations abroad is leading to increased numbers of death sentences for people accused of non-violent drugs offences.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: “At a time when executions in countries around the world are spiking, it is alarming that the Government is ditching its Strategy on the death penalty. With Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran all executing at a rate we haven’t seen for years, the UK’s move will send the wrong signal. The worry is that by doing this, and softening its language on countries which abuse human rights, the Government is seeking to unburden itself of important obligations. It is vital that the Foreign Secretary thinks again.”

Source: Reprieve, August 3, 2015

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Juvenile set to hang in Pakistan tonight despite international outcry

Shafqat Hussain
Shafqat Hussain
Shafqat Hussain, a Pakistani convicted and sentenced to death when under 18 following days of police torture, is set to hang tonight despite widespread calls for a stay and investigation into his case.

Shafqat was sentenced to death in 2004 following days of police torture, which extracted a ‘confession’ on which his conviction was based, despite being under 18 at the time.

The Pakistan government has refused to back a judicial inquiry into Shafqat’s juvenility – instead withholding a number of documents, most notably his school record, which would provide proof of his age.

A mercy petition is currently pending before the President.

Numerous calls have been made for the execution to be stayed, including from the statutory rights body the Sindh Human Rights Commission. The Commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, urged the government to stay Shafqat's execution after conducting an extensive inquiry into the case. The SHRC wrote that “there are no eye witnesses [to the alleged offence] but only [the] confession of the accused with [an] allegation of torture.” They criticised previous handling of the case, writing “we fail to understand why [there was] such a careless handling of a serious case where [the] life of a human being is at stake,” and asking whether Shafqat can “be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking.” They also criticised the initial government inquiry, carried out by the government’s Federal Investigation Authority, concluding that it was ‘not admissible’.

UN Special Rapporteurs – including experts on torture, summary executions, and children’s rights – have also called for a halt to Shafqat’s execution and have criticised Pakistan’s rush to execute more broadly. In a statement released last week they said that “most” of the hangings scheduled for the coming days “fall short of international norms”, and called on Pakistan “to continue the moratorium on actual executions and to put in place a legal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.”

Pakistan has the world’s largest death row of approximately 8500 people. Some 192 have been hanged since its moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in December, and it has overtaken Saudi Arabia and the US in rate of executions. The Pakistani government’s claim that it is executing ‘terrorists’ was called into question last week by a Reuters report finding that the vast majority of those executed – an estimated 70 per cent – had no links to militancy.

Commenting, Maya Foa, the Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that Pakistan is still on course to hang Shafqat, who was convicted as a juvenile after days of brutal police torture. When will Pakistan’s government listen to the chorus of international and local voices calling for a stay in this case? The fact that the Government has so far ignored the recommendations of a statutory body like the Sindh Human Rights Commission is a shocking indictment of Pakistan’s attitude to human rights and the rule of law. This execution must be stayed before another juvenile is sent to the gallows.”

Source: Reprieve, August 3, 2015

Death row prisoner: 'I have been told I am going to be executed seven times'

Pakistan (CNN)I am alone in my cell now. Both my cellmates were hanged. I was sharing the cell with Muhammad Faisal and Muhammad Afzal. I had shared a cell with them for six or seven years.

I cannot even begin to explain what I went through when they were executed. I barely even had time to process their deaths because I myself was scheduled to be executed the next day.

I have been told I am going to be executed seven times. The first time was in 2013.

The first time I was told, I was very worried and perplexed. I felt very frustrated. At one point, I am told I am to die; the next thing I know, there is a stay. And I see a ray of hope. But then again, I am told I am going to die. You become a victim of psychological pressure.

Seven days notice of death

Condemned prisoners have a jailer assigned to come and give them this news. The jailer tells me on the day that the warrant is received at the jail, so I am told seven days in advance of the execution date.

When the jailer tells me that my execution date has been set, he separates me immediately from the other prisoners. I spend all seven days by myself in a cell in the barracks for prisoners about to be executed. They conduct a physical exam every one of those seven days. They weigh me every day, take my blood pressure and temperature as well.

On the last two days they also measure my height, my neck and my body for the clothes I am to wear when they hang me.

One day before my hanging, they tell me about my final visit with my family and that I need to execute my will. I cannot really say what I am thinking in those last seven days. My brain is thinking all sorts of things.

Source: CNN, Opinions, Shafqat Hussain, Special to CNN, August 3, 2015

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New Zealand man sentenced to 15 years for drug trafficking in Bali will not appeal sentence

Antony de Malmanche
Antony de Malmanche
There will be no appeal of the 15-year sentence for a New Zealand man who was set-up as a drug mule via an online romance.

Antony de Malmanche's lawyers flagged a possible appeal at the verdict last month.

But Bali's district court says it didn't receive notice by the deadline and has declared the sentence final.

Spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi says the prosecution, which had recommended 18 years' jail for the 53-year-old, then withdrew its appeal.

"With this, the sentence for the convict de Malmanche ... has been declared final," he said.

"So far, we haven't accepted an appeal request from the convict nor his lawyer either."

Ashari Kurniawan, spokesman for Bali provincial prosecutors, says the appeal was withdrawn because the 15-year term exceeded two-thirds of what it had sought.

"There's no obligation for us to ask for appeal," he said.

De Malmanche says he didn't know there was 1.7kg of methamphetamine in his backpack when he arrived in Bali on December 1 last year.

The Whanganui man claims he planned to meet a woman he had fallen in love with online, Jessy Smith.

His trial saw pages of chat logs with "Jessy" and heard expert testimony that de Malmanche's low IQ and mental illness made him particularly susceptible to brainwashing.

An appeal could have seen the sentence increased to the death penalty.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo is enforcing capital punishment for drug offenders, believing his country to be gripped by a narcotics emergency.

De Malmanche is serving his time in Bali's Kerobokan jail, once home to the two Australians executed for drug offences in April, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Source: AAP, July 31, 2015

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Saudi executes Syrian for drug trafficking

Saudi Arabia on Thursday beheaded a Syrian for drug trafficking, bringing to 108 the total number of executions this year, the interior ministry announced. 

Qassem Mohammed al-Hilal had been convicted of importing a "large amount of amphetamine pills" into the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, said a ministry statement carried by state news agency SPA. Authorities resumed executions.

Authorities resumed executions last week after a pause for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday that followed it.

The number of locals and foreigners put to death this year is up sharply from 87 during the whole of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

But this year's figure is below the record 192 that human rights group Amnesty International said took place in 1995.

Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi authorities of waging a "campaign of death".

Echoing the concerns of other activists, the New York-based group said it had documented "due process violations" in the legal system that make it difficult for defendants to get fair trials even in capital cases.

Under the kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery , homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment. It has also talked of "the physical and social harm" caused by drugs.

Source: Agence France-Presse, July 31, 2015

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Indonesia: Legal options to save Mary Jane Veloso's life 'very narrow'

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
Speed up investigation to clear name of Catholic woman on death row in Indonesia, advocates say

Lawyers for Mary Jane Veloso, the Philippines woman facing execution in Indonesia, say a stronger push for clemency can be "potentially successful", even while other observers say her options are quickly narrowing.

In an interview Thursday, Veloso's lawyers in Manila told ucanews.com that appealing to Indonesian President Joko Widodo for clemency may be a "more realistic" option than an outright pardon earned through legal channels.

Edre Olalia, Veloso's lead lawyer, said a pending Philippines court investigation into allegations that Veloso was duped into being a drug mule may provide a "strong legal basis" to prove her innocence.

But Olalia told ucanews.com that "the more important thing is the political and moral basis that you cannot allow somebody who is innocent to be punished."

In 2010, an Indonesian court sentenced Veloso to death after she was caught with 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her bag at the international airport in Yogyakarta. In April, Widodo granted a temporary reprieve just before Veloso was set to be executed.

Veloso, a devout Catholic, claimed that she was tricked into transporting the heroin and blamed her friend, Cristina Sergio. Philippines justice officials have filed cases against Veloso's alleged recruiters, including Sergio, with the intent of investigating them for human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

Veloso's lawyers say there is reason to believe that the investigation will eventually point a finger at Sergio. But it's unclear whether such a development from a court in the Philippines will have any effect in Indonesia.

"It might not be effective" to make a 3rd legal appeal on behalf of Veloso in Indonesia, Olalia acknowledged.

This week, Indonesian authorities welcomed the Philippines' ongoing efforts to investigate the case. However, they also reiterated that Veloso was convicted of smuggling by an Indonesian court of law.

Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo told media July 29 that freeing Veloso would be "difficult", according to the Indonesian news website Kompas.com.

"This is because she has been proven [guilty of] smuggling narcotics into Indonesia," he said.

The Attorney General office's spokesman, Tony Spontana, told ucanews.com July 30 that if the legal process in the Philippines finds new evidence, her legal team would be welcome to appeal for a judicial review or clemency in Indonesia.

"But this won't free Veloso," Spontana said, insisting that the Indonesian system has treated Veloso fairly.

"All her rights have been given to her: two appeals for a judicial review and a request for clemency."

'All depends on him'

Church officials in Indonesia have spoken out against the death penalty in general and advocated for Veloso in particular.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko is secretary of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference. In an interview July 30, he said he is hopeful that the Philippines legal system will find new evidence vindicating Veloso, which can then be brought directly to President Widodo.

"All depends on him," Fr. Siswantoko said. "I believe that the president can become a real statesman if he truly upholds the truth."

This week, a delegation of foreign affairs and justice officials from the Philippines met with their counterparts in Indonesia to discuss Veloso's case. Part of those discussions involved the practicalities of allowing Veloso to testify in the Philippines' trafficking investigation.

In the meantime, advocates for Veloso believe it is imperative that Philippines officials prioritize and speed up the inquiry into Veloso's alleged traffickers.

"Absent that, I don't see any big legal options," said Neri Colmenares, a human rights lawyer and member of the Philippine Congress.

At the moment, he said, Veloso's legal options are "very narrow".

Source: ucanews.com, July 31, 2015

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Nebraska: Death penalty group 'cautiously optimistic' about signatures

Nebraska; Gathering signatures against the repeal
Nebraska: Gathering signatures against the repeal
Organizers of a campaign to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty say they're cautiously optimistic that they'll gather enough signatures to place the issue on the 2016 ballot, triggering a showdown with opponents who pledge to wage a strong campaign of their own.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty has less than a month remaining to gather about 58,000 signatures before the Aug. 27 submission deadline. The group was launched on June 1, with heavy financial backing from Gov. Pete Ricketts and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.

"I don't want to discount the sheer magnitude of what it takes to get out and collect signatures, but it has gone well," said Chris Peterson, a spokesman for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty. "We're cautiously optimistic that we're going to be successful."

Peterson declined to release the specific number collected but said the campaign has received signatures from all counties except Sioux County in northwestern Nebraska.

Peterson said the campaign has relied on several hundred petition circulators, both paid and volunteer. The volunteers include the parents of Andrea Kruger, one of four people fatally shot by Nikko Jenkins in Omaha in 2013, and Vivian Tuttle, whose daughter Evonne Tuttle was murdered during a botched 2002 bank robbery in Norfolk. Lincoln Strategy Group, an Arizona consultant hired by the group, is managing the campaign's paid circulators.

If the measure reaches the ballot, voters could repeal a law approved by the Legislature in May, when senators overrode Ricketts' veto by the narrowest possible margin. Nebraska was the 1st traditionally conservative state to abolish the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973.

To prevent the law from going into effect before the 2016 election, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty would have to collect about 115,000 signatures. In either case, the signatures must come from at least 5 % of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska's 93 counties.

Peterson said petition circulators have worked at county fairs, concerts, parades, rodeos, ice cream socials and sporting events, and set up tables outside of courthouses and other government buildings. Some events have generated hundreds of signatures, he said, while others turned out to be duds.

"Last weekend we had volunteers at a county fair, and they got nowhere," he said. "Then they went to a fair in a neighboring county and did great."

State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, a volunteer with Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, said circulators in Lincoln County have already gathered signatures from about 12 % of the county's registered voters, placing them well over the minimum threshold if those signatures are deemed valid.

Groene said the group is seeking more to account for signatures that are declared invalid, and to demonstrate strong support in favor of letting voters decide the issue. Groene said he has circulated petitions in seven western Nebraska counties, and plans to travel to Chase and Dundy counties in mid-August.

"People run to us when they see us," he said. "We want to send a strong message."

Death penalty opponents said they have sent observers to petition sites to watch for fraud and ensure that circulators are following state law. They also will campaign against the death penalty if the issue is approved for the ballot, said Danielle Conrad, who is leading the Nebraskans for Public Safety campaign against the referendum.

"Our campaign has received an incredible positive outpouring of support from conservative leaders, faith groups, victims' families and traditional death penalty opponents that allows us to prepare a strong and competitive effort for a general election campaign if needed," said Conrad, a former state senator and current executive director of the ACLU of Nebraska.

Another group, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, is working to appeal to voters with arguments that the death penalty system is broken, too expensive and runs counter to pro-life values. Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, and has never carried out an execution with the current lethal injection protocol because of appeals and problems obtaining the required drugs.

"We'll definitely continue as long as necessary," said Matt Maly, a group spokesman who represents anti-death penalty conservatives. "If (death penalty supporters) are able to get the required number of signatures, it will be a full-on campaign."

Source: Associated Press, August 2, 2015

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Amnesty International responds on Yakub Memon: Why India doesn't need the death penalty

R Jagannathan's article "Yakub Memon hanged: Why India still needs capital punishment" lays out a case for retaining the death penalty in India, with some pointers on how it can be applied more narrowly.

Much of Mr Jagannathan's argument doesn't hold water.

For one, he argues that the right to life is not sacrosanct when it comes to people guilty of terrorism, serial murders, or rape. The right to life, though, is the most fundamental of human rights, and like all human rights, it is something that inherently belongs to people not because of what they do, but because of the human beings they are.

The article claims that "keeping deadly killers alive in jail can tempt their compatriots to indulge in more killings". But counter-terrorism officials around the world have often pointed out that individuals who are executed may be seen as martyrs, whose deaths can become a rallying point. Groups can also use executions as justification for retaliation, continuing the cycle of violence.

Second, Mr Jagannathan questions the argument that the death penalty must be abolished so that innocents are not executed. He suggests that rules for applying the death sentence be tightened so that it is imposed only when there is strong evidence. This is far-fetched. Even in countries such as the United States, which have well-resourced criminal justice systems, several innocent people have been sentenced to death. At least 155 death row prisoners in the US have been exonerated since 1973 - proof that no justice system is free from error, and the risk of executing the innocent can never be eradicated.

In India, the risk of executing someone in error is not minor. The Supreme Court has itself acknowledged that death sentences are handed out in a subjective and inconsistent way. Research by Amnesty International and PUCL has shown that whether people are sentenced to death depend on factors ranging from the quality of their lawyers to the idiosyncrasies of judges. Even the 'rarest-of-rare' test (which refers to the possibility of reform, and not as many believe, the gruesomeness of a crime) is by the Supreme Court's own admission not always applied correctly. Former judges have pointed out that at least 2 people have been executed in India following faulty judgments.

Mr Jagannathan acknowledges that many people languishing on death row are from vulnerable backgrounds - something empirically proven recently by a National Law University study which found that over 75 % of those on death row came from economically weak sections of society. No doubt, poverty and arbitrariness can affect any criminal case. But this injustice is particularly unacceptable when there is a question of life and death.

Thirdly, the argument that the death penalty is not a deterrent, Mr Jagannathan claims, is weak because no punishment deters crimes involving killing. In this, he is partly right, because deterrence lies not in the severity of punishment, but its certainty. When the Constitutional Court of South Africa abolished the death penalty, it said: "The greatest deterrent to crime is the likelihood that offenders will be apprehended, convicted and punished. It is that which is presently lacking in our criminal justice system; and it is at this level and through addressing the causes of crime that the State must seek to combat lawlessness."

Take the case of crimes involving sexual violence against women in India. When only 1 % of these cases are estimated to even be reported to the police, of which a fraction go on to be investigated, prosecuted, and end in conviction, the likelihood that any potential offender will be punished is miniscule. And it is here that we truly fail victims of violence, not in failing to impose death sentences at the end of a long and uncertain process.

Further, there is no compelling evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than a life sentence. If authorities are serious about preventing crime and terrorism, they should strengthen the administration of justice as whole. Public safety is not delivered through executions.

Finally, the death penalty is needed to send a message to society, says Mr Jagannathan, and as retribution for wrongs inflicted. But the sending of this signal itself has nothing to do with the kind of punishment inflicted. Countries across the world send out this signal by handing out prison terms, the most serious punishment on their books. And we don't even need to look to Europe or Scandinavia, as he suggests. India's neighbours Nepal and Bhutan have abolished the death penalty. Neither has seen the 'chaos and disaster' which Mr Jagannathan warns of.

Mr Jagannathan admits that the death penalty must be used for a more specific set of crimes. While international law clearly sets abolition as the goal for countries which retain the death penalty, international standards say that where the death penalty does exist, it must only be imposed for crimes that involve intentional killing. In India however, the death penalty can still be handed out for offences including abetment of mutiny and kidnapping for ransom. Pending abolition, the government must ensure, at the very least, that crimes which don't involve intentional killing are no longer punishable with death.

"We need the death penalty for our own reasons at this stage in our development as a civilised society", concludes Mr Jagannathan. Here he underestimates India. As a society, it is time for us to stop pretending that revenge is justice. It is time to do away with the death penalty.

Source: firstpost.com, August 2, 2015. Shailesh Rai is the Senior Policy Advisor at Amnesty International India

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UAE to try 41 on 'terror' charges

Emiratis among 41 to be tried in Federal Supreme Court on charges of setting up terrorist group

The Public Prosecution has referred 41 men of various nationalities, including Emiratis, to the Federal Supreme Court on charges of setting up a terrorist organisation, Salem Saeed Kubaish, UAE's Attoney General said on Sunday.

"The defendants were charged with setting up and running a terrorist organisation named Shabab Al Manarah "The Minaret Youths" which upholds terrorist thought with the intent to terrorist acts inside the country and endanger its security and peace and lives of its people including their leaders," Kubaish said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

Kubaish said that the suspects were also charged with intending to inflict damages to private and public properties to eventually take over authority to set up a so-called Caliphate State in line with their extremist thought.

"To carry out their terrorist acts, the suspects procured fire arms, ammunitions and explosives necessary, using funds they collected for this purpose and got in touch with foreign terrorist organisations and groups. These groups provided these suspects with funds and people to achieve their goals inside the cpuntry," Kubaish said.

Convicted terrorists will face capital punishment, life imprisonment and fines of up to Dh100 million, according to a federal law to combat terrorism, which was endorsed last year.

The law ushered in new security measures to counter a sweeping range of crimes deemed acts of terror at a time when international efforts are being mustered to fight the global menace.

The law defines a terrorist offence as "any action or inaction made a crime by this law and every action or inaction made a crime by any other law if they are carried out for a terrorist cause".

Provoking terror among a group of people, killing or causing harm to people or property, and opposing the state are also considered violations under the law.

It also rules capital or life imprisonment for actions such as impersonating a public figure and wrongfully claiming to be on assignment for a public service. A person found guilty of attacking or endangering the life of the President, Vice President, or any of the rulers and their families could also receive the death sentence.

A terrorist intent is established by a direct or indirect terrorist result or when an offender knows that the action or inaction leads, in its nature or context, to terrorist results.

Kubaish said the suspects set up an organisational structure including committees and cells with specific tasks. "A leader was appointed to oversee the terrorist organisation, issue orders, instructions, roles and duties for each committee. He was also assigned to set policies. His deputy was assigned to follow up implementation of these policies," Kubaish said.

The Attorney General added these committees were assigned to recruit young Emiratis and instill extremist thought into them and train them on militant acts and manufacturing of explosives at certain camping sites.

They suspects, the Attorney said, also disseminated audio and video materials ton the internet to spread their terrorist thought.

According to the anti-terrorism law, terrorist results include inciting fear among a group of people, killing them, or causing them serious physical injury, or inflicting substantial damage to property or the environment, or disrupting security of the international community, or opposing the country, or influencing the public authorities of the country or another country or international organisation while discharging its duties, or receiving a privilege from the country or another country or an international organisation.

The law also establishes counselling centres where convicted terrorists will receive intensive religious and welfare counselling in jails in a programme targeted against future threats posed by those holding extremist views, according to the law.

Every legal person whose representatives, managers or agents commit or contribute to the commission of any of the terrorist offences provided in the law, would receive a fine ranging from Dh1 million to Dh100 million.

A committee to be named The National Committee for Combating Terrorism will be established, and a decision towards its establishment will be made by the Cabinet.

"Whoever seeks or communicates with a foreign state, terrorist organisation or with anyone who works for their interests, to commit any terrorist act, shall be punished with imprisonment for life while the death penalty will be imposed if the terrorist act has been carried out," the law says.

Source: Gulf News, August 2, 2015

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Iran: 7 executed over drug, murder charges

Public execution in Iran (file photo)
Public execution in Iran (file photo)
According to official and unofficial reports, a total of seven prisoners were hanged to death in Iran on Wednesday July 29 and Saturday August 1.

Iran Human Rights, August 1 2015: Two prisoners with drug related charges and one inmate charged with murder were hanged to death at Lakan Prison in Rasht, according to the public affairs department of Gilan’s office of the Attorney General. 

The prisoners were identified as “S.J.” (58 years old, charged with production and distribution of 500 kilograms of opium), “M.M.” (38 years old, charged with possessing 787 grams of heroin), and “M.P.” (31 years old, charged with murder). 

The executions took place on Saturday morning.

Lakan Prison is the same location where juvenile offender Salar Shadizadi is being held. Shahdizadi was scheduled to be executed Saturday morning until Iranian officials postponed his death sentence for 10 days.

According to HRANA, four prisoners with drug related charges were hanged to death on Wednesday, July 29, in Isfahan’s Dastgerd Prison.

Source: Iran Human Rights, August 1, 2015

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Not guilty plea in federal court for church shooting suspect; he wants opposite, lawyer says

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
The white man accused of gunning down 9 parishioners at a black church in Charleston wants to plead guilty to 33 federal charges, but his lawyer said in court Friday that he couldn't advise his client to do so until prosecutors say whether they'll seek the death penalty.

During a brief arraignment in federal court, defense attorney David Bruck said that he couldn't counsel his client, Dylann Roof, to enter a guilty plea without knowing the government's intentions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant then entered a not guilty plea for Roof, 21, who faces federal charges including hate crimes, weapons charges and obstructing the practice of religion. Appearing in court in a gray striped prison jumpsuit, his hands in shackles, Roof answered yes several times in response to the judge's questions but otherwise didn't speak.

"Mr. Roof has told us that he wishes to plead guilty," Bruck said. "Until we know whether the government will be seeking the death penalty, we are not able to advise Mr. Roof."

The federal prosecution, particularly on hate crimes, has been expected since the June 17 shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Church. Early on, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice said they felt the case met the qualifications for a hate crime, and Roof was indicted by a federal grand jury about a month after the killings.

Roof appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning and desecrating U.S. flags. Federal authorities have confirmed his use of a personal manuscript in which he decried integration and used racial slurs to refer to blacks.

Because South Carolina has no state hate-crimes law, federal charges were needed to adequately address a motive that prosecutors believe was unquestionably rooted in racial hate, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during a news conference announcing Roof's federal indictment.

18 of the 33 charges against Roof could potentially carry the death penalty, while conviction on each of the others could mean a life prison sentence. Each charge also carries the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Also during Friday's hearing, Marchant accepted Roof's application as an indigent defendant - meaning the state will pay for his attorneys - and formalized the appointment of Bruck and another defense lawyer, Michael O'Connell. Marchant set Aug. 20 as a deadline for attorneys to file pre-trial motions. No future hearings are scheduled in Roof's case.

Marchant also heard briefly from victims' family members, who at Roof's bond hearing in state court expressed statements of mercy and forgiveness despite his alleged crimes. On Friday, several relatives made similar comments in federal court.

"We don't hold no ill will," Leroy Singleton, brother of Myra Thompson, said tearfully. "We're going to let the system work it out."

Gracyn Doctor, daughter of another victim, DePayne Middleton Doctor, said she misses her mother greatly but wouldn't let Roof get the better of her.

"Even though he has taken the most precious thing in my life, he will not take my joy," Doctor told the judge.

An attorney for the church said that the AME community nationally and worldwide would be watching the case closely as it moves forward.

"The world is watching," Eduardo Curry told reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing. "What we want justice to be is mighty and fair."

Roof also faces numerous state charges, including nine counts of murder and another potential death penalty prosecution. The Justice Department has not said if its case will come first, and the state also has not announced its decision on the death penalty.

Source: Associated Press, August 1, 2015

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