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

Friday, July 1, 2016

Waiting for Florida Supreme Court decision that could spare 390 death row inmates

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
With one week left before the Florida Supreme Court goes on its summer recess, the justices have yet to rule on one of the most anticipated and politically charged questions facing them this year: Whether to commute the sentences of 390 death row inmates after the state’s death penalty laws were struck down and rewritten this spring.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case called Hurst vs. Florida that the process used to sentence people to death in the state was unconstitutional.

Without a valid death penalty law on the books, the Florida Legislature passed new laws for death sentences that will leave the decision to the jury, which has to find one aggravating circumstance and agree to the death penalty on a 10-2 vote.

What remains unclear is how the Hurst decision will impact those who have already been sentenced to death.

Defense attorneys for death-row inmates have argued their clients’ sentences should be commuted to life in prison. But the state has stood by the original death sentences.

“If the (Hurst) case were to be remanded (back to a trial court), it would have to be under the new statute,” Assistant Attorney General Carine Mitz said in the Supreme Court in May. “I still don't think we have a problem.”

The seven justices don’t have to make up their minds before the summer recess — and given the complexity and controversy of the issue, they may not. But until they do, there’s deep uncertainty on the issue, not just for those convicted and sentenced to death but also within the political and legal worlds.

Gov. Rick Scott has not signed a death warrant since the Florida Supreme Court halted the executions of Michael Lambrix and Mark Asay in February and March.

Some death row lawyers and Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente have questioned whether the new law is constitutional because, they say, the requirement that the jury find just one aggravating factor could increase the number of convicted murderers eligible for the death penalty.

On Thursday, the court issued one death-row opinion that briefly addressed Hurst. Charles Brant, who pled guilty to the 2004 murder of 21-year-old Sara Radfar in Tampa.

Because Brant waived his right to a jury in the penalty phase of his murder trial, the justices wrote that Hurst cannot be applied to his case. They issued a similar decision in a death penalty case earlier this month, writing that a death-row inmate “cannot subvert the right to jury fact finding by waiving that right and then suggesting that a subsequent development in the law has fundamentally undermined his sentence.”

The final opinions before the court goes on recess are expected at 11 a.m. July 7.

Source: bradenton.com, Michael Auslen, June 30, 2016

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Iran pushes ‘Islamic human rights’ excluding LGBT people

Not all human rights principles are necessarily universal.
"Not all human rights principles are necessarily universal."
"Not all human rights principles are necessarily universal." -- Kazem Gharibabadi, International Deputy for the Iranian High Council for Human Rights.

The Iranian government plans to host an international human rights conference in the city of Qom in August to discuss Islamic Human Rights principles, which will exclude LGBT rights and other issues “that are based on Western cultural standards and lifestyle,” as well as issues that ” are not universally accepted.”

The announcement about the upcoming conference was made [June 29] by Mr. Kazem Gharibabadi, the International Deputy for the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, affiliated with the Iranian Judiciary. During his comments, Mr. Gharibabadi’s was specifically critical of the inclusion of LGBT rights in various human rights treaties:

“Some countries refuse to acknowledge that the principles of human rights should be, at times, implemented based on the culture and dominant values of each country. For example, these countries consider homosexuality as a human rights issue, which is not accepted by Islamic countries. Those countries pressure others to follow their standards and seek the universality of human rights.
“Of course, we do not deny the universality of some aspects of human rights, but not everything that those countries want to promote should be considered as a human rights issue. Not all human rights principles are necessarily universal. We need to see if the prevailing culture of each country allows such issues to be seen as a human rights issue or not.”

In his interview with the the official website of the Iranian Parliament, Mr. Gharibabadi clarified that Iran’s ongoing effort to promote the Islamo-centric human rights values is done through research, documentation, and facilitated discourse through a partnership with the Iranian Foreign Ministry. According to Mr. Gharibabadi, “The Council has commissioned several research and publication projects to various academic centers, and is expecting to launch one or two of these reports in multiple languages by March 2017.”

According to Mr. Gharibabadi, there are currently consultations with other Islamic countries underway on how to use Islamic Human Rights doctrines in interpreting and drafting international human rights documents, so that Islamic human rights principles can become universally acceptable.

For more information in Persian, read the full text of that story in Icana.ir.

Source: Erasing 76 crimes, Colin Stewart, July 1, 2016

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America's deadliest prosecutors: five lawyers, 440 death sentences

Bob Macy of Oklahoma County
Bob Macy of Oklahoma County
Harvard report highlights the lion-sized role in modern death penalty of just four men and a woman, and how capital punishment is a ‘personality-driven system’

As head prosecutors in their counties, just five individuals have been responsible for putting no fewer than 440 prisoners onto death row. If you compare that number to the 2,943 who are currently awaiting execution in the US, it is equivalent to one out of every seven.

Or express the figure another way: of the 8,038 death sentences handed down since the death penalty was restarted in the modern era 40 years ago this week, some one in 20 of them have been the responsibility of those five district attorneys alone.

The five are profiled in a new report from Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project. Titled America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors, the report highlights the lion-sized role in the modern death penalty of just four men and one woman.

They are: Joe Freeman Britt of Robeson County, North Carolina; Donnie Myers of Lexington, South Carolina; Bob Macy of Oklahoma County; Lynne Abraham of Philadelphia County; and Johnny Holmes of Harris County, Texas.

Just how extraordinary this elite club of lawyers is can be seen in the biography of Bob Macy. Until his death in 2011, he was known as Cowboy Bob because of his traditional frontier dress sense: he always wore cowboy boots, a large cowboy hat, a black string tie, a black suit and a white shirt.

Over the course of 21 years as the top prosecutor in Oklahoma County, Macy put 54 people on death row. That gave him the distinction of sending more people to their potential deaths than any other district attorney in the nation.

And many did actually go to their deaths. According to records compiled by the Fair Punishment Project, 30 of those prisoners were executed.

That might have presented an ethical burden to some, but not to Macy. As he sat beneath his Tombstone poster, he ruminated on the “patriotic duty” of prosecutors to aggressively pursue death sentences. He was proud of having sent a 16-year-old, Sean Sellers, to the death chamber before the US supreme court banned the execution of juveniles in 2005.


Source: The Guardian, Ed Pilkington, June 30, 2016

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Turkish Inmate Escapes Nusakambangan Prison

Nusakambangan island, Indonesia
Jakarta. Saman Hasan, also known as Messi, a Turkish prisoner, has reportedly escaped the Besi Prison in Nusakambangan Island, Cilacap, Central Java, an official said on Friday (01/07).

The drug convict was found to be missing from the prison on Thursday at around 4 p.m. when the wardens checked all prisoners.

“We have cooperated with Cilacap Police to search the escaped prisoner. We also formed an internal team and Justice and Human Rights Agency was involved to handle the case and give advice,” Central Java Justice Agency Molyanto told Antara news agency on Friday.

The escaped prisoner had only eight months left in his sentence after he was convicted to 12 years imprisonment for drug smuggling in 2005.

Messi allegedly fled the prison to Kampung Laut village on a motorcycle after finishing his community service duties outside the prison. He had been appointed a "companion inmate," a status granted to well-behaved prisoners who are allowed to leave the jail during the day.

Personnel police and military officers have been deployed to pursue the escaped inmate.

Source: Jakarta Globe, July 1, 2016

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why the World Needs a Heterosexual Pride Day

If you're wondering why the world needs a Heterosexual Pride Day, check out the map below.

All the countries marked in red are the places where you can be arrested, verbally abused, beaten, physically assaulted, jailed, stoned to death, thrown off building tops, executed, hanged, killed, demonized, or outcast for being straight. 

The struggle is quite real.





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Indonesia's Supreme Court sentences 5 to death for drug offenses

Indonesian President Joko Widodo
Indonesian President Joko Widodo
The Supreme Court has added five new death row inmates to the Attorney General’s Office’s (AGO) executions list, with the recent sentencing of five drug dealers.

The move at country’s highest court comes just four days after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on law enforcement institutions and judicial bodies to unite in supporting the heaviest possible punishment of drug dealers. Jokowi made the comments at an event for the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Jakarta on Sunday.

The Supreme Court said the five people, including Hong Kong citizen and international drug syndicate kingpin Wong Chi Ping, deserved the punishment because drug-related mortality had gotten worse in recent years with the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) recording around 50 deaths every day due to drugs.

“If some people say that the death penalty is a cruel punishment, then is it not cruel for us to let 50 people die every day because of the drugs that these syndicates brought into our country?” said Supreme Court justice Suhadi, one of three judges handling the case.

The other four convicts also sentenced to death are Indonesian Ahmad Salim Wijaya and Hong Kong nationals Cheung Hon Ming, Siu Cheuk Fung and Tam Siu Liung.

The case started when the BNN arrested Wong at a minimart in Kalideres, West Jakarta, in January 2015.

He was arrested along with eight others, four Hong Kong nationals and four Indonesians, for attempting to smuggle 862 kilograms of meth from China to Indonesia via sea.

In its ruling the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences handed down on Wong, Ahmad, Cheung and Siu by the West Jakarta District Court in November 2015.

The primary court initially sentenced Tam to life in prison, but judges at the Supreme Court disagreed with the earlier sentence and upgraded the penalty to death.

“Drug dealers destroy our country and the future of our young generation. The death penalties handed down for these five people are equal with what they have done to our country,” Suhadi said.

Wong has been on wanted-criminals lists in several countries and it took five years’ work by the BNN together with the China National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) and the Hong Kong Police to eventually secure his arrest last year.

Earlier, the Supreme Court also sentenced four other people in relation to the same case, namely: Tan See Ting, who also got sentenced to death; Sujardi, who received 20 years’ behind bars; Syarifuddin, who was jailed for 18 years; and Andika, who received 15 years behind bars for helping Wong operate his drug business.

Wong, Ahmad, Ceung, Siu, Tan and Tam can still challenge the Supreme Court’s sentences through a case review plea. They are also allowed by law to plea for clemency from President Jokowi.

Source: Jakarta Post, Haeril Halim, June 30, 2016

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Vietnamese court sentences 73-year-old Vietnam-born Australian woman to death for trafficking heroin

The People's Court found Nguyen Thi Huong guilty of smuggling 2.8 kg of heroin.
The People's Court found Nguyen Thi Huong guilty of smuggling 2.8 kg of heroin.
A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced a 73-year-old Vietnam-born Australian woman to death for trafficking heroin hidden in bars of soap, several state-run media outlets reported on Thursday.

The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court found Nguyen Thi Huong guilty on Wednesday of possessing 36 bars of soap stuffed with 2.8 kg (6 lb) of heroin in her baggage as she was boarding a flight to Australia in December 2014, the Ho Chi Minh City Police newspaper said.

Court officials and Australian diplomats in the city could not be reached for comment about the case.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "concerned that an Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in Vietnam" but added that under Vietnamese law the woman can appeal the sentence "so there is still some way to go before this legal process concludes".

"We will continue to provide consular assistance and support to the woman and her family. Universal opposition to capital punishment is a long-established policy of Australian governments," a department spokesperson said in an email.

The Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper and news portal tuoitrenews.vn reported that Huong had said she was given the soap as a gift by a woman, identified only as Helen, while they were on a trip to the coastal city of Vung Tau.

Huong told the court she wanted to take them to Australia as gifts and was not aware of what they contained.

However, the Ho Chi Minh City Police newspaper, controlled by the city's police, said Huong had failed to prove that the other woman was real.

The court ruled that the offence was "extremely dangerous to the community" and found her guilty. She now faces death by lethal injection.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper published a photo of Huong covering her mouth with her hands as she was taken from the court after the verdict. Huong has 15 days in which to appeal against the death sentence.

The death penalty is applied in communist Vietnam in cases of trafficking of 100 grams of heroin or more. In late 2013, Vietnam adopted the use of lethal injections for capital cases instead of firing squads.

Source: Reuters, June 30, 2016

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Hope and Fear as Duterte Takes Over Philippines

Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in Thursday as president of the Philippines
Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in Thursday as president of the Philippines.
Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in Thursday as president of the Philippines, with many hoping his maverick style will energize the country but others fearing he could undercut one of Asia's liveliest democracies amid his threats to kill criminals en masse.

The 71-year-old former prosecutor and longtime mayor of southern Davao city won a resounding victory in May's elections in his first foray into national politics. He has described himself as the country's first leftist president and declared his foreign policy would not be dependent on the United States, a longtime treaty ally.

The frugal noontime ceremony at Malacanan, the Spanish colonial era presidential palace by Manila's murky Pasig River, was a break from tradition sought by Duterte to press the need for austerity amid the country's pestering poverty. In the past, the oath-taking had mostly been held at a grandstand in a historic park by Manila Bay, followed by a grand reception.

Vice President Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer who comes from a rival political party, was sworn in earlier in a separate ceremony in her office compound. Vice presidents are separately elected in the Philippines, and in a sign of Duterte's go-it-alone style, he has not met her since the May 9 vote.

Duterte, who began a six-year term, captured attention with promises to cleanse his poor Southeast Asian nation of criminals and government crooks within six months — an audacious pledge that was welcomed by many crime-weary Filipinos but alarmed human rights watchdogs and the dominant Roman Catholic Church.

Duterte's inauguration address, before a crowd of more than 600 relatives, officials and diplomats, was markedly bereft of the profanities, sex jokes and curses that became a trademark of his campaign speeches. There were no menacing death threats against criminals, but he pressed the urgency of battling crime and graft, promised to stay within the bounds of the law and appealed to Congress and the Commission on Human Rights "to mind your work and I will mind mine."

"There are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal," Duterte said.

He added: "The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained."

"As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to the due process and the rule of law is uncompromising," he said to a loud applause.

Philippine Police Officers
Philippine Police Officers
Shortly after Duterte's election win, police launched an anti-drug crackdown under his name, leaving dozens of mostly poor drug-dealing suspects dead in gunfights or in mysterious circumstances. The killings provided a fearsome backdrop to Duterte's rise.

After his resounding victory, he promised to mellow down on the vulgarity and promised Filipinos will witness a "metamorphosis" once he becomes president. Days before his swearing in, however, he was still warning "If you destroy my country, I will kill you," in a speech this week.

In a country long ruled by wealthy political clans, Duterte rose from middle-class roots. His brash style has been likened to that of presumptive U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, although he detests the comparison and says the American billionaire is a bigot and he's not.

Duterte is also the first president to come from the country's volatile south, scene of a decades-long separatist insurgency by minority Muslims. He has said he would direct security forces to refocus on fighting Muslim and Maoist insurgents — a reversal from his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who shifted the military to take charge of territorial defense while police handle the insurgencies.

Duterte's initial foreign policy pronouncements point to potential problems for Washington at a crucial time for the region. An arbitration tribunal in The Hague is scheduled to rule July 12 on a case in which the Philippine government questioned the validity of China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has refused to join the arbitration.

Duterte has suggested he will keep the U.S. at arm's length and has shown readiness to mend frosty ties with China. Those potential shifts have raised the specter of another difficult phase in more than a century of a love-hate relationship between the Philippines and its former American colonizer.

A senior Philippine diplomat said American and Australian officials are curious how the new president will handle relations with their governments, which have enjoyed strong ties with Aquino, who bolstered security relations as a way to counter China's assertiveness in disputed South China Sea territories.

The Chinese ambassador, on the other hand, has worked hard to repair damaged relations with Manila. He told Filipino diplomats Beijing would extend an invitation to the new president to visit China within the next six months, according to the Philippine diplomat who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to discuss such topic with reporters.

"Definitely if the Philippines backs away somewhat from supporting the U.S. in the South China Sea, this would be a problem for the U.S.," said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

"China likes to present the U.S. as a destabilizing outsider in the South China Sea and in Asia more generally," he said. "The fewer Asian states that publicly counter this Chinese depiction, the more isolated the U.S."

Source: AP, June 30, 2016

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‘El Chapo’ extradition to US halted by Mexico judge over death penalty fears

 Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
A judge in Mexico temporarily blocked the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the US after his lawyers appealed the move over fears that the infamous drug cartel leader might face the death penalty.

Guzman’s extradition request was suspended Tuesday after two injunctions were filed by his lawyers. He is set to face murder and drug smuggling charges in the US.

The judge granted a stay on the drug kingpin’s extradition until appeals can be heard. 

For now, “El Chapo” will be held in a maximum security jail near the US border.

Jose Refugio Rodriguez, one of Guzman’s lawyers, told the Associated Press that the appeals are based on the statute of limitations on some of the charges as well as their contention that some of the accusations against Guzman are based on hearsay rather than direct evidence.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry approved Guzman’s extradition when the US guaranteed that Guzman would not face the death penalty. 

Mexico has abolished capital punishment and will not extradite its citizens if they could face execution.

Guzman was arrested in January following 13 years of evading law enforcement after escaping prison.

Source: AP, June 29, 2016

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Two Christians and a Muslim man get death penalty in Pakistan for blasphemy

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan.
2 Christians and a Muslim man were on Tuesday sentenced to death by a Pakistani anti terrorism court for committing blasphemy.

The Anti-Terrorism Court of Gujranwala district announced the verdict in the case which was pending for the last one year.

ATC Gujranwala Judge Bushra Zaman handed down death penalty to Anjum, Javed Naz (who are both Christians) and Jaffer Ali for committing blasphemy. Naz and Ali have been sentenced to an additional 35 years each.

The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 5 million on Anjum and Rs 8 million each on Naz and Ali.

Gujranwala city police had arrested Anjum, Naz and Ali a year ago on blasphemy charges.

The judge announced the verdict after prosecution presented all witnesses.

Anjum, a resident of Farid Town, some 80km from Lahore ran a chain of Locus Schools System in Gujranwala. Asif, Anjum's brother, told PTI that his brother never committed any blasphemy.

"Javed Naz was a cousin of Anjum and employed at one of his schools. When Anjum fired Naz on corruption allegations he turned against my brother," he said.

Asif said later Naz started blackmailing Anjum by claiming that he had his voice recorded in which he had made blasphemous remarks.

"When Anjum stopped paying money to Naz, he along with his Muslim friend Ali got a blasphemy case registered against Anjum," he said.

Police during investigation also booked Naz and Ali in the blasphemy case.

"My brother is innocent and we will challenge the ATC verdict in the superior court," Asif said.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. 2 high-profile politicians then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law.

Pakistan's tough blasphemy law has attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently misused to settle personal scores.

Source: firstpost.com, June 28, 2016

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Iran under pressure to abolish death penalty for drug trafficking

Public hanging in Iran
Several European countries cut off financial contributions to republic's counter-narcotics campaign

Iran is under pressure to end its use of death penalty against drug traffickers after facing a serious shortfall in the international funding of the country's counter-narcotics campaign.

An increasing number of European countries have decided to cut off contributions even though the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) last year approved a 5-year country partnership programme for Iran that was aimed at providing about $20m (then 14.4m pounds).

The agency's latest annual appeal document, obtained by the human rights group Reprieve, which works for the abolition of death penalty, shows that Tehran has received zero in funding for 2016. The UK has confirmed in writing that it is no longer contributing. Similar indications have come from Italy, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Norway.

2 senior Iranian officials have recently complained about the lack of international support. Last week, Iran's prosecutor general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, blamed "imperialist" powers for young people's addiction to drugs. In April, the Tehran Times quoted the interior minister as saying that Europeans were uncooperative.

Iran is a neighbour to Afghanistan, a leading producer and supplier of the world's drugs, and faces big challenges at home with a young population susceptible to a variety of cheap and abundant addictive drugs. Critics, however, say Iran's use of death penalty in this regard has done little, if anything, to address the issue.

"It is increasingly untenable for abolitionist states to contribute to the funding of law enforcement-led counter-narcotics programmes in Iran due to skyrocketing drug-related executions in Iran," Maya Foa, director of Reprieve's death penalty team, told the Guardian on the sidelines of the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo.

Iran executed nearly 1,000 people last year, of which more than 1/2 were for drug offences. It is difficult to gauge public attitude to executions in Iran but Iranians increasingly favour forgiveness in cases involving murder. The number of Iranian convicts whose lives were saved last year after being pardoned outnumbered those who were known to have been put to death for murder.

There has been a considerable drop in the number of executions in Iran since the beginning of this year (around 200 executions) but activists said it was too early to say if that amounted to a change in policy.

The UNODC did comment on the cooperation of the Europeans. "The programme received funding in 2015 and there are pledges for 2016 from countries. It would therefore be premature to make any judgment on funding levels for the programme, especially as we are only halfway through the year," said David Dadge, UNODC's spokesperson.

UNODC's deputy executive director, Aldo Lale-Demoz, recently said: "You'll never be able to control the world drug problem just by investing in law enforcement and repression."

Iran has hinted that it wants to end drug-related executions. In December, more than 70 MPs introduced a bill to end such executions and officials have since signalled that Iran is pursing the matter. Iran's chief prosecutor said last week that "we are not in favour of death penalty and we don't think it's appropriate".

Madyar Samienejad, an Oslo-based human rights defender, said comments by the Iranian judicial authorities over abolishing the death penalty for drug-related offences appeared to be serious, showing there was a will to tackle the issue. "I think this is the direct result of good campaigning. Executions have contributed to a great degree in how Iran is viewed from the outside world and the Iranian authorities seem to have begun acknowledging this, at least in their words," he said.

Executions in Iran take place at the hands of the hardline judiciary, which acts independently of the moderate administration of Hassan Rouhani. But critics say the government has failed in preventing such executions take place in public and providing enough funding for lawyers defending convicts.

Asked by the Guardian, the Norwegian foreign minister, Borge Brende, said last week: "We have been very clear regarding our funding towards the UN, and that we will not be a part of funding Iran's programs which is related to this inhumane practice." The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, however, said: "The fight against drug trafficking is one thing, the fight against the death penalty is another." He did not say whether France was still contributing.

Source: The Guardian, June 29, 2016

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Guarding Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement cell: Entombed alive
Solitary confinement cell: Entombed alive
Interview with a Former Corrections Officer Who Worked in Prison Isolation Units

Recently, Solitary Watch had the opportunity to sit down with “X,” a former corrections officer who spent almost two years working on a segregation unit in Pennsylvania. (The guard requested complete anonymity in exchange for the interview). 

X, now 48, worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections between 2006 and 2009, and in the Special Housing Units (SHU) from 2008-2009. He spoke candidly with journalist Aviva Stahl about what drew him to work “in the hole,” what he saw while he was there, and what he thinks about the growing movement to reform the use of solitary. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

AS: Did you start working in the SHU or did you work in general population first?

X: It’s always general population first. Always. You don’t work in solitary confinement until you’ve established yourself as a CO. They want to see how you react. How you handle yourself. How you are with the other CO’s, how you interact with inmates. And they take that all… and you get to know your lieutenants, your captains, your majors, and your other staff members, your peers, your other CO’s. Whether or not they can trust you and you can trust them before you’re ever considered for down there, the hole. We used to call it the hole. People want to see what you’re made of.

AS: Do you remember the kind of people who were there for disciplinary or punishment, do you remember the range of stuff they had done to warrant being put in the hole?

X: Mm-hm. It could be an offense towards an officer. It could be, any inmates if they got in any kind of a fight or something both of them automatically go down. Normally a couple days, you have a trial, find out what’s going on, bring the officers in that seen it. “Yeah I seen this, the inmate so and so you know initiated it.” So normally the one that didn’t, they’d get released back to general population. They could be down there for, I mean, stealing, whether it had been in the chow hall, from one of the workshops trying to bring things in, offenses that they committed during visiting when they were visiting family and friends during visiting hour. There would be state offenses against officers like spitting, hitting. Anything.
AS: Did you ever see people go crazy in the SHU?

X: Oh yeah. Yeah it was, we had one inmate, he was in his 70’s… We had another inmate being transferred from another institution and he said yeah, he would take a cellie. Well, ended up, both celled together. It was the second night together and the younger inmate who was like 24, raped the 77 year old inmate. And I remember when [the 77-year-old] came out of there, the Lieutenant comes out and we had him on a stretcher and I mean this man, we thought he was going to have a heart attack, a stroke or…he was just horrified that this had happened.

AS: I think you told me you walked in on someone who had hanged himself, right?

X: We had one inmate, he was dead when we got him. He snapped his neck from hanging himself. Had some that the genitalia, tried to cut it off with a plastic spoon.

AS: And the people who tried to commit suicide in solitary or who cut themselves, do you think it was because they were in solitary? Do you think it was the solitary that was driving them crazy?

X: No, I think it was just incarceration. And situations that happen while they were in there, if they had a loved one that died or their spouse or their child or someone you’re going to know what happens when it happens. The inmates don’t take time to tell you. They’ll tell you what happened. But they can’t go on anymore and they’ll tell you they don’t want to live anymore. They’ll write Dear John letters. It’s the same as what happens out here. They start giving away everything, they write a note, they start, they lose all affect for anything. You don’t want to be involved anymore and they withdraw. It’s a norm. [In fact, 50 percent of all prison suicides take place among the approximately 5 percent of prisoners held in solitary.]

AS: The other thing I was curious about that we talked about when we met was forced cell extractions. I don’t know if you want to talk about that, what it was like to participate in those or kind of what it looked like.

X: Basically, where we would be doing, whether it would be a fence, they would grab ahold of one of the nurses, when it was pill-passing time. They would mix up stuff, they would defecate all over their cells, they would paint the windows, so you have to be able to see, no matter what, you have to be able to see to do your count, make sure for the safety of the inmates. You have to be able to see in that cell. And they would cover the windows with feces, it was bad. And man, it stunk. But you don’t know if they were dead or what was going to go on there. If they had something they had made shanks out of. We had one inmate he took towels and kind of strapped his shanks to his hands and he was like “come and get me.” And so you have to go in, that’s just it. So a team assembles and you give them several chances to come to the grill to be cuffed and he comes down there, he’s the one giving the order, and no matter what happens before the cellie’s direction or any sort of pepper spray or anything there’s always a lieutenant there. He’s the one giving the order. I’m ordering you to inmate so and so, I’m giving you a lawful order and you need to come to the pie hole to be handcuffed. “No. Come on and get me.”

If they didn’t want to come out then be cuffed up, you have no other choice but to go in. Or you have to hit them with pepper spray. We had our teams for them with our batons and our pepper spray and everybody has a set of cuffs on them. You used to have to overpower them and take them down. I mean you came out with some bangs and bruises on you but, you got done what had to be done.

AS: How often would that happen?

X: Sometimes you may not have a cell extraction for a week or two. But normally it was probably 2 or 3 times a week. Yeah, it happened quite frequently. If you believe somebody had something in their cell, a weapon, and they wouldn’t come out, you’d have to go in and get it.

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Source: Solitary Watch, Aviva Stahl, June 28, 2016

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Situation of Iran's Minorities Raised at 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty

Public execution in Iran
ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) convened the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty on 21-23 June 2016 in Oslo, Norway, to discuss ways forward in the abolition of the death penalty. 

The event gathered around 1000 participants (ministers, diplomats, parliamentarians, academics, lawyers and members of civil society), among which Ms Monireh Shirani (Balochistan Human Rights Group, Sweden) who presented her view on the state of death penalty among migrants and minorities in Iran. 

Baloch, Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks and Turkmen are being systematically discriminated against and have less access to legal resources to defend themselves than the rest of the population, which results in minorities being the most threatened by executions. 

Iran is currently among the top countries when it comes to the number of executions in the past 5 years.

Below is the speech of Ms Monireh Shirani:

Ethnic minorities have long suffered discrimination as they have been viewed with suspicion and considered outsiders or foreign conspirators. The Amnesty report for 2015-16 states that "Iran's disadvantaged ethnic groups, Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen, continued to report that the state authorities systematically discriminated against them, particularly in employment, housing, access to political office, and the exercise of cultural, civil and political rights."

Executions are part of the state policy in dealing with the ethnic minorities, to punish any cultural or political act. The large-scale executions of political and ideological dissidents have resulted in Iran being in the top countries when it comes to number of executions during the last 5 years. Other reasons are that the ethnic minorities also have less access to the legal resources needed to defend themselves due to a discriminatory system, poverty, marginalization and living in militarized zone.

There is a clear over representation of the Ahwazi arabs, Baloch and Kurds on the death row and in executions. Iran executed nearly 1000 prisoners last year, the majority of these executions were prisoners' sentence to death for drug-related offenses. Under Iran's current drug laws possession of 30 grams of heroin or cocaine would qualify for the death penalty.

Iran views these number as a great victory and defends its acts because they claim that they are in a war on drugs. Some of those who were convicted for drug related offenses were actually political dissidents. In Balochistan entire adult male populations from singled out villages have been executed, the regime fully admit to this and refers to the war on drugs and drug trafficking as crimes which have to be met with mass execution. Some of them were executed without trials others had trials conducted behind closed doors, before biased judges and in absence of legal representations.

One can wonder how this is possible on a large scale.

Well, charges of act on national security and drug related offenses, are among the charges routinely used on ethnic minorities, fall within the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary court which is one for the strictest Judicial bodies.

The Revolutionary court consists of essentially closed meetings, the right of defense is ignored. The accused is not informed of his or her right to adequate defense. The right to assistance of interpretation of the proceedings in his or her mother tongue as Farsi is not the mother tongue of the ethnic minorities not given.

The family is prohibited to participate in the deliberations of the case. The courts is by law obliged to inform the accused of the verdict by sending a copy of the decision to his place of residence and from that time there is a 20 day appeal possibility. The Revolutionary court fails to follow its legal obligations and violates the accused's rights, because they don't send a copy, the family is not notified in time.

The accused are usually moved to different locations, in different regions as a strategy to isolate the accused. This places a challenge on the prisoner because it makes it hard for the family to visit and give adequate support.

In Iran there are thousands of minors in prison, often sentenced to death while underage and executed when coming to age. On the 27th of April Mohammad Sanchouli 22 years old was executed in Balochistan. He was arrested and convicted when he was 17 years old and spent 5 years in prison.

The obstacles confronted by minorities facing the death penalty is on the individual level impossible to tackle. The strategies and the ambiguity of the system is difficult for the individual and his/her family to overcome. Rather than finding reasonable evidence for the commission of a crime, judges generally rely on confessions, which have often been coerced through physical and psychological torture. Iranian television continue to broadcast self-incriminating testimonies of ethnic minority detainees even before their opening trial, undermining their fundamental rights of defendants to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Last year in Ahwaz 5 prisoners were arrested in April and on in June they were brought in front of state TV by the Ministry of Information to make public confessions. These public confessions are frequent used when lack of evidence. For example in 2012 in Balochistan ten people were arrested for an assassination.

Confessions were broadcast on state TV. Some of them received long sentenced others were sentenced to death. A few years after the security forces arrested another 18 people for the same crime for which the people in 2012 had been tried and convicted for.

Most of the minority prisoners have been arbitrary arrested. We have cases of security forces raiding homes and arresting people without warrants. In Ahwaz last year more than 75 people were arrested after a demonstration and for months their whereabouts were unknown to their families.

"Waging war against God" (Moharebeh) enmity against God is one of the leading charges used by the Iranian regime to justify the inhuman executions of ethnic minorities groups in Iran. Other common charges against minorities sentences to death are charges of corruption on earth (Mofsid fil-arz), drug related offences and acts against national security. Another vulnerable group is religious minorities such as the Bahai who are also usually charged with espionage and acts against national security.

A few weeks ago, the Iranian government executed 5 Kurdish prisoners in the northwestern city of Urmia. They were hung publicly on charges of "conspiring against the Islamic Republic of Iran". They were human rights activists who used to document violations by security forces against civilians in the Kurdish city of Urmia. The regime is quick to state examples by using public hangings to discourage any form of activity in the regions. Many of these hangings take up to 20 minutes, a slow and painful death. The body is often left for a time before removed from the scene.

We the diaspora and the civil society living outside Iran depend on the United Nations as a tool to challenge the ongoing oppression in Iran. The UN's office on drugs and crime, the anti-drug agency has a multi-million dollar funding package, which includes EU money, for Iran's counter narcotics trafficking program. Iran's war on drugs have not resulted in the population being less addicted to drugs but rather resulted in mass executions of ethnic minorities. The international community needs to raise concern over the lack of the administration of justice in this war on drugs.

This money should be conditional and the UN should demand that the capital punishment for drug related offense not be used, put pressure on the country to give the accused a fair trial and access to judicial system. The UN should at least demand that the Special rapporteurs be given access to the country as a condition.

The strategy is to continue to work against the death penalty. To work with wide networks of law makers, lawyers, NGO's and activists to create new strategies towards universal abolition of the death penalty.

Other tactics to challenge the status quo is Social media and media. Iran does not expose its execution records, it's quite hard to obtain full court records. Bridging the information gap is key. In Zahedan prison in April 8 men were executed. We still don't know the full identity of five of them. The civil society outside as well as in side Iran plays an important role in creating records and bring the information out. The state TV often dehumanize ethnic minorities in national media, promoting a discourse of uncivilized, barbaric, drug lord and illiterate people living in dangerous areas. People in the central part never see the regions of the minorities and so the only information that they have of us is the state's portrayal. That's why media coverage to is important so that the state narrative can be challenged.

Source: unpo.org, June 28, 2016

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Arkansas judge criticizes secrecy in U.S. executions

An Arkansas judge who last year declared unconstitutional a law that allows the state to keep confidential the source of drugs used for execution by lethal injection has lamented a 5-4 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court reversing his ruling.

In a breakout session on the death penalty at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly June 24, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen said that since the Supreme Court upheld the use of capital punishment for certain crimes, the death penalty debate has shifted to whether specific execution procedures satisfy the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

"How it's being done now is we'll make sure it's nice by making sure it's secret so you don't know how barbaric it is," said Griffen, who also serves as pastor of CBF-affiliated New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark. Griffen said legal action surrounding capital punishment now focuses on "seeking to discover the chemicals that are being used to put people to death and discover where they are coming from."

The day before the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a state law that allows for the type, manufacturers and sellers of drugs used for lethal injections to be kept confidential. The law is designed to ensure the state can find a place to buy the drugs in a market where pharmaceutical companies are rapidly withdrawing from the lethal injection trade.

Not only are inmates on death row not entitled to know who is selling the drugs, Griffen said, they also cannot find out the qualifications of the individuals who will administer them.

"If you want to euthanize your dog, you know that under your state only the people who have certain credentials can put your dog down," Griffen said at the CBF workshop. "If you want to euthanize your neighbor - if you want to kill your neighbor in the name of the state - I 10-time double-dog dare you to find out the qualifications of the person who is doing it."

"As a matter of fact, there is no requirement that the state tell you, and they have an affirmative obligation to not disclose that," the judge continued. "It is amazing. One would call it irony, but it's too nice a word."

Pfizer, the world's 2nd-largest drug company adopted distribution controls in March to prevent its drugs from reaching execution chambers across the United States.

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve," the company said in a statement. "Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment."

Reprieve, a New York-based human rights organization, said in May that all 25 FDA-approved manufacturers of potential execution drugs now have blocked their sale for use in capital punishment.

The ruling by the Arkansas high court clears the way for the execution of 8 people on death row whose lives were extended by Griffen's temporary restraining order last Oct. 9. One of the state's execution drugs expires before the Supreme Court decision goes in effect, however, and the supplier has told officials it would not supply any more.

Source: baptistnews.com, June 27, 2016

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Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte calls human rights activists and opponents of the death penalty “stupid”

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
During a speech Monday, Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte — who has sworn off interviews with the press — reiterated his support for capital punishment as a retaliatory measure and not a deterrent, disparaging human rights activists and opponents of the death penalty as “stupid.”

“I believe in retribution. Why? You should pay. When you kill someone, rape, you should die,” Duterte said in a speech Monday in Davao City, where he was mayor for two decades before winning the presidency this year and has been succeeded by his daughter, Sara Duterte. “These human rights (groups), congressmen, how stupid you are,” he added, promising to restore the death penalty. “He promised that tens of thousands of people would die, with security forces being given shoot to kill orders,” Agence France-Presse notes.

“When they describe or characterise a human rights violator, these fools make it appear that the people you kill are saints, as if they are pitiful or innocent,” he said of human rights activists and United Nations officials who have publicly reprimanded Duterte for his repeated promises to kill as many violent criminals as possible and offer police who perform extrajudicial killings legal protection.

Duterte won the presidency by a wide margin in early May, campaigning on his record as mayor. Davao City remains one of the few safe places on the southern island of Mindanao, home to the nation’s largest Muslim population and jihadist gangs like Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Following his victory, he has repeatedly vowed to increase the number of drug suspects killed by law enforcement.

On Saturday, Duterte vowed to kill not only drug traffickers, but drug addicts. “If I couldn’t convince you to stop, I’ll have you killed… if you’re into drugs, I’m very sorry. I’ll have to apologize to your family because you’ll surely get killed.” he said in a speech, adding, “the problem is once you’re addicted to shabu [methamphetamine], rehabilitation is no longer an option.” The Philippines website Rappler notes that at least 54 drug suspects have been killed since Duterte won the presidential election.

In addition to insisting on the return of capital punishment, Duterte has asserted that he prefers hanging to more expensive forms of execution. “I’m asking for re-imposition of death penalty so that I can hang them,” he said last week, arguing that the influence of drugs “reduced human beings into bestial state [sic].”

He also reiterated in different remarks last week that he neither believes that capital punishment deters criminals, nor does he believe deterrence is a relevant issue in reviving the practice. “Death penalty to me is the retribution. It makes you pay for what you did,”he stated clearly.

In the same speech, to police, he said, “If you kill 1,000, tell them it was ordered by Duterte. Period. I will deal with everybody.”

In response to Duterte’s repeated calls for the execution of drug criminals, leading drug traffickers have placed a million-dollar bounty on Duterte himself. He has responded by offering government-sanctioned bounties available to civilians if they killed the drug lords placing a bounty on his head. “If he (drug lord) puts P50 million for my life, I will put P60 million. Kill him. No questions asked. We can match each other’s price,” Duterte said last week.

Duterte also bizarrely stated on Monday that he would not run for president again if he knew that he would win. “You know, if I can go back in time, I would decide not to run for president. Honestly, swear to God. If this is just a bad dream, I hope it is,” he said Monday, “during his final flag ceremony as mayor of Davao City.” He added a protest that his salary is not enough to maintain his common-law wife and pay his ex-wife alimony.

While Duterte has given speeches this month, he has not entertained questions from the media sine early June. “I won’t grant interviews. Sorry. It’s really a boycott,” he announced, adding the boycott would lift when his six-year term as president was over.

Duterte will be inaugurated into office on Thursday, June 30.

Source: breibart.com, Frances Martel, June 27, 2016

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Clock Ticks as Indonesian Execution Spree Looms

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo
Hope and Hypocrisy: Despite fighting for the freedom of hundreds of its own citizens facing the death penalty abroad, Indonesia looks set to carry out a spate of executions of foreign nationals. Can international and local activists force the populist Jokowi administration to change its course?

Sixteen executions are expected to soon take place in Indonesia, and most of the people are foreigners convicted of drug crimes.

Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, says Indonesia’s “tragically misguided and wrongheaded” policy could see more than 40 people executed by the end of 2017.
“We are greatly concerned because the Indonesian government has made it clear that as soon as Ramadan is over, in early July, they will begin executions again,” Kine told The News Lens International.

Indonesia had a de-facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty until 2013, and human rights activists blame President Joko Widodo (often referred to as Jokowi) and his "War on Drugs" for restarting capital punishment.

“What we’ve seen since Jokowi took office in late 2014, is he has made the execution of convicted drug traffickers a signature policy issue,” Kine says. “He refers to this as ‘shock therapy’ for what he perceives as an emergency facing Indonesia.”

Diplomatic backlash or backlash to diplomacy?

Indonesia faced intense international criticism last year after it carried out 14 executions; ambassadors left Jakarta in protest and Brazil refused the credentials of an incoming Indonesian ambassador.

Nithin Coca, a freelance writer and social activist, says only in the case of Mary Jane Veloso – the Filipino woman who escaped execution at the eleventh hour last year – did international lobbying efforts make a “discernable impact.”

“I don’t think the current administration cares that much what the international perception of their policies are,” says Coca, who shares his time between the U.S. and Indonesia. “I think [international lobbying] had a reverse impact, domestically at least.”

Amid criticism, “especially from Australia,” Indonesians “became more nationalistic and more pro-death penalty than they would have had there been no international outcry,” he says.

Further, he suggests that Indonesians are “very cognizant of hypocrisy” – Indonesians are executed in other countries with worse capital punishment records each year, but “the world doesn’t care.”

“There is this idea, because they are westerners [facing execution], now all of a sudden you care. But if it is an Indonesian or someone else from a developing country, you don’t really care.”

Kine says although there is a perception that international pressure doesn’t work, the criticism last year has “stung the Indonesian government.”

“The biggest blowback, and the greatest pressure that the Jokowi administration has had, has been from close bilateral partners whose citizens have been executed despite strenuous diplomatic efforts to commute those death sentences,” he says.

“After the peak of that pressure in March-April, 2015, when that last spree of executions occurred, the government paused and went silent on this death penalty issue. It has only been in recent weeks where it has suddenly reemerged.”

Nationalism and the 'War on Drugs'

Using the death penalty on foreign nationals involved in drug trafficking appears to be popular among the electorate and is being used by politicians riding a wave of patriotism across the archipelago.

Coca says there has been renewed nationalism in Indonesia under the Jokowi administration. He points to Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, who has been promoting an aggressive defense of Indonesia’s maritime territory.

“She’s incredibly popular,” Coca says. “She’s probably the most popular politician in the country right now.”

Pudjiastuti’s confrontational rhetoric, Coca says, is “more for PR and more for show” than a sign of effective policy. Capital punishment in the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ is used similarly to portray an “image of power.”

“The executions are not going to help actually stop the drug problem; they are really a show of force to demonstrate the government is doing something,” he says.

Polls and surveys show a large number of Indonesians favor the death penalty, Kine says.

“You could debate why that is the case, but the fact is that reflex pursuit of some kind of ‘justice’ through the death penalty is not based on the facts, science and international law,” he says.

Twelve of the 14 drug offenders last executed in Indonesia were foreigners. This February, Widodo said drug abuse “tops the list” of Indonesia’s major problems.

Coca says the statement was “ridiculous,” considering the country has challenges across electricity and infrastructure, education and literacy, and the environment, among others.


Source: The News Lens, Edward White, June 28, 2016


Joko would order cops to shoot drug dealers if the law allowed

Indonesian President Joko Wid­odo has called on police to “smash” drug dealers, and said he would order them to “shoot them on sight if existing law allowed it”.

In language reminiscent of the hard-line position taken by The Philippines’ president-elect, Rodrigo Duterte, Jokowi (as he is known) said: “If (shooting on sight) were allowed by the law then I would have ordered the ­National Police and the BNN chief to do so, but luckily it is not.

“This extraordinary crime has affected not only adults, but also elementary school and kindergarten-aged children,” he said in comments reported by the Jakarta Globe yesterday to mark the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Indonesia drew international criticism last year when it exec­uted 14 death-row prisoners, most of them foreigners convicted of drug offences.

Among those put to death were Australian Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, despite strong protests from Canberra and supporters who said the two men had amply demonstrated their rehabilitation during their imprisonment.

Clock Ticks as Indonesian Execution Spree Looms
Clock Ticks as Indonesian Execution Spree Looms
Two foreign nationals, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, and Filipino domestic worker Mary Jane ­Veloso, were spared at the 11th hour, however, following appeals from their governments.

The Indonesian government has flagged its intention to execute a further 18 death-row drug convicts after the Islamic holiday of Idul Fitri on July 6, as well as a further 30 next year, and has already made provision for them in the budget.

But Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan has vowed there will be no repeat of the “soap opera” surrounding last year’s executions of convicted drug traffickers, and there would be just three days’ ­notice given before the prisoners faced the firing squad.

About 60 prisoners of a total 152 currently on death row in ­Indonesia have been convicted for drug offences. Among them are two British citizens, Cheltenham grandmother Lindsay Sandiford and Gareth Cashmore, 36.

Jokowi has previously ­described the drug problem as a national emergency, citing statistics suggesting up to 5.1 million people of Indonesia’s total 250 million population (2 per cent) are chronic drug abusers.

Mr Duterte, who takes office in The Philippines on June 30, vowed to kill all drug dealers and feed their bodies to the fish in ­Manila Bay during his election campaign and has since said he will allow police to shoot to kill drug dealers.

Philippines’ National Police spokesman Wilben Mayor last week said that since Mr Duterte’s election victory on May 9, more than 40 drug suspects had been killed, compared with 39 deaths recorded in the four months preceding the election.

Late last week Adelaide man Damian John Berg was arrested in Manila for allegedly selling ­ecstasy in a police “buy-bust” raid.

Source: The Australian, Amanda Hodge, June 28, 2016

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