Thursday, October 30, 2014

Asia Bibi's death penalty: A test case for human rights in Pakistan

The lawyers of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, are set to appeal against her death penalty in the Supreme Court. Activists say the case will serve as a test for human rights in Pakistan.

Asia Bibi has been languishing in prison for more than five years. The 49-year-old mother of 5 was arrested in June, 2009 after her neighbors complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam's Prophet Mohammed. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the Islamic Republic's controversial blasphemy law despite strong opposition from the national and international human rights groups.

The slim hope that the Pakistani judiciary might pardon Bibi and eventually release her was dashed earlier this month when the Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled to uphold her 2010 death sentence.

"We are utterly disappointed, but we will file a review petition against the LHC decision in the Supreme Court," Asia Bibi's lawyer Naeem Shakir told reporters after the October 16 verdict. Shakir is still hopeful that the country's highest court will grant Bibi amnesty.

Bibi's family members are hoping for a presidential pardon.

Others are not so hopeful.

Imran Nafees Siddiqui, an Islamabad-based civil society activist, says that the South Asian country's civil society should keep building pressure on the government and the courts irrespective of the legal outcome.

"[The blasphemy law] is a man-made doctrine and not a divine revelation. The rights group should continue to demand Bibi's freedom. The media should also play an active role," Siddiqui told DW. "The public opinion carries a lot of weight and can also influence courts' decisions. We have to create an alternative narrative to defeat the extremist discourse in the country. It is a test case for the rights of minorities in Pakistan," he added.

International condemnation

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) has also come out in Bibi's defense. On Monday, October 27, the WCC's general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit issued a statement expressing his concern over the rejection of Bibi's appeal against the capital punishment.

"The alleged circumstances of the incident which led to the blasphemy charges against Asia Bibi are highly questionable, and the imposition of the death penalty in this case is totally inappropriate," said Tveit, adding that apart from the issues of religious freedom, the charges, ongoing imprisonment and threat of execution seemed to have infringed Bibi's basic human rights.

The leaders of Pakistan's Christian community have also expressed alarm and sorrow over the LHC ruling.

There have been demonstrations for Asia Bibi all over the world, including in Pakistan

But all this condemnation is not sufficient to convince the supporters of the blasphemy law. Fareed Ahmad Pracha, a leader of Pakistan's right-wing political party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, disagrees with the critics of the legislation and says the actual problem is not with the law but with its interpretation.

"We just want to say that the law should be enforced properly, there should not be any change made into the blasphemy law. We will not tolerate or accept this. If you make way even for a single change in the law, then there will be a number of changes, whereas there has never been a case where anyone has been punished," he emphasized.

Call for repeal of the law

There is evidence to support Pracha's claim. Although hundreds have been convicted of blasphemy, nobody in Pakistan has ever been executed for the offense. Most convictions are retracted after the accused makes an appeal. However, angry mobs have killed people accused of desecrating the Koran or Islam.

Controversial blasphemy laws in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim, were introduced by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say they are often implemented in cases which have little to do with blasphemy however. They are used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis are often victimized as a result.

A few months after Bibi's conviction, Salman Taseer, a former governor of the central Punjab province, was murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri said he had killed Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy laws and in support of Bibi.

In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's former minister for minority affairs, was assassinated by a religious fanatic for the same reason.

Farzana Bari, director of Center for Women's Studies at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University, believes discrimination will persist unless there is radical change. "It is high time that the government reform the blasphemy law," she said to DW. "These laws are against the spirit of Islam and are a cause of notoriety for the country."

Religious discrimination in Pakistan is not a new occurrence but it has increased considerably in recent years. Pakistan's liberal sections are alarmed by the growing influence of religious extremists in their country. Rights activists complain that the Islamists enjoy state patronage, while on the other hand liberal and progressive voices have to face the wrath of the country's security agencies.

Source: Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2014

North Korean officials 'publicly executed for watching South Korean soap operas'

North Korea has reportedly publicly executed at least 50 people this year, including several party officials for watching soap operas.

According to South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS), Pyongyang has purged about 10 officials from Kim Jong-un's Workers' Party for watching South Korean soaps.

The officials, who also faced charges of bribery and womanising, were thought to be close to Kim's executed uncle, Jang Song-thaek, Yonhap news agency reported.

All television and media is under strict state control and access to the internet is limited but despite a harsh crackdown, banned foreign shows and films have been gaining popularity in recent years.

Some are believed to be secretly streamed over the internet, while others are smuggled into the country on DVDs, video cassettes of memory sticks sold on the black market.

A North Korean defector calling himself "Mr Chung" revealed North Korea's preferences in a Channel 4 documentary last year.

He smuggles radios, USB sticks and DVDs of soap operas and entertainment shows into the North, posing as a mushroom importer.

"The men prefer watching action films," he said. "Men love their action films! I sent them Skyfall recently. The women enjoy watching soap operas and dramas.

"The more people are exposed to such media the more likely they are to become disillusioned with the regime and start wanting to live differently."

A group of activists in South Korea led by another defector from the North send satchels containing anti-regime flyers, noodles, $1 bills and USB sticks containing South Korean soap operas over the border attached to balloons.

North Korea forbids its 24 million people from watching foreign broadcasts and videos out of fear outside influence could undermine the dictatorship's ideology.

Anyone caught smuggling them in or distributing illicit material can be executed for crimes against the state and viewers have reportedly been sentenced to years in prison camps or hard labour.

A similar purge was reported last year, when around 80 people were said to be executed for watching South Korean television shows in November.

In the eastern port of Wonsan, the authorities gathered 10,000 people in a sports stadium to watch the execution of 8 people by firing squad, JoongAng Ilbo reported.

It is not known whether the most recent group of officials executed include the 6 reported missing earlier this month.

Kim recently sparked global speculation over power struggles and even a coup by disappearing from public view for 40 days.

South Korean spies have since claimed the leader is recovering following an operation to remove a cyst from his right ankle, although there is a chance the condition could recur because of his weight.

Source: The Independent, October 29, 2014

Iran: Hassan Rouhani’s government endorses Reyhaneh Jabbari’s execution

Reyhaneh Jabbari
NCRI – The government of Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, on Wednesday, endorsed the brutal execution of 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari and rejected worldwide condemnation of her hanging as “meddling in a judicial case.”

Despite the international calls to spare her life, the Iranian regime hanged Reyhaneh Jabbari at dawn on Saturday, October 25 in Gahrdasht prison outside Tehran after she had spent seven years behind bars.

“Meddling in a judicial case which has gone through full legal proceedings under the due process of law and in which the right of appeal has been granted is unacceptable,” Hassan Rouhani’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman - Marzieh Afkham - said on Wednesday.

Ms. Jabbari was arrested for defending herself against the aggression of an official of the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

All evidence indicates that the criminal execution of Ms. Rayhaneh Jabbari, after seven and a half years of incarceration and torture and despite widespread protests and international calls, was politically motivated and that this execution was unlawful even in the framework of mullahs’ medieval laws.

Amnesty International condemned her execution and declared that “the execution of Iranian Reyhaneh Jabbari who was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation and trial is an affront to justice (…) This is another bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record”.

Mrs. Jabbari’s resistance and refusal to give in to the pressures of the suppressive agents and her refusal to succumb to their dictated demands doubled the mullahs’ regime’s anger towards her.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, hailed the perseverance of Reyhaneh Jabbari and offered her sympathy to her bereaved family.

Mrs. Rajavi called for an independent international probe into Reyhaneh Jabbari’s execution as an example of arbitrary, extrajudicial and criminal death sentences that have taken on added dimensions since Rouhani’s tenure.

Source: NCRI, October 30, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

India: Decks cleared for Nithari killer's execution

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for the execution of Nithari serial killer Surinder Koli after it dismissed his plea seeking review of the judgment upholding death penalty.

A Bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri dismissed the review petition after hearing Ram Jethmalani, who argued that there was gross miscarriage of justice as Koli had been falsely implicated in the case.

Mr. Jethmalani argued that Koli was convicted only on the basis of his own confession, which could not be relied upon.

"1 innocent life is more important than anything else. I am shocked that such a thing can happen in the judiciary as the prosecution had completely suppressed a vital document, viz. the autopsy report of a surgeon, which is a piece of evidence to prove Koli's innocence," he said.

Counsel pointed out that the surgeon, who performed the autopsy, was not examined during the trial.

He said it could be a case of organ trade and handiwork of a doctor, but an innocent person was being sent to the gallows.

The Chief Justice made it clear to counsel, "You are introducing new facts for the 1st time which is not permissible under the rules. We can't entertain this review petition and we dismiss it."

On September 8, the apex court stayed Koli's execution pending disposal of the review petition in an open court. On September 12, the stay was extended till Tuesday. With the dismissal of the petition, it is now open to the jail authorities to execute the death sentence.

Source: The Hindu, October 28, 2014


India Court Refuses To Review Death Penalty For Serial Killer

India's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea by a serial killer seeking review of the death sentence handed over to him.

Surender Koli, 42, was convicted of rapes and murders of young women and children at his employer's house in Delhi's Noida suburb in 2005 to 2006.

A 3-judge bench led by Chief Justice HL Dattu upheld Koli's death sentence saying they were "fully satisfied" that the supreme court had not committed any error that might persuade it to re-examine its order.

Report says Koli's last legal recourse is that of filing a curative petition, seeking a review by a larger judicial panel.

"Unless the court puts a fresh stay on his execution following the plea, Koli is likely to be hanged," it said.

Meanwhile, Koli has been sentenced to death in 5 of the 16 cases lodged against him so far.

It added that the Supreme Court, had in February, confirmed death sentence, saying "no mercy" should be shown to Koli.

President Pranab Mukherjee had also rejected his mercy plea.

Source: Leadership Nigeria, October 28, 2014

Iran: 3 Kurds and one Iranian executed in Urmia

(file photo)
3 Kurds and an Iranian citizen have been executed in the Urmia city of East Kurdistan.

The 4 people who were accused of drug sale were hanged yesterday evening. 

The 2 Kurds punished with death were identified as Resid Elizade (55) and Selahedin Melayi (37), while the name of another 44-year-old prisoner couldn't be learned. The other is reported to be an Iranian citizen from the town of Kerece.

Last Saturday, Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was hanged in a Tehran prison in Iran after being found guilty of murdering an older man in what she says was self defense. The man is said to have been trying to sexually abuse her.

An international campaign urging a reprieve has brought a temporary stay in execution, which was due to be carried out on 30 September but was postponed for 10 days, but failed to prevent the implementation of the death sentence for the young woman who -Human rights group Amnesty International said - was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation.

Source: Firat news, October 28, 2014

Somalia: Death Penalty for Apostasy Not Justifiable in Islam - Somali Scholar

"The death penalty for apostasy does not have any valid argument in Islam."
"The death penalty for apostasy does not
have any valid argument in Islam."
Garissa — Somali author Abdisaid Abdi Ismail has come under intense scrutiny after publishing a Somali language book titled "The Rule of Apostasy in Islam: Is it True?" in which he argues that there is no religious justification for killing people for apostasy.

The book sparked mixed reactions among the Somali community in Kenya and Somalia following its launch in Nairobi on September 14th.

After some clerics called for the book to be banned and burned, most Somali bookstores in Eastleigh stopped selling it, and it is now being sold "discreetly" in a few bookstores in Garissa and Nairobi as well as online, Ismail said.

Sabahi: You made the issue of apostasy your main focus. Why do you think it is so relevant now and important for Somalis to understand?

Ismail: It is a very important issue in [Muslim] society today because extremist groups are using the apostasy issue as a tool to justify their heinous and brutal killing against those who oppose their erroneous interpretation of Islam or even their political agenda.

This issue is very important for the Muslim community in general, but especially for the Somali community, because their blood is being shed on a daily basis using apostasy as a tool to justify it.

I believe the topic deserves to be discussed in a broader way in the current situation of the Muslim world. I would have liked if someone else could have written about it, but unfortunately no one has written about it and that has forced me to do it now, and I chose the Somali language so as to be able to reach Somali speaking peoples in East Africa and throughout the world at large.

Sabahi: Is death an adequate punishment for apostasy and in line with Islamic teachings?

Ismail: I have been researching the issue of apostasy for a while, comparing the various perspectives and the evidences that each extremist group is using and what the Qur'an and the teachings of the prophet said about it.

What my findings led me to conclude is that the death penalty for apostasy does not have any valid argument in Islam even though it has been used for centuries for political purposes by ruling elites in successive historical Muslim regimes as a form of treason for Muslims who left the religion, because religion was an all-encompassing identity for people at the time.

Sabahi: What does your research say is the correct punishment for apostasy according to Islam?

Ismail: Based on scholarly review of the religious teachings, my view regarding apostasy is that there is no punishment for apostasy in this world. The punishment is in the hereafter and it is between the individual and God.

Freedom of religion and beliefs are some of the basic human rights and no one has a right to interfere with what others believe. Diversity and different ideas and opinions are very crucial for co-existence, coherence and development of any society.


Source: allAfrica, October 27, 2014

Missouri: Mark Christeson granted stay of execution

Mark Christeson
Mark Christeson
The US supreme court has halted the execution of a Missouri man who killed a woman and her two children, with judges citing concerns that his legal counsel was ineffective.

Mark Christeson, 35, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection at 12.01am on Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre before the late stay of execution was issued. Missouri corrections department spokesman Mike O’Connell said the next move would be decided in court.

Jennifer Merrigan, one of Christeson’s attorneys, declined comment.

The appeal to the supreme court raised several concerns about legal counsel Christeson has received over the years, including the failure of some of his attorneys to meet a 2005 deadline to file for an appeal hearing before a federal court. It is uncommon for someone to be executed without a federal court appeal hearing.

The high court denied a second appeal challenging the state’s planned use of a made-to-order execution drug produced by an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

Christeson would have been the ninth man executed in Missouri this year, matching an all-time high for the state set in 1999.

When he was 18, Christeson and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, came up with a plan to run away from the home outside Vichy where they were living with a relative. A plot to steal a Ford Bronco escalated into the rape and murder of its owner, Susan Brouk, 36, and the murder of her 12-year-old daughter Adrian and nine-year-old son Kyle.

Christeson and Carter drove to California, selling household items stolen from Brouk along the way. They were eventually arrested eight days after the killings.

Carter was sentenced to life in prison without parole after agreeing to testify against Christeson.

Source: The Guardian, October 29, 2014

North Korea: Kim Jong-Un purged 10 officials among fears they have been executed

Kim Jong-Un
Kim Jong-Un
October 28, 2014: South Korea's Yonhap News agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had purged about 10 officials of his ruling Workers’ Party for watching South Korean soap operas. Yonhap did not specify how or when the action was taken.

North Korea has expanded prison camps and increased public executions, with about 50 people executed this year by firing squad, Yonhap said.

The alleged purge follows what Kim described as the removal of "Factionalist filth" in December 2013 when he executed his own uncle Jang Song Thaek and other prominent figures in the capital Pyongyang.

“Kim Jong-un is trying to establish absolute power and strengthen his regime with public punishments,” Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said by phone.

On 23 October 2014, South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo had reported that six high-ranking officials had not attended important events for several weeks – prompting fears they have been killed. A well-informed source said an extensive purge took place in the North’s cabinet including the minister of post and telecommunication. “I received reliable intelligence that six minister-level officials were executed,” he told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The ministers feared to have been put to death on the orders of the North Korean dictator includes: Sim Chol-ho, the telecommunication minister; Ma Won-chun, a prominent architect and construction official; General Ri Pyong-chol; Chang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee; and Ri Yong-gil, chief of the General Staff of the North Korean People's Army.

Aidan Foster-Carter, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea at Leeds University, said JoongAng Ilbo is South Korea's most reputable daily paper, making reports of a purge more credible. He added: "Unlike too many western media sources on North Korea, its agenda is serious rather than tabloid. So a purge is plausible. At this stage I am reluctant to go further. Two months is not long to be absent – remember Kim Jong-un disappeared himself recently.”

Sources: JoongAng Ilbo, October 23, 2014; bloomberg.com, Hands Off Cain, October 28, 2014

Texas executes Miguel Paredes

Miguel Paredes
Miguel Paredes
Huntsville, TX - A former San Antonio gang member was executed Tuesday evening in Huntsville, Texas for his part in a 2002 triple slaying.

Miguel Paredes, 32, was convicted along with 2 other men in the September 2000 slayings of three people with ties to the Mexican Mafia.

The victims' bodies were rolled up in a carpet, driven about 50 miles southwest, dumped and set on fire. A farmer investigating a grass fire found the remains.

Paredes was pronounced dead at 6:54 p.m. CDT, 22 minutes after being injected with a lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital. The execution was delayed slightly to ensure the IV lines were functioning properly, said Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. The procedure calls for 2 working lines.

Normally needles are placed in the crease of an inmate's arms near the elbows, but in Paredes' case, prison officials inserted IV lines into his hands.

As witnesses entered the death chamber in Huntsville, Paredes smiled and mouthed several kisses to 4 friends watching through a window and repeatedly told them he loved them. He told everyone gathered that he hoped his victims' family members would "let go of all of the hate because of all my actions."

"I came in as a lion and I come as peaceful as a lamb," Paredes said. "I'm at peace. I hope society sees who else they are hurting with this."

As the drugs began taking effect, he took several deep breaths while praying. He started to snore and eventually stopped.

No friends or relatives of the victims attended Paredes' execution. Cain's family said in a statement afterward that Cain was "no longer with us for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Our family has waited 14 years for justice to finally be served," the statement said.

The execution was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a last-day appeal from attorneys who contended Paredes was mentally impaired and his previous lawyers were deficient for not investigating his mental history.

Miguel Angel Paredes was convicted for the shooting deaths of Adrian Torres, 27; his 23-year-old girlfriend, Nelly Bravo; and Shawn Michael Cain, 23. Their burned bodies were found in nearby Frio County.

Two co-defendants, John Anthony Saenz and Greg Alvarado, were also convicted in the deaths. Bexar County prosecutors claimed the 3 were settling a drug debt with Torres when the murders occurred.

Paredes told the San Antonio Express-News he and his fellow Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos associates met up with Torres, a member of a rival gang, the Mexican Mafia, to confront him about threats he had made.

Paredes, who was 18 at the time of the murders, was the only 1 of the 3 defendants sentenced to death. Saenz was found guilty of capital murder but sentenced to life in prison. Alvarado pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence.

On Monday, Paredes' lawyer, David Dow of Houston, asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to stay the execution while it considered an appeal Dow also filed on Monday.

In the appeal, Dow argued that another appellate attorney failed to investigate whether Paredes was taking psychiatric medication when he waived his right to challenge his sentence based on ineffective trial counsel.

Paredes becomes the 10th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas, and the 518th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Paredes becomes the 279th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001. With no other lethal injections scheduled this year, the annual total will be the lowest since 3 were carried out in 1996. But at least 9 are scheduled for early 2015, including 4 in January.

Paredes becomes the 31st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1390th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. 

Sources: Texas Tribune, Twitter, AP, Rick Halperin, October 28, 2014


Inside the mind of a San Antonio man on death row: Condemned man finds art as release

Miguel Angel Paredes, who is set to be executed Tuesday for a gang-sanctioned triple slaying in San Antonio, said during a death row interview with the Express-News last week that he has turned to artwork over the past 13 years while waiting for his sentence to be carried out.

He has created sketches ranging from portraits of lions, puppies and dolphins to more haunting imagery, such as a man strapped to a death chamber gurney - arms outstretched, the IV line in place, with an angel in 1 witness box and the devil in the other.

Paredes, now 32, was convicted in 2001 of the capital murders a year earlier of Nelly Esmerelda Bravo, 23, her boyfriend and Texas Mexican Mafia member Adrian Torres, 27, and Shawn Michael Cain, 32. Paredes leveled a handgun to the head of Bravo as she begged for her life, ignoring her pleas, according to witness testimony at his trial.

When the shot to her head wasn't fatal, Paredes fired a shotgun at her chest. Co-defendants Greg Alvarado and John Anthony Saenz - who, like Paredes, were members of the Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos prison gang - are both serving life sentences.

Paredes said he is remorseful for the slayings.

"All that gang life folklore, the romanticism, it's crap," he said. "As long as one kid sees beyond all that crap because of my situation, that's fine."

READY TO DIE

Paredes was 18 at the time of the killings and was jailed as a minor for murder. His co-defendants received life sentences.

Paredes told the San Antonio Express-News he was ready to die for his crimes.

"For me, what matters is that people really get to see the reality of the death penalty, that it's affecting people that are invisible, like my son, my loved ones, my family. They're the ones really carrying that burden," he told the paper in an interview published over the weekend.

Sources: mysanantonio.com & Reuters, October 27, 2014

Related article:
- "Death Watch Journals from Arnold Prieto and Miguel Angel Paredes" - Many of you have come to know Arnold Prieto through his regular contributions of art and writing to Minutes Before Six. Miguel Angel Paredes' artwork has also been featured here for many years. They are currently on Death Watch together at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. Miguel's execution date is set for October 28, 2014 and Arnold's is scheduled for January 21, 2015.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two beheaded in Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia beheaded a Pakistani convicted of heroin smuggling Tuesday, the interior ministry said, bringing the number executed in two weeks to four.

It said a Saudi national was also executed in a separate case, raising to 61 the number of death sentences carried out in the kingdom this year, according to an AFP tally.

Mohammed Gul Rahma of Pakistan was executed in Qatif in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing the interior ministry.

Rahma “was caught smuggling a large quantity of heroin,” SPA said.

Three other Pakistanis found guilty of heroin smuggling have also been beheaded this month, two of them in the Eastern Province.

Also on Tuesday, Mohammed bin Noun bin Nasser Al-Dhufairi of Saudi Arabia was executed in northern Jawf region for smuggling amphetamines pills, SPA said.

The interior ministry says the government “is keen on combating narcotics due to their great harm to individuals and society.”

A United Nations independent expert called in September for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said trials “are by all accounts grossly unfair” and defendants are often not allowed a lawyer.

He said confessions were obtained under torture.

Human Rights Watch expressed alarm in August at a surge in executions, which saw 19 people beheaded between in 16 days.

HRW said a number of those executed had been convicted of non-violent offenses such as drug trafficking and “sorcery,” and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as “particularly egregious.”

Moreover, Saudi judges have this year passed death sentences on five members of the country’s Shia Muslim minority for their part in pro-democracy protests.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Source: AFP, October 28, 2014

Survey Reveals How Asian Americans Feel About Death Penalty

In a recent survey of California registered voters, the National Asian American Survey found that like most Californians, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans were in favor of keeping the death penalty, with 47.1 % in favor. 

Overall, 55.9 % of Californians were in favor, with 57.3 % of non-Hispanic whites, 57.5 percent of Latinos, and 46.4 % of African Americans in favor of keeping the death penalty.

However, when asked about a federal ruling that California's death penalty law is unconstitutional because it takes so long for the state to carry out, answers were more ambivalent, with 43.8 % of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans in favor of speeding up the process and 39.4 % in favor of replacing the death penalty with life in prison.

"More AANHPIs [Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders] are undecided about the death penalty," said Paul Jung, a Law Fellow at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, "indicating that we need more community education on criminal justice issues and particularly in Asian languages."

Latinos were similarly ambivalent. Overall, 51.9 % of respondents were in favor of speeding up the process and 39.6 % were in favor of replacing with life in prison.

This issue is of historic importance to the Asian/Pacific Islander American community. "One of the first national pan-Asian movements was the campaign to free Mr. Chol Soo Lee who was wrongly convicted of a killing in 1973," said Jung. "Due to the investigative reporting by K.W. Lee and Asian-American organizing that led to the Free Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee, Mr. Lee was freed from death row in 1983."

Source: NBC news, October 27, 2014

Court in Virginia examines death row isolation policy

Typical cell on Alabama Death Row
Virginia's practice of automatically holding death row inmates in solitary confinement will be reviewed by a federal appeals court in a case that experts say could have repercussions beyond the state's borders.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria ruled last year that around-the-clock isolation of condemned inmates is so onerous that the Virginia Department of Corrections must assess its necessity on a case-by-case basis. Failure to do so, she said, violates the inmates' due process rights.

The state appealed, arguing that the courts should defer to the judgment of prison officials on safety issues. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed by Alfredo Prieto, who was on California's death row for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl when a DNA sample connected him to the 1988 slayings of George Washington University students Rachel Raver and Warren Fulton III in Reston. He also was sentenced to death in Virginia, where he has spent most of the last six years alone in a 71-square-foot cell at the Sussex I State Prison.

Some capital punishment experts say a victory by Prieto could prompt similar lawsuits by death row inmates elsewhere.

"It gives them a road map," said northern Virginia defense attorney Jonathan Sheldon, who noted that the due process claim succeeded where allegations of cruel and unusual punishment have routinely failed. "It's not that common to challenge conditions of confinement on due process grounds."

Even the state says in court papers that Brinkema's ruling "would do away with death row as it is currently operated in Virginia and numerous other states."

Andrea Lyon, a death penalty lawyer and dean of the Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana, agreed that the case could have a ripple effect nationally but said prisons would not become more dangerous as a result.

"This is not stepping on the right of prisons to make their own determination of whether or not someone needs this level of confinement," she said. "Just don't do it if there's no reason."

Lyon, who has represented 138 murder defendants, co-authored a 2005 report on Missouri's policy of "mainstreaming" death row inmates into the general prison population. She said a study of 11 years of data from that state's prison system disproves the "mythology" that death row inmates are more dangerous than other prisoners.

But where Lyon sees mythology, Virginia prison officials see sound judgment rooted in common sense and years of experience dealing with death row inmates.

"They're segregated because we see those individuals as potentially the most desperate of all offenders," state prisons chief Harold C. Clarke said in a deposition in the Prieto lawsuit. "Again, they have been sentenced to die. They have nothing to lose."

He pointed to the 1984 escape by six death row inmates who had been allowed to congregate at the since-closed maximum security prison in Mecklenburg, saying the jailbreak "could have been catastrophic" had the convicted killers not been quickly apprehended. Virginia was not automatically isolating death row inmates at the time.

Prieto is not arguing that solitary confinement should be abolished - just that the decision should be based on the same risk factors that are used to determine the security classification for the approximately 39,000 prisoners who are not facing execution. His lawyers say Prieto "likely would be assigned to less harsh conditions" if death row inmates were assessed in the same manner as other prisoners.

Under the current policy, death row inmates are allowed to leave their tiny cell only three times a week for 10-minute showers and five times a week for an hour of solitary exercise in a separate and slightly larger cell, devoid of workout equipment, that prisoners call "the dog cage." They eat every meal alone, are not eligible for work or education programs or congregational religious services, and are allowed strictly limited visitation. The inmates are allowed to purchase a small television and CD player for their cell.

Sheldon, who represents three of Prieto's fellow death row inmates, said prison officials have made some modest adjustments to Prieto's visitation and exercise privileges in response to Brinkema's ruling.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney said prison officials have "taken steps in cooperation with the plaintiff's counsel to address the judge's order, pending appeal," but she declined to provide specifics. Prieto's lawyers declined to comment.

Source: Associated Press, October 27, 2014

5 Prisoners Hanged in Northern Iran for Drug-Related Charges

5 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Rasht (Northern Iran) Saturday October 25, reported the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Gilan Province.

The prisoners who were all men were identified as "M.P." (40) charged with possession and trafficking of 31 kilograms of opium, "S.A." (43) for possession and trafficking of 14 kilograms and buying 17 kilograms of opium, "R.T." (42) for possession of 3310 grams of heroin, "M.S." (27) for possession of 3984 grams of heroin and "A.R." (50) for participation in trafficking of 3 kilograms of heroin. said the report.

Last week 4 other prisoners were hanged in the prison of Rasht convicted of drug related charges.

Source: Iran Human Rights, October 27, 2014


A prisoner hanged in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj

A man with charge of murder was hanged the same day that Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), in the morning of Saturday, 25th October, a prisoner charged with murder was executed along with Reyhaneh Jabbari by hanging in Rajai Shahr prison of Karaj.

This prisoner from ward 1 in Rajai Shahr prison whose name is Mohammad Ghorbanzadeh, was transferred to solitary confinement on Thursday 23rd October

Also on Saturday morning, another prisoner from ward 2 in Rajai Shahr prison, named Davood Gandomi, on charge of "rape" was taken to the gallows, for execution but due to a defect in his case the execution has been postponed.

Source: Human Rights Activists News Agency, October 27, 2014

Afghan soldier loses final appeal against death penalty for murdering 3 Australian troops

An Afghan soldier who murdered three Australian troops has lost his final appeal against the death penalty.

The fate of the remorseless killer, Sgt Hekmatullah, now rests in the hands of the families of those he killed and the Afghanistan's recently-elected president.

The secret judgment against Hekmatullah, which the country's Supreme Court has consistently refused to discuss, was confirmed by diplomatic and prison sources in Kabul and also by the killer himself during a jailhouse interview this month as part of a Four Corners investigation into the incident.

Hekmatullah was convicted and sentenced to death, which in Afghanistan is usually by hanging, of the murders of Lance Corporal 'Rick' Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robbie Poate as they were relaxing on a remote patrol base in Uruzgan province in late August 2012.

2 other Diggers were wounded.

The case has recently been examined in a coronial inquest in Brisbane, the 1st of its type involving the death of the 41 Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Evidence was heard about a failure to communicate a heightened risk of insider attacks, in which local forces turn their weapons against foreign mentors, to the slain men's platoon.

The finding of the inquest will be handed down at a later date.

The killer, Hekmatullah, evaded attempts to be captured after the shooting, fleeing the base and ultimately being secreted by the Taliban across the border to Pakistan. He was arrested in February 2013 and after months of interrogation, during which he said he was blindfolded and could hear English-speaking voices while being tortured, he confessed to the murders.

In December last year, he was sentenced to death, a verdict upheld later in an appeal court.

His final chance of overturning or having the sentence commuted to a lengthy prison term, was refused by the Supreme Court in a hearing some months ago.

He is imprisoned in the high-security wing of Kabul's Pul-e Charkhi jail, sharing a block with former Australian soldier, Robert Langdon, who was sentenced to 20-years jail for murdering an Afghan colleague while working as a private security guard.

Langdon, like Hekmatullah, had been sentenced to death but under a provision under Afghan law, paid his victim's family US$100,000 to offer forgiveness, which allowed the Supreme Court to commute the sentence to a prison term.

Hekmatullah has requested the families forgive him but has also vowed to kill again, saying he was inspired to kill after watching a Taliban propaganda video that showed foreign soldiers desecrating the Koran.

The relatives of Hekmatullah's victims, however, appear uninterested in any mercy.

"He showed absolutely no mercy to our boys," Pte Poate's father, Hugh told Four Corners.

"He killed them in the prime of their lives. They had done nothing to him other than befriend him and he turned around and just killed them in premeditated cold-blooded murder, so I'm rather hoping that the sentence will be carried out."

All decisions on the enforcement of the death penalty are made by Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani.

Diplomats in Kabul had believed Mr Ghani is unlikely to order the execution of any of the prisoners on death row but that view has softened in recent weeks.

Mr Ghani, to the surprise and disappointment of many of his western backers, did not intervene after his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, signed off on his last day in office on the execution of 5 men convicted of gang rape and another, of unrelated kidnapping charges.

All 6 men were hanged on October 8.

Source: The News, October 27, 2014

Photos: A Haunting Look at America’s Execution Chambers

Gallows, Department of Corrections, Smyrna, Delaware, 1991.
Gallows, Department of Corrections, Smyrna, Delaware,
1991. Delaware tore down its gallows in 2003.
Robert James Campbell, a 41-year-old Texas inmate, was supposed to die Tuesday night in a small room at the Huntsville Unit of the Texas State Penitentiary.

His would have been the first death by lethal injection since the botched execution of Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett just two weeks ago. 

Instead, he was granted a last-minute stay on his execution based on new evidence that Campbell's I.Q. was below 70, the baseline number frequently used to qualify someone for capital punishment.

His lawyers, though, initially petitioned on the grounds that Texas, like Oklahoma, does not disclose the source of the drugs used for lethal injections.

A judge rejected that plea, citing previous court rulings. But even as he said his hands were tied, he wrote in his decision that the Oklahoma case "requires sober reflection on the manner in which this nation administers the ultimate punishment."

Those reflections may come in the ghostly, eerie images of America's death chambers, collected from some of the 32 states where the death penalty is still legal. 

These rooms are empty more often than occupied. Built within prison walls, they are spare and cold and clinical. But what remains carries its own weight — a single gurney, a mirror, a clock hanging alone on a cinder block wall.

The photos in this collection are pieced together from photographers, wire services, and from prison archives.

Click here to read the full article

Source: NYMag, May 16, 2014

Nigeria releases man who barely escaped the gallows after 19 years on death row

The release of a man who spent 19 years on death row in Nigeria and was seconds away from execution last year painfully illustrates the inherent brutality and unfairness of the death penalty, said Amnesty International today.

ThankGod Ebhos was released under an order issued by the governor of Kaduna State. He had been tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal in Nigeria at the time.

Amnesty International raised questions about the fairness of military tribunals in Nigeria at the time.

"The release of ThankGod Ebhos brings great hope to the many hundreds who are languishing on death row across Nigeria," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.

"Nigeria must build on the positive step taken, immediately halt plans to carry out any more executions and move towards abolishing the death penalty once and for all. Killing inmates is not an effective way to deal with crime."

In 24 June 2013, ThankGod was seconds away from execution, when officers at Benin Prison took him to the gallows, forced him to watch 4 men being hanged and told him he was next.

The execution was halted when prison authorities realized that his death sentence required it to be carried out by firing squad, which the prison was not prepared for.

The other 4 men were executed despite an appeal pending on their cases.

"ThankGod's long ordeal shows that the death penalty has no place in the 21st century," said Netsanet Belay.

In June 2014, the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) court upheld its earlier decision to grant an injunction to restrain the government from executing Thankgod.

"The release of Thankgod in the aftermath of the decision of the ECOWAS Court on June 2014 shows the impact such a ruling can have on the desperate situation of an inmate on death row for more than 19 years and encourages litigation of such critical cases before regional courts" Jean-Sebastien Mariez, attorney at Avocats Sans Frontières France.

In 2013, 4 men were hanged in Nigeria - the 1st executions in more than 7 years.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Amnesty International calls on Nigeria to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Source: Amnesty International, October 27, 2014

The Rare Psychological Disorder That Only Affects Death Row Inmates

Typical cell on Texas Death Row (more photos here)
Imagine being told you are going to die in a month. Then it's a few hours. Then another month. You may be set free or you may be killed, and it all depends on events that are completely out of your control. How long could you stand it?

Regardless of the legality or morality of the death penalty, the process of sitting on death row, waiting to be executed, is incredibly painful. Some now argue that the protracted uncertainty, the rapidly changing execution dates, and the terrible isolation of death row, induces a form of insanity. People lose their minds, they commit suicide, and most importantly, they stop using the legal system to appeal their executions. It's called death row syndrome.

Death row syndrome is not just the result of the appeals process, but the life that people lead while they appeal. Though conditions vary widely, most death row cells are small. Many of them are roughly the size of parking spaces, and depending on the country, they can have multiple people inside them. Although some death rows are rows of open cells, allowing inmates to see and hear each other, others are a series of steel containers, so the inmates see no one.

Inmates rarely leave their cells. Most inmates are in their cells 22 to 23 hours a day. If they leave, they don't go outside. They have no contact with anyone except, occasionally, their legal representatives. Guards slide food to them through a slot.

It's not surprising that these conditions take a toll on people's minds. Death row prisoners, and prisoners who have been exonerated, often describe the way that their fellow death row inmates deteriorate over time. They describe some prisoners smearing feces on the wall and having psychotic delusions. Other prisoners hold long conversations with themselves. Many attempt suicide. Others simply sleep twenty hours a day.

Still others attempt suicide through legal means. It's not unusual for prisoners on death row to give up making appeals, and cooperate as much as they can with the execution process.


Source: io9.com, Esther Inglis-Arkell, October 27, 2014

Citing ‘surge’ in executions, UN expert voices deep concern about right to life in Iran

27 October 2014 – The human rights situation in Iran remains of deep concern, an independent United Nations expert said today, flagging issues related to the right to life, the judicial system, religious persecution, and discrimination against women.

Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, spoke to reporters in New York ahead of the presentation of his latest report to the General Assembly committee dealing with human rights issues (Third Committee) tomorrow.

“The main concerns in my report deal with issues of right to life,” he stated, adding that he has observed a “surge” in executions in the country in the past 12 to 15 months.

At least 852 individuals were reportedly executed between July 2013 and June 2014, representing an “alarming” increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years, he wrote in his report.

“The Government also continues to execute juvenile offenders,” he added. “In 2014 alone, eight individuals believed to be under 18 years of age at the time of their alleged crimes were reportedly executed.”

Mr. Shaheed also noted a “widening of the range of offenses” for which people are put to death, including economic crimes and what are clearly political activities.

As pointed out in the report, the new Islamic Penal Code that entered into force in 2013 now omits references to apostasy, witchcraft and heresy, but continues to allow for juvenile executions and retains the death penalty for activities that do not constitute most serious crimes in line with the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty such as adultery, repeated alcohol use, and drug possession and trafficking.

The expert said he was “shocked” by the execution over the weekend of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a young woman who was hanged in a Tehran prison for killing a man she said was trying to sexually abuse her.

Mr. Shaheed had raised his concerns about Ms. Jabbari’s trial with the Government on several occasions but had not received satisfactory replies.

He also cited concerns about the rights of lawyers; the right to expression, association and assembly; and extensive measures taken by the Government to restrict access to information.

Religious persecution also remains a concern, he said, noting that there are at least 300 people in detention for their religious practices.

“Of increasing concern to me is the worsening situation of women in the country,” Mr. Shaheed added, noting that, among other things, the number of women enrolled in university has decreased from 62 per cent to 48 per cent over a two-year period. Other concerns include the lack of opportunities for women in the workplace, as well as wage disparities.

Early and forced marriages are another major concern, the expert said. The legal age of marriage for girls in the country is 13 years, but girls as young as 9 years of age may be married with permission from a court.

According to the report, at least 48,580 girls between 10 and 14 years of age were married in 2011, 48,567 of whom were reported to have had at least one child before they reached 15 years of age.

Some 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were also registered between March 2012 and March 2013, of which more than 8,000 involved men who were at least 10 years older. Furthermore, at least 1,537 marriages of girls under 10 years of age were registered in 2012, which is a significant increase compared with the 716 registered between March 2010 and March 2011.

The number of registered divorces for girls under 15 years of age has also consistently increased since 2010, the report added. The Government has responded by stating that the law prohibits forced marriage, meaning that all marriages in the country are consensual.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Mr. Shaheed has not been allowed entry into Iran since he took up his post in 2011. He has prepared his reports based on numerous official Government sources, interviews with Iranians both inside and outside the country and reports sent to him by credible human rights organizations.

Source: United Nations News Centre, October 27, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Canada Condemns Execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari by “Murderous regime” in Iran

Reyhaneh Jabbari
Reyhaneh Jabbari
The government of Canada condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari the “latest victim of a murderous regime.”

The Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird released the following statement on Saturday:

“Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms Iran’s execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year old interior designer and the latest victim of a murderous regime.

“In 2009, Ms. Jabbari was convicted after a deeply flawed trial process of killing a man she claims was trying to sexually assault her. Today, Iran executed her despite international efforts to see a fair trial and justice properly served.

“The execution of Ms. Jabbari is another truly tragic example of Iran’s contempt for due process and of systemic flaws within Iran’s judicial system.

“Canada strongly believes that due process and the rule of law are fundamental to ensuring human rights and dignity. By failing to accord Ms. Jabbari due process, Iran has once again cynically demonstrated its unwillingness to live up to international human rights obligations and to respect the dignity and rights of its people. The people of Iran, and on this day particularly the family of Reyhaneh Jabbari, deserve better.”

Source: NCRI, October 26, 2014


Iran Capital Punishment Still A Major Controversy

In a world where many types of capital punishment are considered wrong, Iran's capital punishment continues to hit an all time high with people everywhere as it causes major controversy, and is still something people continue to fight against. The most recent hanging of a woman who claimed self defense has aggravated Iranian residents, human rights groups, and many citizens of other countries. As the capital punishment of hanging has been around in Iran for a long time, the way that the country goes about it seems to be a bit lenient.

On Saturday in Tehran a woman named Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed after trial for killing a man in self defense. She claimed that the man, a doctor and former intelligence agent, was trying to rape her when she attacked and killed him. Though the court stated that the evidence proved that Jabbari had planned to kill the man, as she stabbed him in the back after buying a knife two days earlier. She was sentenced to be hanged but the issue raised much concern, pulling in governments of other countries such as Germany, the United States, Britain and other European countries, who ordered the Iranian government to stop the execution as they worked to prove that the trial against the woman was fair. However, despite negations from these countries, as well as human rights groups, the Iranian government executed Jabbari by hanging.

As hanging is the form of capital punishment in the country, it has always received disapproval from other countries and human rights groups. Though hanging has previously been a form of punishment for crimes in the countries who object, such as the United States and Britain, the trials were almost always considered fair and the executions considered quick and painless. However, in Iran many executions seem to come after unfair trials, with bias, and public condemnation. The most recent sentencing of Jabbari for hanging, disgruntled human rights groups because they called it injustice to women, which Iranians have been accused of many times before. The most recent sentencing also caused quite an uproar of international complaint, as well as nationally among residents. Though the country's executions have always had a tendency to do that.

The capital punishment there still causes a major controversy because most others, who are not involved in the Iranian government, see the executions as unjust. The country has a reputation for hanging those who are innocent, have killed in self defense, or have simply angered the government though no actual crime was committed. While these rumors are speculation, as some who have been executed may have actually committed the crimes they were accused of, it always seems that when someone in Iran in sentenced to execution, residents, rights groups, and other countries start crying injustice.

Perhaps it is because they are the second leading country in the number of executions (though they may have moved up to first now with the number of executions they have been performing just in the year 2014). At any given time someone could be roaming around Iranian cities and see dead bodies hanging off the backs of cranes. These bodies, many of them, are simply executed for crimes against the government. In addition, it has been said that Iran does not often hang just 1 body at a time. Human rights groups have also had a field day with the rumors that Iran hangs men just for being gay, something that came about when 2 men were hung together, as residents claimed that they had been convicted of sodomy. A riot in the country has also broke out many times as victims scream of their innocence before their executions, leaving many residents to protest.

These images just do not paint a "just" picture and with all of the rumors that go around about the reasons why Iranians are hung, it is no wonder why people question the capital punishment there. Many say the form of punishment just seems to be a grim way for Iran to unfairly accuse and execute whoever they want. The hangings may be justified, but if they continue adding to the numbers of execution that seem to be just putting themselves in the spotlight, over their form of capital punishment, the major controversy may just continue.

Source: guardianlv.com, October 27, 2014


US Condemns Iranian Woman's Execution

The United States has condemned Iran for executing a woman convicted of killing a man to defend herself from an alleged sexual assault.

The 26-year-old woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, was hanged Saturday morning. The death penalty went ahead after the family of her alleged assailant, a former Iranian intelligence agent, refused to pardon her or accept financial compensation.

At the U.S. State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there were "serious concerns with the fairness" of the case, including reports that confessions were "made under severe duress."

Psaki said the United States condemns Iran for killing Jabbari "despite pleas from Iranian human-rights activists and an international outcry."

Jabbari said Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi was trying to rape her. She said she acted in self-defense when she stabbed him, but prosecutors said the attack was premeditated, and noted the dead man had been stabbed in the back.

The stabbing occurred in 2007. Jabbari was sentenced to death in 2009 under the Islamic principle of "an eye for an eye."

During the trial, Iran's official IRNA news agency said, there was testimony that Jabbari told a friend in a text message that she intended to kill Sarbandi, as well as alleged evidence that she purchased the knife involved only 2 days before putting it to use.

In a statement before the woman was hanged, Amnesty International said the "deeply flawed" prosecution did not appear "to have ever properly investigated" Jabbari's statement that another man present at the time of the stabbing was Sarbandi's killer.

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman said the United States joins "with those who call on Iran to respect the fair-trial guarantees afforded to its people under Iran's own laws and its international obligations."

Source: Voice of America News, October 27, 2014


Social Media Couldn't Save Reyhaneh Jabbari

A campaign to halt an Iranian woman's execution was ultimately unsuccessful.

On Saturday, Iran hanged a woman convicted of murdering a former intelligence officer she claimed had attempted to rape her - a defense the court and the man's family ultimately rejected.

IRNA, Iran's official news agency, says 27-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn Saturday for the 2007 murder. The court ruling dismissed Jabbari's claim of attempted rape, saying all evidence proved she had planned to kill Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former intelligence agent, after having purchased a knife 2 days earlier. However, the United Nations called on Iran for a retrial, saying the incident never received a full investigation and that she was denied a fair trial.

A robust campaign led by human-rights groups and prominent Iranians, which was amplified through social media, appeared to be gaining traction and it seemed for a short time that the sentence would be commuted. However, the execution was carried out after Sarbandi's family refused to pardon Jabbari or accept blood money - a possible provision under Sharia law.

"The shocking news that Reyhaneh Jabbari has been executed is deeply disappointing in the extreme," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program, in a statement. "This is another bloody stain on Iran's human rights record."

"Once again Iran has insisted on applying the death penalty despite serious concerns over the fairness of the trial," said Sahraoui.

In the U.S., the State Department took to Twitter to condemn the execution.

Source: The Atlantic, October 27, 2014

Iran: Prisoner hanged in the city of Amol

A 35-year-old man, from the city of Amol, who had been charged with murder, was hanged on Friday October 24th.

According to HRANA report quoted Roozeno, (H. S.), 35 years old from Amol city, accused with murder was hanged in A'mol prison's yard on Friday morning.

H. S. was charged in 2008 of killing his friend (D. R.) due to some moral issues.

Ali Talebi General and Islamic Revolution persecutor of A'mol city confirmed the news and said the warrant was executed on Friday morning.

Source: Human Rights Activists News Agency, October 26, 2014