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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alabama Inmate Hopes to Dodge Death for an Eighth Time

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur, who was first sentenced to death in 1983, has long imagined what could be his end: time in a so-called death cell, a choice of a last meal, the final telephone calls and then a lethal injection.

That end could come Thursday, his eighth execution date in a case that has spanned the tenures of eight Alabama governors, starting with George Wallace. If it does, it will conclude a legal odyssey that quietly became, for death penalty supporters and critics alike, a symbol of the troubles of the capital punishment system in the United States.

“It’s one of those cases in which nobody is happy,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a research group that has voiced concerns about the application of capital punishment.

“People who simply want the execution are unhappy because of the passage of time,” he said. “People who oppose the death penalty are unhappy because they don’t want Tommy Arthur executed. People who want fairness are unhappy because, despite the length of time this case has been in the courts, the process has never been fair.”

In Alabama, where 58 people have been put to death since Mr. Arthur was sentenced for the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker, the most pressing issue these days seems to be how long it takes to carry out capital sentences. If Mr. Arthur, 75, is executed on Thursday, his death will come one week after the Legislature gave final approval to a plan to reduce the length of appeals in capital cases.

“Men don’t cry, but I have,” Mr. Arthur, whose case was unaffected by the measure, said in a telephone interview from the prison that houses Alabama’s execution chamber. “I’m scared to death right now.”

Mr. Arthur confessed to one murder but was given a death sentence for a second that he insists he did not commit. In regards to the latter, the state authorities contend that Mr. Wicker’s wife, Judy, hired Mr. Arthur, her lover, to carry out the killing so she could collect an insurance payout. Ms. Wicker, who was found guilty and spent about a decade in prison before being released on parole, ultimately testified against Mr. Arthur, who was on work release from a life sentence for another killing when Mr. Wicker was murdered.

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Source: The New York Times, Alan Binder, May 24, 2017

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6 Prisoners Executed in Northeastern Iran, 3 Scheduled For Execution

Public hanging in Iran
6 prisoners were executed in 2 different Iranian prisons early (...) morning, May 24

According to the Kurdish Human Rights Network 5 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Tabriz. 

Three of the prisoners were identified as "Kazem Hajaji", "Seyed Ali Mousavi" and "Jaber Fakhri". All the 5 prisoners were convicted of murder and sentenced to qisas (retribution in kind).

The website "No to prison, no to death penalty" reported about the execution of one prisoner in the prison of Ardebil. 

The prisoner is identified as "Davoud Hamdard" and was charged with drug offences. Iran Human Rights (IHR) has confirmed the execution of Mr. Hamdard.

None of the above mentioned executions were announced by official Iranian sources.

IHR sources have reported about the scheduled execution of 1 prisoner from Rajaishahr prison of Karaj (west of Tehran). According to these sources the prisoner scheduled to be executed publicly in the coming days.

2 other prisoners identified as "Abdolkarim Shahnavazi" and "Saeed Hood" were transferred to solitary confinement in the prison of Zahedan Monday morning in preparation for execution. Both the prisoners were charged with drug offences.

It seems that the Iranian authorities have resumed the executions after a short break on the occasion of the presidential elections.

Source: iranhr.net, May 24, 2017

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Pakistan hangs 2 terrorists involved in Peshawar school massacre

Pakistan today hanged 2 hard core Taliban terrorists convicted by the military courts of their involvement in the 2014 Peshawar school massacre which left over 150 people dead, mostly students.

Pakistan Army said Atta Ullah and Taj Muhammad were active members of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and had facilitated the terrorists who attacked the Army-run school in Peshawar in December 2014.

"These terrorists were involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism, including attack on Army Public School Peshawar, killing of innocent civilians, attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan and Law Enforcement Agencies," army said.

The terrorists had been tried by military courts and had confessed to their crimes before a magistrate and trial court, it said.

Earlier in December 2015, 4 terrorists involved in the Peshawar school attack were executed in Kohat jail in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkwa province.

Military courts, which were restored in March for another 2 years after their initial 2-year term expired in January, work in secrecy due to fear of attacks by militants.

The courts were set up after a constitutional amendment following the Peshawar terror attack.

Human rights group Justice Project Pakistan says over 440 people have been executed since the Peshawar attack.

Pakistan has been fighting various extremist groups for over a decade. Militant attacks have killed tens of thousands of people.

The military courts have handed down the death penalty to more than 170 militants.

Source: Press Trust of India, May 24, 2107

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Two hanged in Malaysia: "Highly immoral and inhumane to continue with executions"

Highly immoral and inhumane to continue with executions

In the wee hours of this morning, May 24, 2017, two men had been executed at Sungai Buloh Prison - a Chinese Malaysian and Yong Kar Mun, 48 who was sentenced to death in 2009 for armed robbery.

The double execution this morning comes as a grave shock to Members of Parliament, the Malaysian Bar, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and other human rights bodies, but most importantly, the unconsolable grief of the two families who had not been notified on the exact date and time of the secretive nature of the executions of these two men.

Time and time again, lawmakers have been questioning the government in the Malaysian Parliament on the status of the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia and stressing on an immediate moratorium on the death penalty pending possible amendments to laws that warrant the death sentence as a method of punishment and revenge.

On Sept 5, 2016 a Special Task force had been formed on the abolition of the death penalty attended by MP for Ipoh Barat M Kulasegaran, Suhakam, Amnesty International, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, academicians, the Malaysian Bar Council, Home Ministry and also the National Security Council.

On March 1 this year, the cabinet was presented with the findings of a research by Roger Hood and the International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-CeLLS) by the attorney-general himself whereby the cabinet had decided and agreed that provisional amendments to Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (DDA) by including that discretionary powers be given to courts to mete out the punishment befitting the crime.

In the last Parliament sitting in April, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said cemented the fact that a memorandum from the cabinet together with the proposed amendments to the DDA 1952 will be brought again to the cabinet for further consideration. Azalina also stressed that the mandatory death penalty has proven that it is NOT a deterrent to crime.

The government has committed countless times over the years, to amend provisions in the law to grant discretionary powers to the courts on drug related offences that carry the mandatory death penalty and yet appears apprehensive in committing to see it through.

Why then the chest thump on transforming Malaysia into a nation that upholds and respects human rights when it is not serious on imposing a moratorium on all death row cases, across the board until discussions, meetings and even amendments are made?

While the attorney-general prepares the documents on the amendments of the law on the mandatory death penalty, executions are still going on in Malaysian prisons and in this year alone, Malaysia executed four people in five months.

‘Persistent lack of transparency’


The Najib Abdul Razak administration has violated international human rights standards and laws in its persistent lack of transparency in carrying out executions.

It appears that the Malaysian government is keener on executing prisoners than making just, reformist, progressive, positive changes in the law to uphold, promote, protect and defend human rights.

Until and unless Prime Minister Najib pull the brakes and halt ALL executions and impose a moratorium until law reforms have been made to safeguard the sanctity and the spirit of the right to life and human rights in Malaysia, Vision TN50 will be merely a hollow meaningless effort to transform Malaysia into a developed, progressive nation.

I urge the attorney-general, Prime Minister Najib and the PM’s Department to present the findings on the research to abolish the death penalty in the next cabinet meeting and in the same vein to propose and to impose a moratorium on ALL death row prisoners until the matter is brought to Parliament, debated and passed.

It is highly immoral, inhumane and a gross misconduct on the part of the Najib administration under the Barisan Nasional government to continue with executions on prisoners on death row when the attorney-general has not presented recommendations to the cabinet to amend laws on the mandatory death penalty.

Source: Malaysia Kini, K. Patto, May 24, 2017. The author is Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan, publicity secretary of Wanita DAP, member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Democratic Action Party.

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Editorial: In step with the Nazis?

'A grotesque display of medieval torture.'
On Tuesday, a gay couple in Aceh was punished with 85 strokes of the cane — despite protests from human rights advocates — for violating the province’s Islamic bylaw that bans homosexuality. (See YouTube video below.)

In North Jakarta on Monday, police arrested 141 men for allegedly violating the 2008 Pornography Law, which bans, among others, the provision of porn or making people “objects or models” of porn — clauses that respectively carry a maximum penalty of six and 10 years imprisonment.

For the people of Aceh, the sharia option was allowed in its 2005 international peace agreement with the government, though its bylaws remain controversial, even in the province. But the latter incident, a raid on a gym, clearly shows strong support for authorities barging in on the private realm, even without Aceh’s moral police.

The Jakarta Police were backed up by the Pornography Law, itself the product of a war between secular- and religious groups, the latter of which won the war with the tacit approval of the administration of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Critics’ fears materialized as the law, however vague, has been used by authorities and conservative parties to interfere in the private sphere, including sexuality. Sexual minorities are among the expected victims, with few sympathizers among our homophobic society — including those who recently joined shouts of, “Uphold the Pancasila,” referring to Indonesia’s state ideology, which promotes “a just and civilized humanity.”

Raids and arrests of allegedly gay people bring to mind past and present persecutions and criminalizations of sexual minorities. The most extreme example is perhaps the reportedly large portion of homosexuals among victims of the Nazi gas chambers.

Many of us think we are beyond such cruelty. Yet, the instant circulation of images of the mostly undressed men arrested in North Jakarta — being herded to police headquarters with some of their faces clearly visible — shows that Indonesians share similar homophobic sentiments with Nazi rulers. The leaked images were shared with exclamations of horror and support for the police, whom people praised for attempting to safeguard the youth and society from such “sinful” same-sex relations.

Continuous moral boosts for authorities to “protect” citizens’ morality will only endanger us as we virtually hand them a blank check to do so — just because police actions against gays are justified by the Pornography Law.

And like the Blasphemy Law, it further stigmatizes minorities, who, due to being “different,” find few effective channels to raise their voices. Religious groups claim that Indonesians, as God-fearing people, can in no way accept homosexuality. But, as Indonesia is not a religious state, authorities must keep out of the private realm, and limit religious issues to religious forums.

Following Monday’s raid, the police will need to, at least, clearly give proof of their allegations, including against the parties who allegedly made “objects of porn” out of the men. But by failing to protect the detainees’ privacy, the police are obviously riding on popularity based on widespread bigotry. Meaning, the National Police, under Gen. Tito Karnavian, have yet to safeguard the constitutional guarantee of our citizens’ basic human rights.





Source: The Jakarta Post, Editorial, May 24, 2017


Denunciations, arrests and convictions: The Nazi persecution of homosexuals


Before the storm: A gay couple photographed in Berlin in 1926. Source: Schwules Museum, Berlin.
Before the storm: A gay couple photographed in
Berlin in 1926. Source: Schwules Museum, Berlin.
The police work of tracking down suspected homosexuals depended largely on denunciations from ordinary citizens. Nazi propaganda that labeled homosexuals "antisocial parasites" and "enemies of the state" inflamed already existing prejudices. Citizens turned in men, often on the flimsiest evidence, for as many reasons as there were denunciations.

Reflecting on the dramatic rise of legal proceedings against homosexuals since 1933, Josef Meisinger of the Reich Central Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion proudly remarked in April 1937: "We must naturally also take into account the greater public readiness to report [homosexuality] as a result of National Socialist education."

Acting on the basis of these informants, the Gestapo and Criminal Police arbitrarily seized and questioned suspects as well as possible corroborating witnesses. Those denounced were often forced to give up names of friends and acquaintances, thereby becoming informants themselves. Where criminal proceedings once required a proved act, now a suggestive accusation sufficed.

During the Nazi era, some 100,000 men were arrested on violations of Paragraph 175 [criminalizing homosexuality]. Of these, nearly 78,000 were arrested during the three years between Heinrich Himmler's appointment as chief of German police in 1936 and the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The Gestapo and Criminal Police worked in tandem, occasionally in massive sweeps but more often as follow–up to individual denunciations.

Most victims were from the working class. Less able to afford private apartments or homes, they found partners in semi–public places that put them at greater risk of discovery, including by police entrapment.

As reports of the massive arrests spread, mostly by word of mouth, a pervasive atmosphere of fear enveloped Germany's homosexuals. Just as the state desired, the physical repression of a minority of homosexual men served to limit activities of the vast majority.

Of the estimated 100,000 men arrested under Paragraph 175 between 1933 and 1945, half were convicted of violating the law. Just as arrests rose precipitously after the 1935 revision of Paragraph 175, so, too, did conviction rates, reaching more than ten times those of the last years of the Weimar Republic and peaking at more than 8,500 in 1938. Prison sentences, the most common punishment in the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, varied with the sexual act involved and the individual's prior history.

For many, imprisonment meant hard labor, part of the Nazi "re–education" program. Conditions in German prisons, penitentiaries, and penal camps were notoriously wretched, and those incarcerated under Paragraph 175 faced both the brutality of the guards and the hatred of their fellow inmates.

In a small number of cases, medical experts testified that some homosexuality constituted a serious mental illness and danger to society. Under Paragraph 42b of the Reich Criminal Code, some men were institutionalized, a fate that could have disastrous consequences (including death) during the war.



New Police Taskforce to Target Indonesian Gays


Police in Indonesia’s most populous province plan to deploy a taskforce to investigate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activity, a move likely to fuel concerns of a widening crackdown on the community in the Muslim-majority country.

West Java police chief Anton Charliyan disclosed the plan on Tuesday as two gay men in the province of Aceh were publicly flogged, and days after police raided a gay club in Jakarta and distributed photos of suspects to the media.

With the exception of Aceh, homosexuality is legal in Indonesia. Activists say, however, that police targeting of consensual gay sex has shone a light on discrimination and harassment in the world’s third-largest democracy.

Indonesia’s reputation for tolerance is already under scrutiny after Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, was sentenced this month to two years in prison for blasphemy.

Responding to Sunday’s Jakarta raid, Charliyan told reporters in Bandung, the capital of West Java, a province with a population of about 47 million, that LGBT people suffered a “disease of the body and soul”.

He called on the public to report their activities.

“I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition, Charliyan said. “If there’s anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society.”

‘MORALS POLICE’


A leading LGBT activist slammed his remarks, which were confirmed in a recording provided to Reuters by journalists present when Charliyan spoke on Tuesday.

“Police have a mandate to follow the law. They are not the morals police,” said Yuli Rustinawati, chairperson of Arus Pelangi, an Indonesian LGBT activist organization.

In remarks on Wednesday, Charliyan said the police “taskforce” would include intelligence specialists and was particularly concerned with disrupting “secret parties”, the Detik news portal reported.

A national spokesman for the police, Setyo Wasisto, said the approach in West Java did not reflect a national strategy.

“It is enough for us to handle it as we do regularly,” he said.

Charliyan’s comments follow a spate of high-profile police actions against gay clubs and parties just as the country’s Constitutional Court is due to rule on a petition to outlaw homosexuality and adultery.

On Sunday, police detained 141 men and released photos of some of them in varying states of undress to the media, revealing many of their identities. Only 10 of the men have been declared suspects, five remain under investigation and 126 were released.

The police said the photos were released due to “procedural errors”, the Jakarta Post reported.

Rustinawati at Arus Pelangi said, however, the release of the images was part of a police pattern of publicly shaming of gay people.

NAMED AND SHAMED


The two Acehnese men, caned 82 times each on Tuesday, were punished in front of a crowd of more than 1,000. Semi-autonomous Aceh province is governed by sharia Islamic law.

Earlier, a video of the men, naked and distressed as they were apprehended by sharia police, was released and viewed widely on social media.

In Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya in East Java, 14 gay men were arrested, tested for HIV and the results made public, Indonesian media reported.

“The police also release data – names and addresses,” said Rustinawati. “It’s humiliating and it puts LGBT people in danger.”

On Tuesday, North Jakarta police chief Dwiyono, who like many Indonesians has only one name, took journalists through the gay club raided on Sunday. As they climbed three floors, he pointed out a gym, a communal jacuzzi used for “striptease” and a cluster of cubicles for sex.

“This door can only be opened if you pay 185,000 rupiah ($14) to the receptionist,” he said. “In here, there’s no change room, you just tear off your clothes and use a towel.”

PUBLIC DISAPPROVAL


Indonesian President Joko Widodo last year gave qualified support for the gay community, telling the BBC that “there should be no discrimination against anyone”, before noting that homosexuality is not popular in his country.

However, his defense minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu, suggested that homosexuality was a national security threat and part of a “proxy war” waged against Indonesia by foreign states.

A Pew Research Center poll in 2013 found 93 percent of respondents in Indonesia disagreed that “society should accept homosexuality”.

Indonesia’s Islamist groups have long called for the criminalisation of gay sex. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the vigilante group that led huge rallies against the now-convicted Jakarta governor, has cooperated with police in curbing alleged vice for more than a decade.

Source: coconuts.co, Tom Allard and Stefanno Reinard, May 24, 2017


Aceh promotes tourism at 2017 Bali Arts Festival and Buleleng Expo


After a successful tourism event in Yogyakarta last month, residents of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province traveled to Bali to take part in the 2017 Bali Arts Festival and Buleleng Expo that was held from May 17 to 21 in Singaraja, Bali.

“We are promoting Aceh as a halal tourist destination, or what is now called family-friendly,” said Aceh Tourism Agency head Reza Pahlevi.

Members of the Cut Nyak Dhien Meuligo studio under the mentorship of Niazah A. Hamid traveled to Bali to showcase some of Aceh’s most famous traditional dances, such as the Prang Sabil and Saman dances.

The Saman Dance was recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It was also briefly featured in British band Coldplay’s Amazing Day Global Film Project video.

The Aceh Tourism Agency also set up a booth at the Buleleng Expo involving two travel agencies: Aceh Great Wall Tour and Asoe Nanggroe Wisata. The two of them sold tourist packages and local products such as coffee, traditional costumes and souvenirs.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said that the halal tourism market has experienced growth since 2014. Of the estimated global population of 7.5 billion people, around 1.6 billion are Muslim and 60 percent of them are below 30 years old.

“The total spending of Muslim tourists in the world is US$143 billion, almost equal to the spending of Chinese tourists of $160 billion,” said Arief Yahya.

Source: Jakarta Post, May 22, 2017

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UN human rights watchdog orders Saudi Arabia to stop executing children

People over 15-years-old in the Kingdom are tried as adults and can be executed

The United Nations has called on Saudi Arabia to repeal laws that allow stoning, amputation, flogging and execution of children.

Children over 15 years are tried as adults and can be executed, "after trials falling short of guarantees of due process and a fair trial", according to the report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The committee's 18 independent experts analysed the kingdom's compliance record with a UN treaty protecting the rights of citizens under the age of 18.

Experts voiced concern that the Saudi government "still does not recognise girls as full subjects of rights and continues to severely discriminate (against) them in law and practice and to impose on them a system of male guardianship".

The committee said violations of young girls' right to equality should not justified using traditional, religious or cultural attitudes.

Children from the minority Shi'ite community and other religious minorities are continually discriminated against in their access to schools and justice in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, they said.

According to the UN committee, out of 47 people executed on 2 January for security offences, four were under 18.

Responding to the committee's findings, the Saudi Human Rights Commission told the body that Islamic Sharia law, was above all laws and treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Bandar Bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, the chairman of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, did state the kingdom had the political will to protect children.

All sexual abuse against children should be made illegal in Saudi Arabia with persecutors prosecuted, the experts said.

The case of Muslim preacher Fayhan al-Ghamdi was cited by the report, saying his charges were reduced and he was released from jail "after having raped, tortured and killed his five-year-old daughter" in 2012.

Saudi air strikes in Yemen were also strongly criticised by the UN watchdog which said hundreds of children had been killed and maimed.

Source: The Independent, Reuters, May 23, 2017

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Turkey opens trial of suspected military coup plotters

Suspected coup plotters are paraded ahead of  trial.
'An act of treason': Suspected coup plotters are paraded ahead of trial.
Trial of 221 main suspects of July 15 coup bid begins amid heavy security and calls for death penalty.

More than 220 suspects, including over two dozen former Turkish generals, have gone on trial accused of being among the ringleaders of the attempted coup last year aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Protesters outside Turkey's largest courtroom in the Sincan district of Ankara called on Monday for the death penalty for the accused and flung rope nooses at the defendants as they were paraded into court handcuffed and held by the security forces.


Erdogan: Turkey coup bid 'an act of treason'


"We want the death penalty, we don't want them to be fed and housed here. We want these traitors to be buried without any flag," said protester Cengiz Ozturk.

Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its drive to join the European Union but Erdogan has on occasion indicated it could be reimposed to deal with the coup plotters.

There was heavy security in place on Monday, with a drone flying overhead and armoured security vehicles on site as well as snipers on the roof.

Hearings at the trial, one of the largest of several coup-related trials taking place across Turkey, are expected to last until June 16.

Turkey blames the attempted July 15 putsch on the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a claim he strongly denies, and has launched a relentless purge under a state of emergency against those deemed to have backed the plot.

Gulen is among 12 of the 221 suspects in the current trial who remain at large, with the remainder appearing in court for the 1st time inside a prison complex in Sincan.

26 generals are among those charged, including former air force chief Akin Ozturk and Mehmet Disli, the brother of senior ruling party lawmaker Saban Disli.

Also on trial is colonel Ali Yazici, Erdogan's former military aide, and Lieutenant Colonel Levent Turkkan, who was the aide of Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar.

The most prominent figure among the suspects, Ozturk was dressed crisply in a black sweater and held a blue file as he was led into the court.

His appearance contrasted with the last known image of him which showed him bearing injuries including a bandaged ear after his capture 2 days after the coup bid.

Almost 40 of those on trial are accused of being part of the "Peace At Home Council", the committee established by the suspected coup plotters to replace the government if the putsch had succeeded.

The charges against them include "violating the constitution", "using coercion and violence in an attempt to overthrow" the parliament and the Turkish government, "martyring 250 citizens" and "attempting to kill 2,735 citizens", Hurriyet daily reported on Sunday.

The attempted putsch left 248 people dead, according to the Turkish presidency, not including 24 coup-plotters killed on the night.

Source: aljazeera.com, May 23, 2017

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EU condemns latest Hamas death sentences

EU, Norway condemn 3 death sentences against killers of senior Hamas terrorist Mazen Faqha.

The European Union (EU) Heads of Mission and the Head of Mission of Norway in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday condemned the 3 death sentences that were issued in Gaza against the suspected assassin and 2 suspected accomplices in the March death of senior Hamas terrorist Mazen Faqha.

"The Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah recall their opposition under all circumstances to the use of capital punishment," said the statement, as quoted by the Palestinian Authority-based Ma'an news agency.

The statement added that the EU and Norway "consider that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the protection of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights."

It noted that the missions considered capital punishment "to be cruel and inhuman," and that "it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behavior, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity."

"The de facto authorities in Gaza must refrain from carrying out any executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend," the statement concluded.

The death sentences were handed down by a Gaza court on Sunday. The court ruled that Ashraf L., Faqha's alleged killer, was guilty of collaborating with "a hostile foreign entity" and premeditated murder.

The military court said he had been collaborating with an Israeli intelligence officer and "provided sensitive information about resistance and fighters" in return for money.

Faqha, a convicted terrorist released in the 2011 Shalit deal, was shot by unknown assailants in his Gaza home in March.

Hamas authorities in Gaza accused Israel of being behind his death immediately after it happened, and threatened to get Israel back for any action by Israeli security forces against Hamas senior officials.

Following Faqha's death, Hamas released a video in which it threatened to eliminate senior Israeli officials.

The group has arrested dozens of Gazans on charges of collaborating with Israel following the killing of Faqha.

Hamas regularly claims to have captured "Israeli spies", and many times it tries them and sentences them to death.

In theory all execution orders in the Palestinian Authority's (PA) territories must be approved by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in Ramallah and who imposed a moratorium on executions several years ago.

Hamas no longer recognizes Abbas's legitimacy, and has in the past emphatically declared that the death penalty in Gaza can be carried out without his consent.

Source: israelnationalnews.com, May 23, 2017

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Malaysia: Amnesty criticises two ‘secretive executions’, calls for moratorium on death penalty

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — Amnesty International Malaysia criticised prison authorities for executing two men earlier today at the Sungai Buloh prison in a secretive manner.

The NGO also demanded the government to establish a moratorium on carrying out death penalties.

In a statement, Amnesty said that 48-year-old Yong Kar Mun, who was convicted of discharging a firearm during robbery, and another individual convicted of murder, were both executed at 5.30am today.

Yong’s execution was allegedly carried out with limited notice, with the family only being informed of the execution less than 24 hours before it was carried out, while no information has been made available on the second convict who was also executed.

“The secretive way through which the Malaysian authorities have been carrying out executions is plain cruel. In these and previous executions, the authorities have added considerable distress to the prisoners and their families and shown blatant disregard for international law and standards ­­— it is high time this practice stopped,” Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said.

She said that by providing limited notice, the authorities are also denying the convicts a chance to seek further review of their cases.

“The government has repeatedly promised legislative reforms on the death penalty, yet no drafts have been shared and more lives have been taken by the gallows.

“If Malaysia aspires to join the Human Rights Council, it should demonstrate its commitment to human rights by ending executions and abolishing the death penalty. The time for action is now,” she added.

Amnesty previously condemned a similar “hasty execution” conducted by authorities in March, when brothers on death row, Rames and Suthar Batumalai, were executed with a notice of less than 48 hours.

Source: Malay Mail Online, May 24, 2017

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Dylann Roof to appeal death sentence

Dylann Roof
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A white supremacist sentenced to death for killing nine worshippers in a racist attack at a Charleston church has petitioned an appeals court for mercy.

Attorneys for Dylann Roof filed notice Tuesday they were appealing his conviction and sentence to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this month, the federal judge who presided over Roof’s trial rejected his first appeal, ruling the conviction and death sentence for the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME church should stand.

Roof argued his crime didn’t fit the definition of interstate commerce needed for a federal case. 

The judge ruled Roof used a telephone to call the church and the bullets and gun were manufactured in a different state.

Source: The Associated Press, May 23, 2017

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U.S. Supreme Court rejects Florida's appeal over death penalty unanimity case

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
Bolstering a state law requiring unanimous jury recommendations in death penalty cases, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider an appeal by Attorney General Pam Bondi on the issue.

The court's decision to deny what is known as a “writ of certiorari” essentially cements a state law enacted this year in response to a seminal Florida Supreme Court decision in a case involving convicted murderer Timothy Lee Hurst.

That Florida Supreme Court ruling and the subsequent law said juries need to make unanimous recommendations before judges can sentence defendants to death. As is common, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday did not give reasons for turning down Bondi's appeal of the Florida Supreme Court ruling.

“It would be hard to read exactly what exactly the U.S. Supreme Court meant by it, except that it will probably end most of the state's litigation with regard to these issues,” said Pete Mills, an assistant state attorney in the 10th Judicial Circuit who also serves as chairman of the Florida Public Defenders Association Death Penalty Steering Committee.

Hurst, who was sent to Death Row for a 1998 murder in Pensacola, has been at the center of two major rulings that found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system unconstitutional.

In an appeal by Hurst, the U.S. Supreme Court early last year struck down the state's system of allowing judges, instead of juries, to find the facts necessary to impose the death penalty. The court found the state's system was an unconstitutional violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury, and sent the case back to the Florida Supreme Court.

At the time of the January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Florida's system allowed jurors by a simple majority to recommend the death penalty. Judges would then make findings of fact that "sufficient" aggravating factors, not outweighed by mitigating circumstances, existed for the death sentence to be imposed, a process known as "weighing."

Florida lawmakers in 2016 hurriedly rewrote the law to address the U.S. Supreme Court decision, requiring jurors to unanimously find that at least one aggravating factor exists before a defendant can be eligible for a death sentence and requiring that at least 10 of 12 jurors recommend death for the sentence to be imposed.

In October, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the statute was unconstitutional because it did not require unanimous jury recommendations about imposing the death penalty, something not addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Bondi's office in December asked the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the Florida court's ruling.

In its request for discretionary review, the state argued that Florida court's “expansive reading” of the U.S. court's decision in the Hurst case was erroneous.

Hurst was sentenced to death for the 1998 killing of fast-food worker Cynthia Harrison in Pensacola. Harrison, an assistant manager at a Popeye's Fried Chicken restaurant where Hurst worked, was bound, gagged and stabbed more than 60 times. Her body was found in a freezer.

A jury in 2000 recommended the death penalty for Hurst, now 38. After the state Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing, a jury recommended death by a vote of 7-5 in 2012.

In its October ruling in the Hurst case deciding that death-penalty recommendations must be unanimous, the Florida Supreme Court relied both on state and federal constitutional guarantees to the right to a trial by jury.

The Florida court decision regarding unanimity will likely result in new penalty-phase hearings for about 55 percent of Florida's 386 Death Row inmates.

The state court has already ordered new sentencing hearings for numerous cases involving non-unanimous jury recommendations, and Monday's decision by the federal court takes the unanimity issue off the table, according to defense lawyers.

“It's certainly good news for Mr. Hurst,” said Dave Davis, a recently retired assistant public defender in the 2nd Judicial Circuit who represented Hurst.

Davis and other public defenders, who warned lawmakers that the lack of unanimity in the 2016 law would not withstand court scrutiny, were relieved but not surprised by the U.S. court's refusal to take up the case Monday.

With more than 100 cases poised to be sent back to lower courts, prosecutors are now faced with seeking capital punishment or life imprisonment. Some of the cases are decades old, posing problems with witnesses and evidence for prosecutors.

“Prosecutors are going to have to decide is it worth the effort to try to get death again. They're going to have to examine their evidence … and decide what the likelihood is that they're going to get 12 jurors to decide death,” Davis said.

The new requirement is especially relevant in the Hurst case, where a jury has never unanimously recommended the death penalty, Davis pointed out.

“Prosecutors have a tough problem here,” he said. “Some cases just get old. Can you find witnesses in a case that's 14 or 15 years old? … Logistical and practical problems that crop up with cases that are in some cases 20 years old.”

Source: Orlando Weekly, Dara Kam, News Service of Florida, May 23, 2017


Florida's new death penalty rule means fewer death sentences


SARASOTA, Fla. -- Florida’s new death penalty sentencing rules will keep some criminals from sitting on death row.

Take the case of Andy Avalos, Jr., convicted on three murder charges, two of them first-degree murder. State Attorney Ed Brodsky thought the decision was crystal clear.

“Three separate individuals he killed were brutally killed, we believe (that) warranted the death penalty,” says Brodsky.

Yet a jury gave Andy Avalos a sentence of life in prison without parole, thanks to a new Florida rule. It requires a jury to agree unanimously on the death penalty, and a judge has no say.

Brodsky says, “We’re disappointed, but we respect the jury’s verdict.”

Under the old rule, Avalos would have gotten death for the murder of Pastor James Tripp Battle. The jury voted 7-5, and a majority was all that was needed.

“I think it’s going to be harder. I think the Florida Supreme Court placed a significant burden on prosecutors in the state of Florida,” says Brodsky.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Florida’s death penalty unconstitutional and the state rewrote its death penalty guidelines. It’s a move criminal defense attorney Derek Byrd says was the right one.

“The death penalty doesn’t work, it never worked or going to work from my standpoint," Byrd says. "I’m glad it’s a higher burden. It does not work doesn’t prevent murders and actually costs taxpayers more money to have death penalty than to put someone in prison for the rest of their lives (due to) the nature of appeals."

One report tallies the average cost for the 12- to 15-year-long appeals process at more than a million dollars per death row inmate.

Without the death penalty, Byrd says prosecutors lose their leverage for plea deals.

“Now it’s so difficult to get the death penalty I think more defendants will roll the dice and say, 'I’ll take my chances in trial.' It's still going to be difficult to convince 12 people someone deserves the death penalty.”

All it takes is one juror?

“All it takes is one," Byrd says.

That means prosecutors will also have to work harder at selecting a jury that is willing to give the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime.

Two hundred inmates placed on death row since 2002 are eligible for another sentencing hearing if their verdict wasn’t a unanimous one.

Florida has 367 inmates on death row, including four women. Florida has executed 91 prisoners since 1979.

Source: WTSP-TV, Isabel Mascareñas, May 23, 2017

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ohio court schedules 2nd execution attempt for Romell Broom

Romell Broom, photographed shortly after he survived a botched execution attempt in 2009.
Romell Broom, photographed shortly after he
survived a botched execution attempt in 2009.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio Supreme Court has set a new execution date for a convicted killer who survived a botched execution attempt in 2009.

The court last week scheduled the lethal procedure for death row inmate Romell Broom for June 17, 2020.

Broom was sentenced to die for abducting, raping and killing 14-year-old Tryna Middleton in Cleveland in 1984.

The 62-year-old Broom is only the second U.S. inmate to survive an execution after the process began.

On September 15, 2009 Broom's execution was stopped by Gov. Ted Strickland after an execution team tried for two hours to find a suitable vein. 

Broom said he was stuck with needles at least 18 times, with pain so excruciating he cried and screamed.

Lawyers for Romell Broom argued that giving the state prisons agency a second chance would amount to cruel and unusual punishment and double jeopardy.

Broom's lawyers argued that no attempt to execute him could occur without violating his constitutional right prohibiting double jeopardy, and requested that he be taken off of death row.

In a court filing Broom's attorneys said, "His death sentence may no longer be carried out by any means or methods without violating the constitutional rights identified...he must be removed from death row and placed in the Ohio prison system's general population."

A divided Ohio Supreme Court rejected Broom’s arguments. At the time, the state asserted that lower courts properly determined that any mistakes happened during execution preparations, not the actual procedure.

Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley says Broom has stalled his execution for years with appeals.

Broom's attorneys say Broom has important appeals still pending.

Source: The Associated Press, May 23, 2017

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