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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Unmarried Mali couple stoned to death for violating 'Islamic law'

An unmarried couple were stoned to death in public in northeast Mali by "Islamists", local officials revealed, the first such incident since jihadist groups were driven out of the region.

Jihadists seized key northern cities in March 2012, and though they were driven out by a French-led military intervention in 2013, Islamist groups continue to make their presence felt with frequent attacks on domestic and foreign forces.

"The Islamists dug two holes where they put the man and the woman who lived maritally without being married," said a local official. "They were stoned to death."

The stoning happened in Taghlit on Tuesday, close to Aguelhok in the Kidal region, and the same source told AFP that members of the public were invited to take part.

"Four people threw stones at them until they died," they said.

Another local official said the Islamists had accused the unmarried couple of violating "Islamic law", which requires punishment by stoning.


In July 2012, the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine group stoned a couple in public in Aguelhok who they accused of having children outside marriage.

The Malian Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AMDH) described the stoning as "cowardly murder".

"This is barbaric. The people who did this should be arrested and put on trial," said Oumar Diakite, an AMDH official.

A 2015 peace deal signed by Tuareg-led rebels, the government and pro-Bamako militias aimed to quell separatist uprisings in the north and isolate jihadist groups.

But its implementation has been piecemeal and the jihadists, who did not sign up to the accord, continue to mount attacks on civilians and the army, as well as French and UN forces.

The new UN peacekeeping chief said a rapid intervention force of Senegalese troops would soon be deployed in central Mali, which has seen an increase in attacks and communal violence since 2015.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, on his first visit to Mali since becoming under secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations, said the UN mission lacked capacity.

"We are hopeful that, soon, a number of reinforcements will arrive, which will make up for these shortcomings," he said.

The UN mission, known by its acronym MINUSMA, has been stationed in the west African country since 2013 and is considered the world body's most dangerous active peacekeeping deployment.

The opposition Parena party meanwhile noted that 309 people had been killed since the beginning of the year by armed groups, describing "alarm at the deterioration of the security situation" two years after the signing of the peace deal.

Source: The Telegraph, Agence France-Presse, May 18, 2017

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Wrongful convictions: From death row to freedom

Joseph Amrine
Joseph Amrine
Joe Amrine selected the music for his funeral service.

He wasn't sick, nor was he elderly. He was on Missouri's death row awaiting lethal injection.

In November 2001, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon asked the Missouri Supreme Court to set an execution date for Amrine and 9 other men on death row. The court complied in 6 cases, but delayed in Amrine's case. By then a groundswell of support built for his exoneration in part because of a documentary, "Unreasonable Doubt: the Joe Amrine Case," by a group of university graduate students.

The Missouri Catholic Conference, public policy agency of the state's bishops, distributed the video widely in their efforts to seek Amrine's release. The bishops' agency advocated on Amrine's behalf and now uses his example in citing reasons to oppose the death penalty.

Convicted in 1986 of the murder of fellow prison inmate Gary Barber at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Amrine, now 60, was released from prison in 2003 after the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his conviction and death sentence. He'd spent 17 years on death row after being sent to prison originally in 1977 on a robbery charge. 3 fellow inmates who had testified against him later recanted, admitting that they lied in exchange for favorable treatment. 6 other inmates had testified earlier that Amrine was in another area of the prison playing cards when Barber was stabbed.

Amrine and fellow exoneree Reggie Griffin visited St. Louis May 20 to speak at a public event at the St. Louis Galleria hosted by Lush Cosmetics and the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The talk was consistent with views of Pope Francis, who last year encouraged all people to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, "so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated."

Rita Linhardt, senior staff associate for the Missouri Catholic Conference and chair of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said serious concerns have been raised about the death penalty as public policy because of wrongful convictions, questions of fairness and the costs of the death penalty. For every nine executions in this country, one person who received a death sentence was found to be wrongly convicted. Reasons innocent people are convicted, she said, include ineffective assistance of counsel, flawed evidence, faulty eyewitness testimony and police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Exonerations highlight flaws in the death penalty, Linhardt said: "We can see where mistakes are made."

Faith was a factor in his survival, Amrine said: "It would be hard for anyone to be on death row and not somehow get some faith. You gotta believe in something to survive on death row."

He appreciates the position the Catholic Church has taken against the death penalty and wants to see more follow its lead. "We need Christians, Muslims and everyone to come up and say they're against the death penalty under any circumstances," he said.

Amrine once was in favor of the death penalty but his experience showed him that it sometimes is imposed on innocent people, and "it can't be applied equally."

Griffin, 56, grew up in St. Louis and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for 1st-degree assault, robbery and possession of drugs and stolen property. While at the Moberly Correctional Center, he was accused of the murder of inmate James Bausley, who had been stabbed in the prison yard. Griffin denied he'd been in the yard at the time but was convicted in 1988 on the word of 2 jailhouse informants who received reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony.

In 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the death sentence because prosecutors had withheld a sharpened screwdriver recovered from another inmate immediately after the stabbing. Both of Griffin's co-defendants consistently said the 3rd person involved in the crime was that inmate, not Griffin.

Griffin, released from prison in 2013, said that "none of the things that happened for me and to me could not and would not have happened without the grace of God."

Amrine and Griffin - African American men who were convicted by all-white juries in trials that lasted just a few days - give 2 or 3 talks a week and have been to several Catholic schools, mostly in the Kansas City area. They'll be in St. Louis Sept. 28 to speak to student representatives of Catholic high schools at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury. Amrine said he speaks out because "the Lord blessed me to put me out here. He wasn't through with me. We speak out against the death penalty, gangs, drugs, lawyers ... I did 26 years, he did 33. That qualifies us as experts."

For someone wrongfully convicted, Griffin said, "when the state seeks the death sentence against you, you have a chance of losing your life. If the evidence comes out after you're executed, they can't bring you back."

Catholics respond


The Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) has launched a new initiative, named the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty. "Due to growing public opposition to the death penalty and especially in the aftermath of last month executions in Arkansas, CMN has launched this pledge to amplify the Church's work to end the death penalty," said Karen Clifton, executive director of CMN.

Catholic Mobilizing Network maintains the pledge as an important initiative that lifts up the value of all human life. The pledge is a way to lift up the call of the Catholic Church and Pope Francis in particular to end the use of the death penalty and promote a more restorative criminal justice system.

In the recent session of the Missouri legislature, the Missouri Catholic Conference supported three bills that would have ended capital punishment in Missouri. The Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the U.S. bishops, referred to the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (paragraph 2267) and stated that "the death penalty undermines respect for human life and errors in the judicial system can lead to the execution of innocent people."

The proposed legislation stalled in the legislative process. 2 of the bills in the House were read for a second time and the Senate bill was referred to a committee.


For information:


-- The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty, www.catholicsmobilizing.org

-- Missouri Catholic Conference Messenger on the death penalty, www.stlouisreview.com/bMF

-- Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, www.madpmo.org

-- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, www.stlouisreview.com/bML

Opposing executions


Joe Amrine and Reggie Griffin are 2 of 159 inmates in the United States and 4 in Missouri who have been exonerated after landing on death row.

Last month Bishop Frank J. Dewane, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, decried plans by the sate of Arkansas to execute 7 men in 11 days, saying that justice and mercy are better served by commuting their sentences to life imprisonment.

At a recent event in St. Louis in which Amrine and Griffin told their story, Maggie Baine of St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville explained that changing public policy on the death penalty is a cause she deeply cares about. Pope Francis made a passionate plea for a moratorium on executions during the Year of Mercy, reminding listeners that "Thou shalt not kill" (the fifth commandment) applies not only to the innocent but to the guilty as well. Baine said she agrees fully with Church teaching.

"For the innocent and well as guilty people, we believe there's not a reason to end their lives," Baine said.

The Pew Research Center reported last fall that the share of Americans who support the death penalty for people convicted of murder now is at its lowest point in more than 4 decades.

During a debate last year in the Missouri Senate, Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, said he too is guided by his Catholic faith and the need to be consistent in his pro-life beliefs to protect all human life, even those guilty of murder. He also raised concern about executing an innocent person. "All it would take is one mistake," Wieland said. "We're not operating it as a zero percent margin of error."

"One sign of hope is that public opinion is manifesting a growing opposition to the death penalty, even as a means of legitimate social defense. Indeed, nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God's plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment "Thou shalt not kill" has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty." -- Pope Francis' message to 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty on June 22, 2016

Source: St. Louis Review, May 27, 2017

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Saudi Arabia Confirms Death Sentence of 14 Activists from Qatif

Saudi's Supreme Court in Riyadh confirmed death penalty for 14 activists from Qatif over taking part in protests in 2011.

Human rights sources reported that the suspects were not able even to appoint a lawyer, noting that all their confessions were under torture and abuse.

To be implemented, the execution warrant must be approved by the Saudi king, Salman Bin Abdulaziz.

Families of the suspects say their sons attended confidential trials, stressing that the sentences were based on force confessions.

Peaceful demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province in February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners and an end to widespread discrimination against people of the oil-rich region. 

Several people have been killed and many others have been injured or arrested during the demonstrations.

International rights bodies, including Amnesty International, have repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, arguing that the number of executions in oil-rich country has dramatically risen in the last years.

Source: almanar.com.lb, May 27, 2017

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Executions resume in Iran following presidential election

Public execution in Iran
Iran Human Rights (MAY 26 2017): At least one prisoner was hanged at Kermanshah's Adel Abad Prison on Tuesday May 23 on murder charges.

According to close sources, the prisoner's name is Mehran Ashrafi and he was in prison since his arrest in 2012.

Iranian official sources, including the media and the Judiciary, have not announced Mehran Ashrafi's execution.

Another execution was reported at Dizel Abad Prison. According to close sources, the execution was carried out on Thursday May 25. The prisoner has been identified as Mehrdad Asgari, hanged on drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights (MAY 26 2017): Two prisoners were reportedly hanged at Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison (Razavi Khorasan province, northeastern Iran) on Tuesday May 23 on murder charges. On the same day, prisoner was reportedly hanged at Zahedan Central Prison on murder charges.

The state-run newspaper, Khorasan, identifies one of the prisoners from Vakilabad Prison as H.N., 42 years of age, imprisoned for 17 years before his execution. According to the Khorasan newspaper, there was no evidence or confessions in the prisoner's case file, the prisoner was sentenced to death based on the testimonies of 50 relatives belonging to the murder victim. The report says that the prisoner claimed to be innocent throughout the entire imprisonment.

The report identifies the other prisoner from Vakilabad Prison as A.Kh., a 34-year-old prisoner who was arrested in 2009 during a street fight at an intersection in the town of Sabzevar (Razavi Khorasan province).

The Baluch Activists Campaign reported on the execution at Zahedan Central Prison. The report identifies the prisoner as Abdolkarim Shahnavazi, 30 years of age. Prior to his execution, Abdolkarim and two other prisoners, identified as Habib Golbeigi and Saeed Hoot, were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. 

According to the report, Saeed's execution sentence was postponed by the complainants on his case file, and he was returned to his cell. The fate of Habib is not known at this time.

Iran Human Rights (MAY 27 2017): A 23-year-old unidentified prisoner was reportedly hanged at Birjand Central Prison (south Khorasan province, western Iran) on rape charges.

According to the Iranian state-run media IRIB, the execution was carried out on Thursday May 26. The reports says the prisoner was sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping and sentenced to death for rape.

Executions have resumed in Iran following the presidential election on May 19. According to the statistics of Iran Human Rights, in the past week, at least 13 executions were carried out in Iran.

Iran Human Rights (MAY 27 2017): A prominent wrestler in Iran was reportedly hanged at Kermanshah's Dizel Abad Prison on the morning of Thursday May 25 on vague charges.

According to the state-run news agency Tabnak, the prisoner's name is Hojatollah Tadro. Prior to his execution, he competed in multiple national championships and was a member of the national team. 

The official sources in Iran have not announced the reason for the execution, but Radio Zamaneh has reported that Hojatollah was sentenced to death for the "rape of an inmate", after he was already imprisoned for several years.

A source close to Hojatollah says he was the victim of a conspiracy and never committed the crime thas he was charged with. The charge that led to Hojatollah's imprisonment is not known.

Two days before Hojatollah's execution, two prisoners were hanged at Dizel Abad Prison. The prisoners are Mehran Ashrafi, executed on murder charges, and Mehrdad Asgari, executed on drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights (MAY 27 2017): The Iranian authorities reportedly hanged three prisoners on drug related charges on the morning of Friday May 26, the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

According to the human rights news agency HRANA, the prisoners were executed ar Urmia Central Prison on drug related charges. The prisoners' names are Salahuddin Shafikia, Ramezan Mokhtari, and Osman Hosni. 

Osman Hosni was reportedly sentenced to death for possession and trafficking ten kilograms of crystal meth. 

Salahuddin Shafikia was reportedly sentenced to death for possession and trafficking 1.5 kilograms of heroin. Ramezan Mokhtari was sentenced to death for possession and trafficking 100 kilograms of morphine.

Iranian parliament members had formerly requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least five thousand prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

It is possible that the Iranian authorities carried out these three executions in a hasty manner due to the start of Ramadan. 

Iranian official sources, including the media and the Judiciary, have not announced these three executions.

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 2017

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Schapelle’s nightmare is over, but the Bali Nine’s continues

Matthew Norman
Matthew Norman was initially given life, upped to the death sentence on
appeal, and then reinstated to life in jail after a full confession.
AS Schapelle Corby’s Bali nightmare for drug smuggling comes to a close, what does the future hold for the remaining seven of the infamous Bali Nine?

As one chapter of an Aussie convicted for drug smuggling in Indonesia draws to a close, the Bali Nine is now seven.

It’s just two years since Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran faced a firing squad for their role in the attempted smuggling of 8.3kg of heroin worth $4 million out of Indonesia in April 2005.

They paid for the plan with their lives.

The other Bali Nine members: Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Renae Lawrence, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush, and Martin Stephens were sent to prison.

Six are serving life sentences, with Lawrence currently the only one who will possibly taste freedom. But not for another nine years.

Under Indonesian law, prisoners serving life terms can apply for a determinant sentence of 20 years.
Norman and Chen have for years tried to have their life sentences reduced, but so far not been awarded the reduced sentence.

Norman and Chen are the only two members of the Bali Nine now held in Kerobokan jail. Lawrence is in a different jail in Bali, as is Scott Rush.

Stephens, Tan Dutch Tanh Nguyen and Michael Czugaj are in jails in Java, having been moved by authorities.


The executed ringleaders


The Sydney men were the masterminds behind the Bali Nine.

Andrew Chan, 31 and Myuran Sukumaran 34, were executed by firing squad on the Indonesian prison island of Nusa Kambangan on April 29, 2015.

The pair, by then praised for their efforts to rehabilitate themselves and help other prisoners, had also embraced Christianity.

As they faced the death penalty, they became leaders at Kerobokan Prison — running classes in religion, art and cooking., and acting as leaders, mentors and counsellors.

Pleas for clemency from the prison governor, who described them as model prisoners who shouldn’t be executed because of their positive influence on other inmates, fell on deaf ears.

They refused blindfolds, and faced their fate and final moments singing “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”.

Their voices fell silent under the gunfire.

In the days before his death - on April 27, 2015 - Chan married Febyanti Herewila, who he had met while she was visiting another inmate.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: news.com.au, Debbie Schipp , May 28, 2017

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Gov. Scott cleared to sign death warrants again, experts say

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
TALLAHASSEE — Florida can start executing condemned killers again, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand the state’s changes to its death-penalty law, experts say.

But so far, Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t signed a warrant for any of the 366 prisoners on Death Row.

“Other than the typical motions that defendants file and exhaust prior to a death warrant being signed, both federal and state, I don’t think there’s another barrier out there to stop the governor from moving forward,” said Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, a former Pinellas County prosecutor and legislative leader on death penalty issues.

Scott could be ready to begin executions again soon. A spokeswoman for the governor said he had been waiting on the high court’s decision.

“Our office is currently reviewing the next steps in the process” of selecting a case and signing a death warrant, Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said. Scott has signed death warrants for 23 prisoners, more than any other Florida governor since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a state Supreme Court ruling from October requiring juries to be unanimous in issuing a death sentence, a move that essentially upheld the state court’s decision. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January 2016 struck down Florida’s capital punishment law, which had allowed prisoners to be sentenced by a simple majority vote of a jury.

In March, Scott signed a new law quickly passed by the Legislature that requires unanimous juries.

“The issues that were causing the most pronounced constitutional concern … have been remedied,” said Florida State University Law School professor Wayne Logan.

Scott has often stated he takes signing death warrants seriously as a “solemn duty” but hasn’t explained in detail his process for choosing which warrants to sign.

The death penalty debate became a hot-button political issue when Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced in March she wouldn’t seek capital punishment under any circumstances, citing racial disparities, delays, costs and frequent instances of exoneration. She never stated her stance on the death penalty during her 2016 election campaign and later said she didn’t do so because the death penalty wasn’t in force during that time.

In response, Scott removed 23 potential capital murder cases from Ayala and gave them to 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King. Ayala has sued over that decision, and the case remains before the state Supreme Court.

Sprowls, who along with several other House Republicans called on Scott to suspend Ayala from office, said it is important to show the death penalty is back in force in Florida.

“When you’re talking about victims of heinous crimes and their families who are awaiting trial or awaiting sentencing or awaiting resentencing — certainly bringing a level of closure to them and allowing those cases to move forward is a paramount concern of government,” Sprowls said.

Florida’s last execution took place Jan. 7, 2016. The condemned man was Oscar Ray Bolin, convicted of murdering three young women in the Tampa area in 1986.

Five days later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 8-1 decision striking down the state’s death penalty.

The lengthy limbo of capital punishment in the state held up several murder trials, and the effects are still rippling through the judicial system.

It also led to numerous appeals from Death Row inmates, several of whom were sentenced by split juries and have since had their sentences reduced to life in prison.

The Florida Supreme Court’s October decision stated that prisoners sentenced to death by split juries after 2002 should be resentenced. Before that ruling, 380 prisoners were on Death Row. Now there are 366, and appeals continue to work through the courts.

Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, sponsored the Senate version of the bill requiring unanimous juries. He said he did so to make sentencing fairer.

Even so, he said he would like to see capital punishment abolished altogether.

“Regardless of the outcome of State Attorney Ayala’s case to get those death penalty cases back, I don’t think it’ll change the minds of legislators, but I do think that it’s sparking a conversation among people in general as to their beliefs on the death penalty,” Bracy said.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, Gray Rohrer, May 26, 2017

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U.S. Army moves closer to first execution in 50 years

Ronald Gray
Ronald Gray
An Army soldier convicted almost 30 years ago of serial murder and rape has moved one step closer to the death chamber.

Private Ronald Gray lost his latest appeal last week, the Fayetteville Observer reported. Gray had asked the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate his death sentence, claiming he was incompetent to stand trial, had improper representation, and that the death penalty is racially biased.

According to the Army, Gray now has 30 days to file for reconsideration by the court or 20 days to file with the higher Court of Appeals for the Army Forces. If those appeals fail, Gray could become the first person executed by the U.S. military since 1961, when Army Pvt. John Bennett was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year old Austrian girl.

In 1988, a military court found Gray guilty of two murders and five separate rapes that took place while he was stationed at the North Carolina military base. He pleaded guilty in civilian court to two more murders and five separate rapes.

Gray is housed at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is the longest-serving inmate on military death row.

Including Gray, there are five military personnel on death row: Dwight Loving, convicted in 1989 on two counts of premeditated murder in Texas; Hasan Akbar, an Army soldier convicted in 2005 of using a hand grenade to kill two military members and wound 14 others in Kuwait; Andrew Witt, a former Air Force senior airman from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia who was convicted in 2005 of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder; Timothy Hennis, who was convicted in 2010 for the murder of three people in North Carolina; and Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009.

All military executions must be approved by the president.

According to the Observer, Gray's execution would likely take place at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terra Haute, Indiana, the same facility where terrorist Timothy McVeigh was put to death in 2001 for the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.

Source: AL.com, Leada Gore, May 26, 2017

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Alabama officials raced clock to execute convicted murderer

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
Alabama's quest to kill an inmate who spent decades on death row for murder became a high-stakes game of beat the clock after the U.S. Supreme Court finally cleared the way for his execution.

Faced with a deluge of last-minute defense appeals and a legal deadline of midnight to execute Tommy Arthur for a 1982 contract killing, officers at Holman prison had to set the final stage for a lethal injection in only 1 hours, 16 minutes after the justices lifted a temporary stay Thursday night.

An officer performed a test to determine whether intravenous drugs had rendered Arthur unconscious about 3 minutes before his death warrant expired, saying the inmate's name repeatedly and pinching his arm without a visible response. Color was draining from Arthur's face and his breathing was shallow at best when the clock hit midnight.

A doctor pronounced the 75-year-old inmate dead at 12:15 a.m. Friday.

Arthur, who had postponed seven previous execution dates after courts intervened, was visibly upset during the procedure. But Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the execution beat the legal deadline since it started before midnight, and it went off without any of the hitches that have marred other lethal injections in Alabama and elsewhere.

"Once the execution begins, as long as that is within the period of the death warrant, the execution can continue," said Dunn.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who earlier refused Arthur's request for DNA testing of evidence linked to the slaying Troy Wicker, said relatives of the riverboat engineer "can finally rest knowing that his murderer has faced justice."

"Mr. Arthur was rightfully convicted and sentenced, and tonight, that sentence was rightfully and justly carried out," Ivey said in a statement.

Wicker was shot through an eye as he slept on Feb. 1, 1982.

Arthur maintained his innocence in recent media interviews as his attorneys had pressed the governor to delay his eighth execution date so DNA tests could be performed on hairs collected at the crime scene. Arthur's daughter, in a news conference held an hour after her father's execution, repeated those calls saying there should be mandatory DNA testing of all evidence in all capital cases before any execution is carried out.

Sherrie Stone said she vacillated over the years over whether she thought her father killed Wicker. "At times, I was convinced he did. At times, I believed he was innocent. .... Now, I will never know the truth."

Wicker's two sons witnessed the execution but didn't speak with reporters afterward.

Arthur's lawyers had filed a flurry of appeals trying to halt the eighth execution date. They argued the state planned to use an ineffective sedative, midazolam, and said the last inmate executed in Alabama was "awake" through the procedure because he coughed for the first 13 minutes of his execution and moved slightly after two consciousness tests.

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

The state prison system began administering the lethal injection drugs around 11:50 p.m. Thursday, just before the death warrant was to have expired at midnight. Arthur's hands appeared to twitch a few times, but he didn't cough or lurch as some inmates have done in executions using midazolam.

As the execution date neared, Arthur had acknowledged his chances of another stay were slim.

"I'm terrified, but there's nothing I can do," Arthur told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday.

Source: abc news, Kim Chandler, Jay Reeves, AP, May 26, 2017

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Mary Jane Veloso’s lawyers to seek SC nod on deposition

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
The camp of Filipino death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso would elevate to the Supreme Court (SC) its plea to allow the deposition of testimony against her alleged recruiters from her jail cell in Indonesia.

According to National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia, they would file the petition questioning the Court of Appeals' action against the deposition in the first week of June.

"We are preparing the petition," Olalia said in a text message on Friday.

Veloso's testimony was supposed to be gathered on April 27 in Yogyakarta prison but the CA 11th Division came out last March with a temporary restraining order (TRO) whose validity was extended through a preliminary injunction issued on May 22.

The CA action stemmed from the petition filed by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), counsel for Veloso's recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao, who said the deposition was against the constitutional right of the accused.

The PAO cited Section 14 paragraph 2 of the Bill of Rights, which gives, among others, an accused the right to a speedy, impartial, and public trial and meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence.

"The recruiters assert that they want to confront her in person yet they themselves oppose and put all roadblocks every step of the way to make this happen," Olalia said.

Veloso was sentenced to die by firing squad in April 2015 after she was found guilty of drug trafficking, but Indonesian authorities agreed to hold off the execution so she could testify in the case against her recruiters in the Philippines.

Source: GMA News, Virgil Lopez, May 26, 2017

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs bill to shorten time of death penalty appeals

Gov. Kay Ivey Friday signed a bill that would shorten the death penalty appeals process in Alabama.

Ivey signed the legislation early Friday afternoon, according to her office. Both supporters and opponents of the bill agreed that it would cut the time in the death penalty appeals process.

But proponents said it would ensure the swifter enactment of justice, while opponents said it would make it more likely Alabama would execute innocent people.

The signing came less than 24 hours after the state executed Thomas Arthur for the 1982 murder of businessman Troy Wicker. Ivey’s office said Friday the timing was a coincidence.

Inmates condemned to death have two rounds of state appeals. The first one is a direct appeal, based on the facts of the case. The second, known as a Rule 32 appeal, allows the inmate to raise post-conviction issues, such as them competence of his or her defense attorney. Under the new law, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, the two appeals would run parallel to each other.

The inmate would have a year from the filing of the brief in their direct appeal to file a Rule 32 motion. The circuit court would have 90 days to dismiss claims or set them for hearing.

The legislation would not affect an inmate's federal appeals. Appeals of capital sentences can take decades. Arthur was first sentenced to death in 1983 and sentenced again after two further trials in 1992. He outlived seven death sentences before his execution Thursday night.

The Alabama attorney general’s office long sought the change. In a statement Friday afternoon, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the bill stemmed from work between the attorney general’s office, prosecutors, victims’ groups and the Legislature.

“Our collective experiences with capital cases compelled us to pursue an improved appeals process for our state—one that is fairer, more efficient, and does not prolong the suffering of victims, but provides justice to all parties,” the statement said.

The legislation drew criticism from the American Bar Association and anti-death penalty groups, who said it could create situations where an inmate would have to challenge the competence of an attorney at the same time the attorney is defending them on direct appeal. ABA President Linda Klein wrote a letter to legislative leaders in early May, asking them to oppose the legislation.

“While the ABA respects the importance of finality and judicial efficiency, quicker resolution of cases where a life is at stake should not take priority over ensuring the fundamental fairness and accuracy of those convictions,” the letter said.

Frank Knaack, executive director of Alabama Appleseed, which opposed the bill, said it would "create all kinds of problems" for post-conviction attorneys trying to investigate claims of inadequate counsel.

"We were very optimistic when (Ivey) signed the (judicial) override bill that we were moving in a direction ensuring a fair and accurate death penalty process," he said. "This takes us in the opposite direction."

The Alabama Department of Corrections says as of Friday there were 183 people on death row – 178 men and five women. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group, the number of death sentences handed down in Alabama fell from 25 in 1998 to six in 2015.

Source: Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman, May 26, 2017

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Former top Chinese cop Zhao Liping executed for murder

Former top Chinese cop Zhao Liping
Top Chinese cop Zhao Liping executed for murder
A former regional police chief in China was executed for murder, state media said Friday, after reports described his victim as a lover more than three decades his junior.

Zhao Liping, 65, was found guilty of murder, bribery and possession of firearms and explosives by a court in Taiyuan, the capital of the northern province of Shanxi, in November.

China’s supreme court announced Friday that Zhao had been executed after it approved the sentence, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China carries out executions by lethal injection or shooting, but the method used this time was not specified.

Zhao was detained in 2015 in Chifeng on suspicion of killing a 28-year-old woman with whom he “had an intimate relationship” because she wanted to expose his wrongdoings, Chinese media reported earlier.

Zhao opened fire on the woman, who reportedly survived the first two rounds, but after she fled he chased her down in a car and shot her in the head.

Zhao headed the police in Inner Mongolia for seven years until he retired in 2012, and was also a deputy head of the regional People’s Political Consultative Conference, a Communist-controlled debating chamber.

Many fallen Chinese officials have been found to have mistresses, and corruption investigations have often been triggered by allegations from spurned or angry women.

Source: Hong Kong Free Press, May 26, 2017


Former Chinese official executed following supreme court's approval


CHINA'S Supreme People's Court (SPC) announced Friday that Zhao Liping, a former senior political advisor in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, had been executed after the SPC approved the death sentence.

Zhao, former vice chairman of the Inner Mongolia regional committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was convicted of intentional homicide, taking bribes and possession of firearms, according to an SPC statement.

Zhao was found guilty of having shot dead a 26-year old woman, identified only with her surname of Li, in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, on March 20, 2015.

He also took advantage of his post to secure business contracts and official positions for associates, and accepted bribes totaling 23.68 million yuan (3.45 million U.S. dollars) from 2008 to 2010, as the police chief of Inner Mongolia.

During the investigation police located two guns, 49 bullets and 91 detonators that led back to Zhao.

The SPC stated that the death penalty was given on the basis of clear facts and solid and sufficient evidence. Zhao had committed crimes with serious consequences and vile social effects.

The Intermediate People's Court of Taiyuan in north China's Shanxi Province executed Zhao Friday.

Source: Shanghai Daily, May 26, 2017

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Indonesia's Blasphemy Law Should Not Be Repealed: PKS

Jakarta. Despite the mounting pressure locally and internationally for Indonesia to review Article 156a of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, the Justice and Prosperity Party, or PKS, said that the law should not be repealed.

"Constitutionally and by law, the blasphemy law [embodied in Article 156a of the Criminal Code] is really important in respecting and honoring all religions that are officially acknowledged by the government," Jazuli Juwaini, PKS chairman said on Thursday (18/05).

Calls for Indonesia to abolish the controversial article were at the forefront after former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.

The United Nations Human Rights Council also recommended that the Indonesian government revise its laws.

The Constitutional Court has turned down previous requests to abolish the law. It was challenged after a judicial review was brought to the court in 2010 and 2013, but the court decided that the law should remain on the basis that it is needed to preserve harmony, religious tolerance and limit acts that could potentially disrupt public order.

The Constitutional Court also said that many other nations have criminalized blasphemy.

In fact, anti-blasphemy laws are not unique to Indonesia. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories — or 26 percent— have laws against blasphemy.

Jazuli who is also a member of the House of Representatives Commission I — which oversees defense, information, foreign and political affairs — agreed with the Constitutional Court's decisions, saying that the law is needed to maintain harmony in the country.

He cited Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution that says that all citizens are guaranteed the freedom to worship, each according to his or her own religion or belief.

"It should not be abolished, we want to maintain harmony, because if the article isn't there, people can just insult [...] religion. This will trigger disharmony that could create national instability," he said.

PKS was one of the supporters of the blasphemy trial against Ahok.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, Yustinus Paat, May 18, 2017

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Indonesian caning of gay men strains Australian relationship, says Liberal MP

Caning of two gay men in Aceh: A "cruel and sickening punishment."
Caning of two gay men in Aceh: A "cruel and sickening punishment."
Trent Zimmerman says Australia cannot ignore the ‘cruel and sickening’ punishment, and Derryn Hinch wants foreign aid suspended

A Liberal MP says the “cruel and sickening” caning of two gay men in Aceh has cast a cloud over Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.

Australia should not stand by and ignore the inhumane treatment of the men who were caned 85 times under sharia law for having consensual sex, the gay backbencher Trent Zimmerman told parliament on Tuesday.

He was grateful the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, had raised the matter with her Indonesian counterparts but called on others, including the Muslim community in Australia, to take a stand.

“Our friendship with Indonesia has been strengthened by our perception of a pluralistic, democratic and moderate Islamic nation,” Zimmerman said. “Sadly, recent events have given us cause to question that understanding.

“Nothing should absolve the Indonesian government of its obligation to ensure all its citizens are afforded the basic human rights it has agreed to uphold through its international commitments.”

The crossbench senator Derryn Hinch has called for Australia to suspend its foreign aid to Indonesia over the matter.

“I believe Australian aid should be suspended to show our disapproval and disgust,” Hinch said. “I’m disappointed by our government’s silence on this cruelty.”

Source: The Guardian, AAP, May 26, 2017

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