Saturday, October 25, 2014

Iran hangs Reyhaneh Jabbari despite campaign

Reyhaneh Jabbari
Reyhaneh Jabbari
Iran has executed a woman who killed a man she said was trying to sexually abuse her.

Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was hanged in a Tehran prison despite an international campaign urging a reprieve.

Jabbari was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's ministry of intelligence.

Human rights group Amnesty International said she was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation.

A campaign calling for a halt to the execution was launched on Facebook and Twitter last month and appeared to have brought a temporary stay in execution.

However, government news agency Tasnim said on Saturday that Jabbari had been executed after her relatives failed to gain consent from the victim's family for a reprieve.

It said her claims of self-defence had not been proved in court.

'True intentions'

Jabbari's mother, Shole Pakravan, confirmed the execution in an interview with BBC Persian, saying she was going to the cemetery to see her daughter's body.

Ms Pakravan had been allowed to see her daughter for an hour on Friday.

After her arrest, Jabbari had been placed in solitary confinement for two months, where she reportedly did not have access to a lawyer or her family.

She was sentenced to death by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009.

Amnesty said that although Jabbari admitted to stabbing Abdolali Sarbandi once in the back, she alleged that there was someone else in the house who actually killed him.

Jalal Sarbandi, the victim's eldest son, said Jabbari had refused to identify the man.

He told Iranian media in April: "Only when her true intentions are exposed and she tells the truth about her accomplice and what really went down will we be prepared to grant mercy,"

The United Nations says Iran has executed about 250 people this year.

Source: BBC News, October 25, 2014


Reyhaneh Jabbari was Hanged this Morning

Despite several months of international calls for halting Reyhaneh’s death sentence, Iranian authorities executed Reyhaneh Jabbari early this morning. Iran Human Rights strongly condemns Reyhaneh Jabbari’s execution.

Iran Human Rights, October 25, 2014: The 26 year old Iranian woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged in the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj early reyhanehthis morning, reported the Iranian state media. She was sentenced to “qesas” (retribution in kind) for murdering “Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi” in 2007, reported the state run Fars news agency. Reyhaneh had claimed that she stubbed Mr. Sarbandi in self defence. In the past months Iran Human Rights (IHR) together many other human rights groups and the UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed had called for a halt of the execution and providing her a fair trial.

IHR strongly condemns Reyhaneh Jabbari’s execution. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: “We send our condolences to Reyhaneh’s family and everyone who made an attempt to stop this execution. Like many others who are executed in Iran, Reyhaneh was not subjected to a fair trial and due process. Through the inhumane “qesas” law, the Iranian authorities try to put the responsibility of the execution on the family of the murder victim, but it is the Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the Judiciary who are responsible and must be held accountable for the execution of Reyhaneh and hundreds of other executions every year”.

Source: Iran Human Rights, October 25, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

UK ‘aid for executions’ in spotlight as Pakistan set to restart hangings

More than a hundred prisoners apprehended in UK-funded drug arrests are now facing execution in Pakistan, after a judge scheduled a hanging that would end the country’s 2-year death penalty moratorium.

A one-month stay of execution granted to Pakistani prisoner Shoaib Sarwar expires next Monday (27th October), leaving Mr Sarwar at imminent risk of death. The hanging, if it takes place, would be Pakistan’s first execution since 2012, and would throw into question the lives of at least 112 drug offenders currently on Pakistan’s death row – including a number of British nationals, who were sentenced to death in trials falling short of international standards.

While the UK government’s Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty lists Pakistan as a ‘priority country’, the UK has given more than £12 million to support anti-drug operations in Pakistan, where drug possession can carry a death sentence. UK funding has covered training for officers in Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force as well as intelligence and equipment, while ministers have failed to take steps to prevent the aid leading to death sentences. Last week, Denmark announced it would reconsider similar aid in light of the moratorium’s possible collapse.

Pakistan’s specialist drug courts maintain a conviction rate of more than 92 per cent, and can hand down a death sentence to anyone convicted of possession of more than 1kg of drugs. The Pakistani Anti-Narcotics Force lists death sentences on its website as “Prosecution Achievements.”

In correspondence with legal charity Reprieve, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has confirmed that the UK has ended counter-narcotics funding to Iran due to “the exact same concerns” as Denmark; the latter country redirected funding in 2013 after concluding donations were “leading to executions”. On Pakistan, however, Mr Clegg said the UK would continue its funding, despite being “acutely aware that this assistance must not compromise our clear opposition to the use of capital punishment in all circumstances, including for drug offences”.

Asked what Britain’s aid stance would be if Pakistan’s moratorium collapses, Mr Clegg promised that the Government would “urge the Pakistan authorities to abolish the death penalty”, but failed to address the issue of the 100+ death row prisoners whose arrests were funded by the UK.

Reprieve has asked the British Government to make its aid conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offences – consistent with its position on similar aid to Iran – and to accept responsibility for the link between its support for drug operations and the application of the death penalty, including for British nationals.

Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team Director Maya Foa said: “Despite calling Pakistan a “priority country” in its strategy to abolish the death penalty worldwide, Britain has sent millions of pounds to help Pakistani forces arrest and sentence people to death for alleged drug offences. The people whose death sentences British aid has supported are hardly the barons or kingpins of the international drug trade – they are innocent scapegoats or vulnerable mules, often targeted by notoriously corrupt police forces eager to meet ‘quotas’. British aid for executions breaches the Government’s own human rights rules and makes a mockery of its commitment to fight capital punishment abroad.”

Source: Reprieve, October 24, 2014

Pakistan: Asia Bibi's Husband Expresses Distress Over Death Sentence

Asia Bibi has been on death row for several years, and after the Lahore High Court (LHC) rejected her last appeal, Bibi's husband has become distraught over the sentence.

"This appeal was [a] ray of hope but the rejection of the appeal has shattered my confidence in the Pakistani legal system," Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih said to the British Pakistani Christian Association according to Christian Today.

Shamim Masih of the British Pakistani Christian Association said that Ashiq was "weeping bitterly" over the result of his wife's death sentence.

"I have not told my children about the court decision. How can I? I am too scared of their reaction - they are already very depressed. We all were expecting her to come home and now this happens," Ashiq said.

Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced in 2010 under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Her lawyers have 30 days to file an appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court in Islamabad. This is a long process that could take additional years of waiting, which could pose a problem as Bibi's health conditions worsen.

"How can I tell my children their mother is not free? This will kill them," Ashiq said.

In Muslim-majority Pakistan, blasphemy laws are upheld in the strictest form, and these charges can lead to the death penalty. Many reports have claimed these laws are sometimes used to settle personal scores. Belder believes that the Lahore High Court rejected Bibi's appeal under pressure by Islamists in the region.

Bibi's case drew international attention when 2 politicians who defended her - Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatt - were assassinated in 2011 after they spoke out for reforms on the blasphemy laws in the country.

Other Christian leaders in Iran have spoken out against the ruling. Bishop Rufin Anthony called for a "Day of Prayer" for Bibi as the court's decision was "heart breaking," according to BosNewsLife. In addition, Bishop Thomas Dabre of neighboring India called Bibi's death sentence "an affront to the dignity of us all."

Samira Shackle wrote in the Guardian that change will not come to the blasphemy laws because extremist groups have power in Pakistan due to the majority of the public sharing their ideologies.

"The targeting of anyone who speaks out about blasphemy laws has had a chilling effect, and even outspoken liberal voices are reluctant to make the case for reform publicly," she said.

"While this self-censorship is entirely understandable in a country where the authorities provide little protection, it gives extremist ideas the space to flourish and grow. Without people in the halls of power willing to stand up and call for change, there is little hope for Bibi."

2 European Parliament legislators, Peter van Dalen and Bas Belder, have said that they plan to make an official appeal to Parliament on this case, according to BosNewsLife. They also plan on requesting the European parliament's president, the European Union's foreign policy chief, the European Commission president, and the Pope to act now to free Bibi.

"I am saddened and condemn this cowardly decision by Pakistani judges," Van Dalen said. "It's terrible that they did not find courage to acquit this young wife and mother of five children. Asia Bibi is innocent. She is already spending 5 years on death row, and must be freed now."

Bibi was 1st arrested in 2009 she got into an argument with Muslim women regarding sharing the same drinking water. This resulted in the Muslim women filing blasphemy charges against her for insulting the prophet Mohammed. If the death sentence remains upheld, Bibi will be the 1st woman in history to be legally executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Source: Christian Daily, October 23, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pope: no to death penalty and to inhuman prison conditions

Pope Francis
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday called on all men and women of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty in “all of its forms” and for the improvement of prison conditions.

The Pope was addressing a group of members of the International Association of Criminal Law whom he received in the Vatican.

In his discourse the Pope also addressed the need to combat the phenomena of human trafficking and of corruption.

And he stressed that the fact that the enforcement of legal penalties must always respect human dignity.

In a dense and impassioned discourse to the Jurists assembled in the Vatican for a private audience, Pope Francis said that the “life sentence” is really a “concealed death sentence”, and that is why – he explained – he had it annulled in the Vatican Penal Code.

Many of the off-the-cuff comments during the Pope’s speech shone the light on how politics and media all too often act as triggers enflaming “violence and private and public acts of vengeance” that are always in search of a scape-goat.

Recalling the words of Saint John Paul II who condemned the death penalty as does the Catechism, Francis decried the practice and denounced “so-called extrajudicial or extralegal executions” calling them “deliberate homicides” committed by public officials behind the screen of the Law:

“All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in the respect of the human dignity of those who have been deprived of freedom. I link this to the death sentence. In the Penal Code of the Vatican, the sanction of life sentence is no more. A life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed”.

And Pope Francis had words of harsh criticism for all forms of criminality which undermine human dignity, there are forms of his – he said - even within the criminal law system which too often does not respect that dignity when criminal law is applied.

“In the last decades” – the Pope said – “there has been a growing conviction that through public punishment it is possible to solve different and disparate social problems, as if for different diseases one could prescribe the same medicine.”

He said this conviction has pushed the criminal law system beyond its sanctioning boundaries, and into the “realm of freedom and the rights of persons” without real effectiveness.

“There is the risk of losing sight of the proportionality of penalties that historically reflect the scale of values upheld by the State. The very conception of criminal law and the enforcement of sanctions as an ‘ultima ratio’ in the cases of serious offenses against individual and collective interests have weakened. As has the debate regarding the use of alternative penal sanctions to be used instead of imprisonment”.

Pope Francis speaks of remand or detention of a suspect as a “contemporary form of illicit hidden punishment” concealed by a “patina of legality”, as it enforces “an anticipation of punishment” upon a suspect who has not been convicted. From this – the Pope points out – derives the risk of multiplying the number of detainees still awaiting trial, who are thus convicted without benefiting from the protective rules of a trial. In some countries – he says – this happens in some 50% of all cases with the trickledown effect of terribly overcrowded detention centers:

“The deplorable conditions of detention that take place in different parts of the world are an authentic inhuman and degrading trait, often caused by deficiencies of criminal law, or by a lack of infrastructures and good planning. In many cases they are the result of an arbitrary and merciless exercise of power over persons who have been deprived of freedom.”

Pope Francis also speaks of what he calls “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and sanctions,” and compares detention in maximum-security prisons to a “form of torture”. The isolation imposed in these places – he says – causes “mental and physical” suffering that result in an “increased tendency towards suicide”. Torture – the Pope points out – is used not only as a means to obtain “confession or information”:

“It is an authentic ‘surplus’ of pain that is added to the woes of detention. In this way torture is used not only in illegal centers of detention or in modern concentration camps, but also in prisons, in rehabilitation centers for minors, in psychiatric hospitals, in police stations and in other institutions for detention or punishment”.

And Pope Francis said children must be spared the harshness of imprisonment – as must, at least in a limited way – older people, sick people, pregnant women, disabled people as well as parents if they are the sole guardians of minors or persons with disabilities.

The Pope also highlighted one of the criminal phenomena he has always spoken out against vehemently: human trafficking which - he says – is the result of that “cycle of dire poverty” that traps “a billion people” and forces at least 45 million to flee from conflict:

“Based on the fact that it is impossible to commit such a complex crime as is the trafficking of persons without the complicity, be it active or of omission of action of the State, it is evident that, when the efforts to prevent and combat this phenomenon are not sufficient, we find ourselves before a crime against humanity. This is even truer if those who are responsible for the protection of persons and the safeguard of their freedom become an accomplice of those who trade in human beings; in those cases the State is responsible before its citizens and before the international community”.

Pope Francis dedicates an ample part of his discourse to corruption. The corrupt person – according to the Pope – is a person who takes the “short-cuts of opportunism” that lead him to think of himself as a “winner” who insults and persecutes whoever contradicts him. “Corruption” – the Pope says “is a greater evil than sin”, and more than “be forgiven, must be cured”.

“The criminal sanction is selective. It is like a net that captures only the small fish leaving the big fish to swim free in the ocean. The forms of corruption that must be persecuted with greatest severity are those that cause grave social damage, both in economic and social questions – for example grave fraud against public administration or the dishonest use of administration”.

Concluding, Pope Francis exhorted the jurists to use the criteria of “cautiousness” in the enforcement of criminal sanctions. This – he affirmed – must be the principle that upholds criminal law:

“The respect for human dignity must operate not only to limit the arbitrariness and the excesses of State officials, but as a criteria of orientation for the persecution and the repression of those behaviors that represent grave attacks against the dignity and the integrity of the human person”.

Source: Vatican Radio, October 23, 2014

Iran: Prisoner hanged after six years on death row

NCRI – The authorities in a prison in a northern city of Iran hanged a young man after he had been on death row for six years.

The 35-year-old prisoner was executed on Wednesday (October 22, 2014) in a prison in Amol – a city in the northern Mazandaran province.

The head of the regime’s judiciary identified the prisoner by his initials - H.S., reported state-run Fars news agency.

Meanwhile, on the same day 10 other inmates have been transferred to isolation to await their execution in three prisons across the country.

Three prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in a prison in the southern city of Kerman.

In Adel-Abad prison in the southern city of Shiraz six inmates who have been sentenced to death were transferred to isolation to be executed in coming days.

Three of the inmates had been arrested on drug related charges.

A truck driver who had been sentenced to death for drugs being found on his truck without his knowledge has been transferred to await his execution in city of Zahadan, southeastern Iran.

In Iran, under the rule of mullahs and under Hassan Rouhani, the death penalty is being widely used.

Since August 2013 when Hassan Rouhani took office as a ‘moderate’ president, over 1000 - mostly officially announced - executions have been carried out in Iran.

At least 27 women and more than a dozen prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest, together with 20 political prisoners, are amongst those hanged, many publicly.

Source: NCRI, October 23, 2014

Americans' Support for Death Penalty Stable

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Six in 10 Americans favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, generally consistent with attitudes since 2008. Since 1937, support has been as low as 42% in 1966 and as high as 80% in 1994.

Americans' support for the death penalty has varied over time, but apart from a single reading in 1966, the public has consistently favored it. Support ebbed from the 1960s to the mid-1970s, when the application of the death penalty was questioned and ultimately led to the Supreme Court's invalidating state death penalty laws. Subsequent to that, newly written laws passed constitutional muster and states began to use the death penalty again in the late 1970s, with support among Americans increasing to 70% or more in the mid-1980s to the late 1990s.

The broader trend over the last two decades has been diminished support for the death penalty, including a 60% reading last year, the lowest since 1972.

Over the last two decades, Democrats' support for the death penalty has dropped significantly, from 75% to 49%. Now, Democrats are divided on whether it should be administered to convicted murderers. Republicans' and independents' support is also lower now -- down nine and 18 percentage points, respectively -- though both groups still solidly favor the death penalty.

The death penalty has always been controversial, and this year, the issue made headlines again amid a botched execution attempt in Oklahoma.

Americans' support for the death penalty has stabilized at a lower level than was the case prior to 2008, and is well below the highs from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. And in recent years the public has shown only a slight preference for the death penalty over life imprisonment as the better penalty for murder. These trends toward diminished support seem to be reflected in state death penalty laws, as six U.S. states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, and no new states have adopted it.

Democrats are mostly responsible for this shift in attitudes, and thus it is not surprising that most of the states that have abolished the death penalty in recent years are Democratic leaning. The death penalty is another example of how Democrats' and Republicans' opinions on political matters have become increasingly divergent compared with recent decades, including their views of the job the president is doing and on issues such as global warming and labor unions.

Click here to read the full article

Source: Gallup, October 23, 2014

Iran: Three Afghan nationals executed for drug trafficking

October 21, 2014: At least three Afghans were hanged to death in Iran over drugs smuggling charges, Afghan officials said.

The officials further added that the deceased individuals were originally residents of northeastern Takhar province.

Provincial governor spokesman for Takhar province, Sanatullah Temori, said the dead bodies were handed over to their families and buried in Kalafgan district.

Source: khaama.com, October 22, 2014

Syria: Jihadists stone man and woman to death for adultery

October 21, 2014: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a man and a woman were stoned to death for adultery in separate executions in Islamic State-run territories of Syria.

The man was executed in Idlib province in an area controlled by Islamist groups including the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's official affiliate in Syria. 

It is the first documented case of a man being stoned to death for adultery since Syria descended into civil war in 2011 and hard-line Islamic groups emerged as powerful players in areas that slipped from government control, the Observatory said.

The woman was executed in Hama province in an area controlled by Islamic State, the Observatory said. A video posted online appeared to show her execution. A bearded fighter is shown passing down the sentence in the presence of other gunmen and her father, who appears to approve of her execution.

Her hands and feet were then tied with a rope and she was forced to kneel in a pit. Covered head to toe, she begun to pray out loud as large rocks were seen striking her body. The video shows the logo of Islamic State.

The fighter overseeing the woman's execution appears to lay the blame for her crime on her husband, suggesting he had been absent. "Do not leave women. Do not be absent from them for longer than the time period permitted (by Islamic law). Return to God, brothers. And take good care of women," he says.

At one point he addresses the woman as "honorable sister", and asks her for final words. "I advise every woman to protect her honor more than her life," she says. And I ask every man, before he marries off his daughter, to scrutinize her new marital environment. That's all," she says in a faint voice.

It is not clear exactly when the video was shot, or how the woman was found guilty of adultery – a conviction that would require at least four witnesses according to Islamic law. 

Source: Reuters, October 21, 2014

Somalia: Islamists stone 18-year-old boy to death for rape

October 21, 2014: Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia publicly stoned an 18-year-old boy to death after he was accused of rape.

The teenager, named as Hassan Ahmed Ali, was accused of raping a 28-year-old woman at gunpoint and sentenced to death by a local judge, Al-Shabaab’s Radio Andalus reported. 

About 100 people witnessed the killing in the main square of Dharuuro, a village in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, Mohamed Dhubow, a resident, said by phone.

“Dozens of masked fighters” threw stones at the teenager, who’d been buried up to his neck, Dhubow said. “No one could help him.” 

Source: bloomberg.com, October 22, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Egypt hands death penalty to 7 jihadists for fatal attacks

CAIRO, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- An Egyptian military court on Tuesday sentenced to death seven members of Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and two to life in prison on charges of planning and executing attacks on the military, state-run media Ahramonline reported.

The attacks, known as the Arab Sharkas case, led to the death of two military officers.

The defendants' charges include planning terrorist operations, shooting at security forces and attacking military facilities. The ruling has been approved by Egypt's grand mufti, a necessary procedure in Egyptian law.

This is the first trial against the Sinai-based jihadist group, which claims to support the Islamic State (IS) group operating in Syria and Iraq.

Terrorist attacks have risen since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi by the army last July and the massive security crackdown on his supporters, which left about 1, 000 of them killed and thousands more arrested.

The attacks targeted security men and their premises in the restive Sinai Peninsula and then extended to hit the capital and provinces across the country.

A recent official report said the death toll from such attacks has reached nearly 500, most of whom were soldiers and policemen. The al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.

Source: Xinhua, October 22, 2014

Florida: Scott, Crist both "tough on crime", but different

As the state's chief executive, the governor of Florida wields significant power over the court system and has great influence on how the state keeps the public safe.

Rick Scott and Charlie Crist have different views of how that power should be employed. Though both men say they endorse the death penalty, by and large, Scott advocates a harder line on crime. Crist says he, too, is tough but that he favors a more balanced approach. These differences in tenor are evident in the 2 candidates' positions on guns, prison sentences, civil rights and judicial appointments. A former Republican now running as a Democrat, Crist used to embrace the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie," earned as a state senator when he sponsored legislation to revive chain gangs.

Now, he says, times are different. In addition to long prison sentences, the state should consider what works and how to reintegrate felons into society to make them less likely to commit more crimes, he says.

Asked if he still should be called "Chain Gang Charlie," Crist balked.

"It's important to remember the context of the original 'chain gang' legislation: Florida was seeing record high crime and folks didn't feel safe in their homes," he said in an email response. "I believe in justice - but I also believe in mercy."

Crist has also tempered his support of former tough-on-crime laws, including one he sponsored, the Stop Turning Out Prisoners act, which requires prisoners to serve 85 % of their sentences, as well as 10-20-Life, which stiffened minimum mandatory sentences for gun crime.

"I fully support the concepts of the STOP Act and 10-20-Life, and I'm not necessarily in favor of changing them, but after 15 and 20 years it is appropriate to review them and see if they can be improved," Crist said.

Republican Scott's campaign says Crist's stance is just another example of the former governor reversing positions. The incumbent says this is no time back down.

"Law enforcement officials agree that Charlie Crist's flip-flop on important policies like mandatory minimum sentencing and 10-20-Life threaten the progress we've made in achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate," said Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair.

Those laws have contributed to the growth in the prison population and increased costs for the Department of Corrections.

When Scott ran for governor in 2010, he promised to cut $1 billion from the state's $2.4 billion budget for prisons. He made cuts but was unable to keep that pledge; the prison budget now is $2.1 billion.

With more than 100,000 inmates and 55 prisons, Florida, the third most populous state, has the third largest prison system in the country. But federal statistics also show Florida also has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, with 524 people behind bars for every 100,000 people in 2012.

7 of the prisons, with about 10,000 inmates, are privately run, and Scott has fought unsuccessfully to expand the privatization of prisons.

As governor and a state legislator, Crist also targeted prison budgets. In 2007, under Crist, Corrections Secretary James McDonough proposed saving money by erecting tents for some inmates and putting some to work in road crews.

When the economy slid in 2009, Crist wanted to use money set aside for building prisons to plug holes in the budget. A year earlier, his budget proposal called for a budget increase of $186 million for construction of facilities for 4,149 new prison beds.

Crist says he opposes further privatization. "Private prisons focus on filling beds rather than rehabilitating those who find themselves behind bars," he said.

The prison system has also been the focus of scandals, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigating 82 cases in which inmates died of nonnatural causes. The department has fired dozens of employees, several over allegations that they punched and beat inmates.

The controversies, Crist said, underscore that the department "needs a comprehensive review of both its prison operations and its budget. We need to improve correctional officers' training, basic services to inmates, and the rehabilitation programs that will reduce recidivism."

Asked if Scott still hopes to cut $1 billion from the prison budget and if he still plans to expand prison privatization, his campaign spokesman did not respond directly, saying Scott "is proud that his administration has saved money in the corrections system while achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate."

Crist and Scott differ sharply on how to treat felons after they have served their sentences.

Shortly after he became governor, Crist pushed through changes to grant nonviolent former felons an automatic restoration of their civil rights, including the right to vote. Crist said at the time that people convicted of crimes should be able to move forward after paying the price levied by judges and juries.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, an estimated 154,000 former felons had their civil rights restored under Crist after the reforms he initiated in April 2007, a rate that was previously about 8,000 annually. The change was supported by civil rights groups but opposed by some law enforcement organizations.

After Scott took office in 2011, he and Attorney General Pam Bondi rolled back Crist's changes, saying nonviolent former felons should have to wait up to 5 years and violent felons 10 years before applying to have their civil rights restored.

A 2012 study by a national group that advocates for post-release rights found Florida had the nation's highest percentage of people prohibited from voting because of a felony record - 10.4 % of the total adult population and 23 % of adult African-Americans.

Asked several questions about criticism of his rollback, the Scott campaign responded with a single sentence: "Governor Scott respects the process that is in place for restoring rights for convicted felons."

This hard-line vs. moderate approach carries over into the 2 candidates' positions relating to guns.

Earlier in his career, Crist and the National Rifle Association were the best of friends. The gun rights group endorsed Crist when he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio and gave him a grade of A on its report card designed to guide voters.

As governor, Crist was known for signing pro-gun rights measures into law, including one that allows people to bring their weapons to work and leave them in the trunks of their cars. This time around, the NRA has a different view of Crist. The organization's latest grade for him is a D, compared to A+ given for Scott.

NRA official Chris W. Cox said, "Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history."

Scott has signed 12 NRA-backed bills into law, nine more than Crist.

Asked if Scott supports restricting access to assault weapons or increasing background checks for gun purchases, his campaign said Scott "is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. In 2013, he signed legislation, with the support of Second Amendment advocates as well as mental health professionals, that helps keeps firearms out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves."

Among the laws signed by Scott was one recently upheld by a federal appeals court that bars doctors from asking patients about their guns or recording that information in records unless it was medically necessary.

Crist now favors expanded background checks for gun purchases.

"I'm a believer in the Second Amendment, and I grew up hunting," Crist said. "I don't think you need an assault rifle to hunt a deer. But what's most important is making sure we keep guns out of the hands of criminals."

The 2 men have different styles when it comes to picking judges, but both have been accused of trying to appeal to political constituencies in their judicial selections.

Crist picked 4 Supreme Court justices, with his 1st 2 very conservative and his 2nd focused on making the court more diverse. In each instance, he was described by observers as trying to shore up voting blocs.

Scott has not had the opportunity to appoint any Supreme Court justices but has clashed with the Legislative Black Caucus by telling members he won't pick judges who think differently than he does to achieve diversity.

In January, the caucus canceled a meeting with Scott, saying it was disappointed in part in his failure to promote diversity in the judiciary.

In May, the Florida Bar released a report critical of Scott and calling for more diverse judicial appointments. Saying the judiciary is "woefully unrepresentative" of the state, the report noted that just 16 % of 981 state judges are nonwhite, a portion that has remained about the same since 2000.

Source: Tampa Tribune, October 19, 2014

Zimbabwe High Court Rules Out Capital Punishment

The High Court cannot impose the death penalty on murderers in Zimbabwe until the legislature enacts a law spelling out the circumstances under which one can be hanged, Justice Charles Hungwe has said.

The landmark ruling spared Jonathan Mutsinze of the Jerusalem Church of Marondera the hangman's noose for killing a policeman and a security guard in the course of an armed robbery.

Justice Hungwe said there was no law defining "aggravated circumstances," a condition for one to be hanged.

In the absence of the Act, Justice Hungwe said, the courts cannot impose capital punishment.

He said life imprisonment was appropriate in Mutsinze's case.

Justice Hungwe ruled that the new Constitution under Section 48(2) stated that death penalty could only be imposed on a person who commits murder under "aggravated circumstances" but there was no Act defining the aggravated circumstances or setting out the conditions under which capital punishment can be imposed.

Justice Hungwe said before the introduction of the new Constitution, the death penalty would be imposed after the court found no extenuating circumstances and the extenuating circumstances were well-defined.

"Section 48 of the new Constitution brings in a new legal terrain, which recognises everyone's right to life including prisoners.

"Section 48 (2) of the Constitution permits death penalty to be imposed on a person convicted of murder committed with aggravated circumstances and that the law must allow the court a discretion on whether or not to impose the penalty.

"In my view what the Constitution has done is to unfetter the exercise of the discretion which was previously fettered under Section 337 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

"The omission of reference to extenuating circumstances and the introduction of aggravated circumstances, in my view, must be interpreted to mean that what is envisaged in an Act of Parliament, will define the term (aggravated circumstances) or set out conditions on which the court will impose death penalty," he said.

"Alternatively, and in any event, the absence of the definition of the term or what constitutes aggravated circumstances, must mean that they were to be defined in the envisaged law."

Justice Hungwe interpreted the situation to mean that Zimbabwe was moving away from the death penalty.

"I interpret the legal position to be that in keeping with its international obligations and best practices, Zimbabwe intends to move away from death penalty," he said.

Justice Hungwe's ruling confirms an argument by prominent Harare lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu in a separate case in which the National Prosecuting Authority was seeking an order barring the High Court from imposing the death penalty on Zimbabwean murder suspects extradited from countries that do not recognise death sentence.

Countries like South Africa are holding on to murder suspects for fear they will be executed when extradited to Zimbabwe.

When Adv Mpofu was asked to give his own analysis of the law as a friend of the court, he said while the old Constitution specifically made provisions for the death penalty, the new order left that decision to the legislature.

Mutsinze, who had been in remand prison for 10 years awaiting sentence, was finally sentenced after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application for stay of prosecution.

He was convicted of murder with actual intent, which usually attracts the death penalty, but the loophole saved him and he was slapped with a life sentence.

Source: The Herald, October 21, 2014

The Maldives: High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not "shy away" from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

"We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned," Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

"While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it".

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari'ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

"In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas," Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state's preferred method of implementing capital punishment.

Source: Minivan News, October 21, 2014

Iran: 13 executed in a day, 6 inmates die in prison due to dire conditions

Iran: Watching a public execution
The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 13 prisoners on Sunday October 19, 2014 in Ghezel-Hessar Karaj Prison, Tabriz Central Prison and Rasht Central Prison.

18-year-old Fardin Jaafarian was hanged in Tabriz prison for allegedly committing a crime when he was 14.

A group of 8 inmates hanged in Ghezel-Hessar prison while another group of 4 executed in Rasht prison.

Meanwhile, at least 6 inmates lost their lives due to the excruciating conditions at a death camp and inhumane pressures by henchmen.

The men arrested in city of Bandar Abbas as a part of mass arrests carried out in the city October 12-17 under the pretext of fighting against drugs. They were all imprisoned in Camp Jabal-Bor in Bissim area of the city,

Also at least 5 death row prisoners in Urumyeh Central Prison have been transferred to solitary confinement since October 18 to await their execution.

Meanwhile, Iranian regime officials continue to pledge to continue on violations of human rights in Iran.

Commenting on the latest reports by international bodies on the violation of human rights in Iran, Sadegh Larijani, the head of the mullah's Judiciary, said on October 15: "The more they attack us on the issue of human rights, the more we become determined to carry out sentences," IRGC affiliated YJC website reported.

Source: NCRI, October 21, 2014

Pakistan: Church to appeal Asia Bibi death penalty

Catholic leaders in Pakistan will appeal to their country's Supreme Court after a lower court upheld the death penalty for a blasphemy ruling against a Christian mother of 5 children.

"Like it or not, we have to accept the court order," Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, told Catholic News Service.

4 days earlier, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence handed to Asia Bibi in 2010. "The only option before us now is to appeal against the verdict. We have applied for a certified copy of the verdict. We will appeal against it in the Supreme Court," Father Mani said, adding Christians were praying for an acquittal.

A statement from the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, a Catholic group named for a critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

"Bibi has wrongly been convicted of blasphemy. We remain optimistic that the rule of law will prevail and justice will be done (when the appeal is heard in the Supreme Court). For now that is our only hope," said the statement by the Catholic advocacy group.

Bibi, an "untouchable" low caste, was accused of blasphemy after an argument with her Muslim neighbour over a drinking glass in the fruit field where they worked together. She was the 1st Christian woman convicted under the blasphemy law that provides for mandatory death sentence even for unintentional acts or words of blasphemy.

2 prominent critics of the blasphemy law lost their lives in their bid to get Bibi released on bail following her conviction.

Salman Taseer, a Muslim and governor of Punjab province, was shot dead on January 4, 2011, by his Muslim body guard after he initiated a clemency petition.

Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42-year old Catholic and federal minister for religious minorities who closely worked with Taseer with the clemency petition, was killed 2 months later in Islamabad.

More than 96 % of Pakistan's population of more than 180 million people are Muslims. While Christians and Hindus account for over 1.5 % each, Ahmadis, Sikhs, and tribals account for the remaining 1 %.

Source: Catholic Herald, October 22, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nigeria: Reprieve for Death Row Inmates in Kaduna

In an unprecedented turn of events, reprieve has eventually come the way of Thankgod Ebhos and Sunday Eze Onyeabor, two death row inmates formerly in Benin prison, following the signing of their release order by the governor of Kaduna State, Ramalan Yero.

The governor signed their release in exercise of his power of Prerogative of Mercy as outlined under Section 212 of the Nigerian Constitution. Ebhos is one of the nine prisoners whose release order was approved to commemorate Nigeria's 54th Independence Day celebration.

Onyeabor was sentenced to death in 1994 and had been on death row for 20 years, while Ebhos was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1995 and has been on death row for 19 years.

The duo, who have appeals pending at the Court of Appeal are beneficiaries of Avocats Sans Frontières France's Saving Lives (SALI) project initiated in 2011, which has since recorded the release of 48 inmates from prison.

Ebhos came into the limelight in June 2013 when he narrowly escaped execution alongside the famous four inmates of Benin prison after their death sentence warrants were signed by the Edo state government.

Ebhos, the fifth inmate, was actually taken to the gallows but was not hanged unlike the four who did not escape the hangman's noose.

The long winding road to Ebhos release, however, began with the intervention of the international human rights Organization, Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France) on the platform of their death penalty project, Saving Lives (SALI).

The pro bono team of SALI lawyers forestalled further threat of execution by immediately filing for an injunction at the ECOWAS community court of justice.


Source: allAfrica, October 20, 2014

Jodi Arias death penalty retrial begins

Jodi Arias
More than a year after she was found guilty of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Jodi Arias is back for her death penalty trial . The 34-year-old Arizona woman is facing a new jury who will decide whether or not she deserves the death penalty — something the original jury couldn’t agree on. Lawyers are expected to make their opening statements on the case on Tuesday.

To be clear, Arias is not on trial over the murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, who was stabbed 29 times and suffered a gunshot wound to the face at his home in Mesa, Arizona, in 2008. Arias contended that she killed Alexander in self-defense. The previous jury, however, rejected that claim. Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2013, and that conviction still stands.

However, the previous jury became deadlocked during the sentencing period, torn between the death penalty and life in prison. According to CNN, a source close to the previous jury said the vote was 8-4 in favor of the death penalty. A death penalty sentence needs an unanimous vote from a 12-person jury, so Judge Sherry Stephens declared a mistrial.

Arias’ retrial will only focus on what’s called the “penalty phase.” A new jury was carefully picked from a pool of about 400 applicants, with the court making sure prospective jurors were impartial on both Arias’ case and the death penalty.

What happens if this new jury can’t decide if Arias deserves the death penalty? Reuters reports that in the case of a second hung jury, Stephens will take the death penalty off the table altogether and hand down either sentence to Arias: life in prison or life without parole for 25 years.


Source: Bustle, October 21, 2014

Oscar Pistorius sentenced to 5 years in prison

Oscar Pistorius
(Reuters) - Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius started his five-year jail sentence on Tuesday for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, marking the end of a trial that has gripped South Africa and millions around the world.

His uncle, Arnold Pistorius, indicated he would not appeal.

As judge Thokozile Masipa gave her decision on the 27-year-old's culpable homicide conviction, Pistorius, whose downfall has been likened to that of American football star O.J. Simpson, stood resolutely in the dock.

His only reaction was to wipe his eyes before two police officers led him to the holding cells beneath the High Court in the heart of the South African capital.

Ninety minutes later, an armored police vehicle carrying Pistorius - still dressed in dark suit, white shirt and black tie - left the building through a throng of reporters toward Pretoria Central Prison, where he is expected to serve his time.

Once the execution site for opponents of South Africa's former white-minority government, the jail is now home to the country's most hardened criminals, including the man known as "Prime Evil", apartheid death squad leader Eugene de Kock.

Prisons officials said Pistorius, whose lower legs were amputated when he was a baby, would be housed in a separate and secure hospital wing of the massive complex.

In delivering her decision, 67-year-old Masipa stressed the difficulty of arriving at a decision that was "fair and just to society and to the accused".

She also rebuffed suggestions that Pistorius - a wealthy and influential white man - might be able to secure preferential justice despite the "equality before law" guarantee enshrined in the post-apartheid 1996 constitution.

"It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were created that there is one law for the poor and disadvantaged, and one law for the rich and famous," she said.


Source: Reuters, Joe Brock, October 21, 2014

Ohio: Austin Myers moved to death row

Austin Myers
The teen sentenced to death for the murder of 18-year-old Justin Back in Warren County has been transferred to the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

That's where male inmates on Ohio's death row are housed.

According to the website for the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, Austin Myers, 19, was admitted on Friday, one day after a judge handed down a death sentence.

Myers and Timothy Mosley, 20, were convicted of robbing and killing Back in his Wayne Township Home. Back was choked, stabbed and shot. The pair dumped Back's body in Preble County.

Mosley testified against Myers in accordance with a plea deal he made with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty. Mosley faces life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing in a few weeks.

Myers is now the youngest inmate on death row in Ohio. An execution date has not been set.

Executions in Ohio are on hold until February 2015 while the state reviews its lethal injection method.

Source: WDTN news, October 20, 2014

Iran: Juvenile offender Fardin Jafarian executed in Tabriz Central Prison

Execution in Iran (file photo)
"Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder at the age of 14 was executed yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), "Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder was executed by hanging yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison.

A close relative who preferred to remain anonymous told HRANA's reporter: "This teenager murdered his friend at the age of 14 with no intention and due to carelessness."

This source continued: "At the early hours of yesterday morning and at the age of 18, he was executed at Tabriz Central Prison's enclosure after the family of the victim refused to forgive him."

It is important to say that on 05 September, 1991, Iranian government have [signed] the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This international convention was also approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly on 20 February, 1994, and was legislated a domestic law in Iran. According to the article 37 of this treaty, death penalty, long term or life imprisonment sentences without the right to parole for under 18s are banned.

Source: Human Rights Activists News Agency, October 20, 2014


Human Rights: Juvenile offender executed in Tabriz

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged a juvenile offender who allegedly had committed a crime 4 years ago when he was 14.

The victim, Fardin Jaffarian was hanged early morning on Saturday, October 18, in the city's main prison.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1000 prisoners have been executed including many juvenile offenders.

In a message on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10, 2014), Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, stated that the religious dictatorship ruling Iran is a government of executions based on its history, ideology, laws and daily policies.

While noting "an alarming increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years" Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said in his latest report: "The human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of concern." "Various laws, policies and institutional practices continue to undermine the conditions needed for the realization of the fundamental rights guaranteed by international and national law."

Rights groups and regional analysts say Iran's record may be worsening in the backdrop of potential detente with the West," an article published Wednesday in The Washington Times reported.

An advance copy of a book-length report on the violation human rights in Iran titled "Behind Rouhani's Smile" provided to The Washington Times by the National Council of Resistance of Iran notes more than a dozen cases of juvenile offenders have been hanged during past year.

Source: NCR-Iran, October 20, 2014