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

Friday, February 19, 2016

Pakistan, with 324 executions in 2015, ranks third worldwide - report

Pakistan hanged 324 people last year to rank 3rd worldwide in terms of executions, but the vast majority of those put to death had no links to militant groups or attacks, rights groups said in a report seen by Reuters.

Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions in late 2014 as a measure to deter militancy, after a Taliban gunmen attacked a school and killed 134 students and 19 adults.

Of the 351 executions that followed, only 39, or about 1 in 10, involved people linked to a known militant group or guilty of crimes linked to militancy, Reprieve, an international human rights group, and Justice Project Pakistan said in a report.

Pakistan now ranks after China and Iran, carrying out 324 hangings in 2015 alone, the report showed.

Juveniles, mentally ill prisoners, and prisoners who had been tortured or had not received fair trials were among those executed, the report found in an analysis of media reports and data from courts, prisons and legal teams.

"The numbers show that the Pakistan government's claims do not match reality," said Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve.

"Those going to the gallows are too often the poor and vulnerable," she said in a statement. "It is hard to see how hanging people like this will make Pakistan safer."

A spokesman from Pakistan's interior ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

The government initially said the unofficial moratorium was only being lifted in cases connected to militancy, but it was later broadened to cover all cases, the report said.

The hangings have drawn condemnation from international partners but have been broadly popular at home.

Government officials told Reuters last year that the policy had been helping to deter militant attacks.

Militant, insurgent and sectarian attacks have fallen since 2014, though it is unclear whether the decline is linked to the change in execution policy, as it has also coincided with a military crackdown on militant strongholds.

Last year, attacks in Pakistan by militant, insurgent and sectarian groups were down 48 % from 2014, an independent think-tank, the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, says.

Source: Reuters, Feb. 18, 2016


Christian couple sentenced to death for sending 'blasphemous' texts to an Islamic cleric in Pakistan say they were tortured into confessing to the crime

A disabled Christian man and his wife sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy have claimed they were tortured into confessing.

Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, from Gojra, east Pakistan, were found guilty of sending a text message which 'blasphemed' against the Prophet Mohammed to their local imam in 2013.

Mr Emmanuel, who is paralysed from the waist down, claims the only reason he confessed to the crime was because he could not stand watching his wife be tortured by police.

'There is no man who can stand to see his wife being tortured by police, so to save my wife, I confessed,' Mr Emmanuel said in an appeal for bail lodged this week.

The couple were arrested in July 2013 after their local imam, Maulvi Mohammed Hussain, claimed Mr Emmanuel had used his wife's phone to sent him a text insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

The couple, who have 4 children, denies ever sending the text, saying the phone had been stolen from them months before the message was supposed to have been sent.

"There was no evidence that the text messages came from a phone owned by the couple," Farukh Saif, an official of World Vision in Progress giving legal aid to the couple, told Christians in Pakistan.

In the first place they had lost the phone some months before July 2013 and secondly there was no SIM card in their names.

The only evidence police produced was a bill for a SIM card from a shop owner which is unheard of.

Mr Emmanuel and Ms Kausar were initially sentenced to death for blasphemy, but as with nearly all such convictions, it is most likely they will spend the rest of their lives in jail.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are notoriously harsh, and accusations of blasphemy against Islam is taken very seriously in the country.

Being found guilty of desecrating the Koran or blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammed is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The laws have long been criticised both in Pakistan and internationally as they are often used to settle personal grudges and accusations are made with little to no evidence.

They have lodged an appeal at Lahore High Court on the grounds of Mr Emmanuel's deteriorating condition, claiming lack of treatment in jail has left him with bedsores and life-threatening ill health.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are notoriously harsh, and accusations of blasphemy against Islam is taken very seriously in the country.

Being found guilty of desecrating the Koran or blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammed is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The laws have long been criticised both in Pakistan and internationally as they are often used to settle personal grudges and accusations are made with little to no evidence.

Last month, the head of a powerful religious body in the country said he is willing to review Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, to decide if they are Islamic.

Pakistan's religious and political elites almost universally keep clear of debating blasphemy laws in a country where criticism of Islam is a highly sensitive subject. Even rumours of blasphemy have sparked rampaging mobs and deadly riots.

But Muhammad Khan Sherani, chairman of a body that advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam, told Reuters he was willing to reopen the debate and see whether sentences as harsh as the death penalty were fair.

"The government of Pakistan should officially, at the government level, refer the law on committing blasphemy to the Council of Islamic Ideology. There is a lot of difference of opinion among the clergy on this issue," Sherani said in an interview at his office close to Pakistan's parliament.

"Then the council can seriously consider things and give its recommendation of whether it needs to stay the same or if it needs to be hardened or if it needs to be softened," Sherani, said.

Source: Daily Mail, Feb. 18, 2016

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter