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Showing posts from July, 2010

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No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

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Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

Human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei urges the Iranian authorities to release his wife and brother in law

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After 1 week of no new about whereabouts of the human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, he sent an open letter to Tehran's public prosecutor today.
The human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei asked in an open letter to Jafar Dowlatabadi the public prosecutor of Tehran, to release his wife and brother in law.
Mr. Mostafaei wrote in his letter: "The district prosecutor of Shahid Moghaddas, has in an act which is unjustifiable and contrary to the principle of personal crimes, taken hostage my wife and brother in law, and announced that they will not be released until I present myself". Mr. Mostafaei characterized this action as "abuse of power" and "acts of personal taste".
Mr. Mostafaei explained that he presented himself to the prosecutor's office last Saturday after being summoned "legally". Later the same day he was once again summoned by phone and he had decided to go to the prosecutor's office the next day. However he was told by his …

Two hanged in Iran

2 men were hanged in the prison of Isfahan, (in the central part of Iran) early today, reported the state run news agency Fars.
According to the report the men were identified as "Behnam J" (32) convicted of keeping 1 kilo and 645 grams of heroin, and Shahram A. convicted of keeping 166 grams and selling 15 grams of crack.
The charges have not been confirmed by any independent sources.
Source: Iran Human Rights, July 31, 2010

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani asks to be reunited with her children

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Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's supporters call for support to free her from prison, after sentence was changed to hanging.
The Iranian woman whose sentence of death by stoning was commuted to hanging after an international campaign, today sent a message from inside Tabriz prison calling for further support so that she might be reunited with her children.
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of 2, said she thinks of nothing other than hugging her children and that she was mentally broken when authorities flogged her 99 times in front of her then 17-year-old son, Sajad.
She thanked the world for launching the campaign for her release but said part of her "heart is frozen". "Every night before I go to sleep, I think who would throw stones at me", she said.
The message was read by Mina Ahadi, of the Iran Committee against Stoning (ICAS), at a press conference in Conway Hall, in London.
"Put Sakineh's picture beside Neda Agha-Soltan's and don't…

Amnesty International: Urgent Action Appeal for Zoda Hiroshi in imminent danger of execution in Japan

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Two men, Ogata Hidenori and Shinozawa Kazuo, were hanged in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, on 28 July. Of five men on death row in Japan highlighted by Amnesty International in UA 54/09, four have now been executed. The fifth man, Zoda Hiroshi, could be executed at any time.
Ogata Hidenori (also known by the name Hideki) and Shinozawa Kazuo were hanged in Tokyo Detention Center. They had been convicted of murder. Shinozawa Kazuo’s death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in February 2007. Ogata Hidenori had expressed his intention to withdraw his appeal against the death sentence filed by his attorney. The Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence in July 2007. They were the first people to be put to death since a new government took office in Japan following elections in August 2009.
Zoda Hiroshi remains in imminent danger of execution. He is also held in Tokyo detention center.
Executions in Japan are by hanging and are usually carried out in secret. Prisoners are typically giv…

U.K. Author Says He Won't Apologize for Book on Singapore's Death Penalty

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Alan Shadrake (left), the British author charged for contempt of court for challenging the integrity and independence of Singapore's judiciary, said he wouldn’t apologize for his book on the city's death penalty.
"I want to have my day in court," he said after his trial was adjourned today to allow his lawyer more time to prepare a defense of fair criticism and fair comment. "I didn't spend 3 years writing the book only to run away," Shadrake said.
The 75-year-old writer is also being investigated for criminal defamation by Singapore authorities. His book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore's Justice in the Dock," suggests that the government "succumbs to political and economic pressures" in meting out the death penalty, the Attorney-General's Chambers said in court papers.
Shadrake can "tender an unreserved apology in unqualified terms," David Chong, chief counsel of the Attorney-General's civil division, said in cou…

Japan: Execution chamber to open to media as early as August 2010

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TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Justice Ministry will open the execution chamber at the Tokyo Detention House to the media as early as August, Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said Friday.
Secretive practices surrounding the capital punishment system in Japan, including executions without prior notice to death row inmates, their families and lawyers, have drawn criticism.
Execution chambers in Japan have been closed to the public, including the media, but Chiba has ordered the Tokyo detention facility to allow media access in order to stir public debate over the death penalty.
She told a press conference after a Cabinet meeting Friday that a panel to study the death penalty will be established next month under the justice minister to discuss the overall system of capital punishment.
The announcement came after Chiba, who once belonged to a group of lawmakers against the death penalty, ordered the execution by hanging of two death row inmates and, in an unusual move, witnessed the executions herself Wedn…

Iran: Jafar Kazemi at imminent risk of execution over alleged participation in anti-government demonstrations and alleged contact with banned opposition group

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The execution verdict for Jafar Kazemi was upheld by branch 36 of the Appeals Court by judge Hojatoleslam Zargari. His file has now been processed to carry out the death sentence. There is no legal recourse to save Jafar Kazemi’s life.
Kazemi’s lawyer Ms. Ghanavi told a human rights website that her client has spent long periods of time in solitary confinement. Kazemi was originally sentenced by branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court.
Roudabeh Akbari, Kazemi’s wife, wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to take steps to stop her husband’s execution.
Kazemi was working as a lithograph for textbooks and pamphlets for Amirkabir University when he was arrested on September 18, 2009 at Haft-e Tir Square. He was taken to solitary confinement in ward 209 of Evin prison and spent 74 days there before he was transferred to ward 350. Kazemi was also imprisoned from 1981 until the end of 1989.
Ghanavi has stated that her client was issued the charge of Moharebeh (waging w…

Death penalty book author Alan Shadrake defiant in Singapore

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SINGAPORE — A British author facing a possible jail term over his book criticising Singapore's use of the death penalty was defiant following his first court hearing Friday.
Alan Shadrake appeared in a packed courtroom to hear contempt of court charges levelled against him by the Attorney General following the local launch of his book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock".
A High Court judge granted an adjournment, giving Shadrake's lawyer two weeks to further prepare for the case and another week for prosecutors to respond.
With his passport impounded to prevent him from leaving the country, the 75-year-old freelance journalist remained defiant despite facing possible imprisonment.
"Whatever they do to me, it will prove whatever I say in my book," he told reporters outside the court after the hearing.
"I'm not a wimp, I'm not a coward," Shadrake added. "I want to have my day in court... I'm not running away. If I run a…

Legal Charges Threat to Freedom of Expression; British Author's Critique of Death Penalty Leads to Arrest

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Singapore officials should cease using criminal defamation and contempt laws to silence government critics, Human Rights Watch said today. The arrest of Alan Shadrake, the 75-year-old British author ofOnce A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, a critical review of Singapore's death penalty law and its administration, further narrows the space for reporting and analysis of issues the government prefers to keep under tight control, Human Rights Watch said.
On July 16, 2010, the day before the book launch, the Media Development Authority, responsible for regulation of Singapore's media and publishing industry, filed a police complaint against Shadrake for criminal defamation and contempt of court. The defamation charge is still under investigation. On the same day, Singapore's attorney general submitted an affidavit saying that Shadrake should be "committed to prison or receive such other punishment ... for his contempt of court ... for bringing into existence, …

1 man was hanged in Qazvin west of Tehran today

1 man was hanged in the prison of Qazvin, West of Tehran, early today July 29, reported the state run Iranian news agency Fars.
The man who was identified as Yousef Khamseh (35) and was convicted of rape and robbery according to the report.
Source: Iran Human Rights, July 29, 2010

Removing the cloak of secrecy from executions in Japan

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2 death-row inmates were hanged at a Tokyo detention center on July 28 under orders from Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, marking the 1st time since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) rose to power that Japan has carried out executions.
Critics have questioned why the minister -- once a member of a nonpartisan parliamentary league calling for the abolition of the death penalty -- gave the order to carry out the death sentences. In a news conference, Chiba, who was present for the executions for the first time as a justice minister, said that thorough debate on the death penalty was needed.
Up until now a veil of secrecy has shrouded Japan's execution venues. Chiba's comments following her firsthand witnessing of the executions mark the starting point for discussion of Japan's treatment of the death penalty.
Chiba has instructed the Justice Ministry to form a panel to discuss issues relating to the death penalty in Japan, including its very existence. She has also ordered the To…

Asia a bastion for executions despite abolitionist wave

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Japan is reviewing the death penalty and Singapore's frequent use of capital punishment is under the spotlight, but Asia remains a bastion of support for executions despite outrage from rights groups. Amnesty International says thousands of convicts may have been executed in China and at least 26 others were put to death in other Asian countries in 2009 despite growing global support for abolition.
The execution of 2 Japanese men for murder on Wednesday reignited a debate over the relevance of judicial executions in the 21st century.
Justice Minister Keiko Chiba announced a review after witnessing the 1st executions since the centre-left government took power last year.
"It made me again think deeply about the death penalty, and I once again strongly felt that there is a need for a fundamental discussion about the death penalty," Chiba said.
Even China is taking a look at its laws by launching a review of the 68 offences currently punishable by death, according to state medi…

Japan announces death penalty review after hanging two men

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Japan angered abolitionists by executing two men this week, in the first hangings since the country’s center-left government took office in September. Tokyo's new government says it still has plans to review its use of the death penalty.
Justice Minister Keiko Chiba (left) took the unprecedented step of attending the executions of Kazuo Shinozawa and Hidenori Ogata at the Tokyo Detention Center on Wednesday.
Shinozawa burned six women to death after setting a jewelry store alight in 2000; Ogata strangled a woman and fatally stabbed a man in 2003.
Minister Chiba, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, had raised hopes that Japan was moving towards a de facto moratorium on hangings after her appointment last year.
“It is not that I changed my mind,” said Ms. Chiba, who was a member of a parliamentarians’ group opposed to the death penalty until she became justice minister. “I attended the executions as I believe it is my duty to see them through.
"Witnessing [them] with my own e…

DNA clears Houston man 27 years after conviction

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A Houston man is expected to be freed this week after serving more than 27 years in prison — the longest time behind bars of any Texan who has been exonerated - for a rape prosecutors now say he did not commit.
Michael Anthony Green, 45, is expected to be in court today, when his attorney, Bob Wicoff, will ask that he be released on bail while the case moves forward.
If freed, Green would be the eighth local man let out of prison in recent years, and the second in a week, after serving time for a crime he did not commit.
"He is innocent," Wicoff said. "We've got the bad guys, too. We've pegged the bad guys."
Green was sentenced to 75 years in prison for the 1983 rape of a Houston woman based on faulty eyewitness identification, Wicoff said. Read more.
Source: Houston Chronicle, July 28, 2010

Innocent prisoner's angry outburst delays release
A Houston man expected to be freed today after being imprisoned 27 years for a rape he did not commit will have to wait o…

State urges judge to deny Troy Davis claim

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Lawyers for convicted murderer Troy Anthony Davis made "a strategic decision" not to call two witnesses at last month's federal court hearing and should not be allowed to use their choice to re-open the evidence, attorneys for the state argued Wednesday.
Davis' attorneys have worked for 15 years to gather evidence to prove his innocence and had plenty of time during two days of testimony before U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. to present their case, the state contends in its 13-page filing.
"They chose only to call 'the most important witnesses,'" attorneys with the Georgia Attorney General's office argued. "(Davis) still seeks to claim that he has not been afforded his day in court."
Davis remains on Georgia's death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center at Jackson on his murder conviction and death sentence in the Aug. 19, 1989, slaying of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
The officer was …

Amnesty International: Iranian Stoning Case Lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei missing

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CAIRO — Amnesty International accused Iran of harassing the lawyer of a woman sentenced to death by stoning, saying Wednesday that he has gone missing and two of his relatives have been detained.
A blog maintained by the lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, helped generate a wave of international outrage over the stoning sentence, with Britain and the United States calling for it to be lifted.
Tehran said earlier this month that it would not carry out the stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for the time being, but the mother of two could still face execution by hanging for her conviction of adultery and other offenses.
Mostafaei — an outspoken lawyer who also has defended many juvenile offenders and political prisoners — was summoned for questioning by judicial officials at Tehran's Evin prison on Saturday, released after several hours, then asked to return, Amnesty said, adding it was not known if he went back.
"Mostafaei's whereabouts have been unknown since shortly …

Lawyer in Iran stoning case in hiding to avoid arrest, supporters say

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Human rights attorney Mohammed Mostafaei (pictured) helped bring the world's attention to his client, Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two who was set to be stoned to death for allegedly committing adultery in Iran.
And in the process of his very public campaign to clear his client's name, Mostafaei may have also turned the Iranian government's spotlight on himself.
On Saturday, while the world was rallying in support of Ashtiani, hoping to pressure the Iranian government to reverse her death sentence, human rights groups say Mostafaei was being questioned by Iranian authorities for four straight hours in Evin prison before being released.
His crime? According to Rudi Bakhtiar from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Mostafaei was being pressured for making the Ashtiani case too public.
"The reason why Mr. Mostafaei is under fire is no doubt because of the worldwide attention concerning the Ashtiani case," she said. "And this…