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The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

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Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

Lawyers file last minute appeals to stop 7 p.m. execution of Brandon Rhode

JACKSON, Ga. — As Georgia authorities prepared today to put to death an inmate whose execution was postponed after he attempted suicide last week, the prisoner’s attorney contended his client is “no longer competent” and shouldn’t be executed.

Brandon Joseph Rhode is set to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. amid heightened security after he slashed his arms and throat on Sept. 21 with a disposable razor blade he hid from guards. After the attempted suicide, Rhode’s execution was first rescheduled for Friday and then pushed back until today.

Rhode was convicted in 2000 of killing Steven Moss, 37, his 11-year-old son Bryan and 15-year-old daughter Kristin during the burglary of their Jones County home. His coconspirator, Daniel Lucas, was also sentenced to death in a separate trial and remains on death row.

Rhode’s attorney, Brian Kammer, urged the Georgia Supreme Court and the state pardons board to push back the execution again so experts can evaluate whether the 31-year-old has the mental competence to be executed, or understands why he is being punished. He said Rhode lost half his blood Tuesday when he cut himself and could have suffered brain damage.

“He has been subjected to the surreal and incomprehensible: Heroic measures taken to stabilize his life by the prison staff that would then execute him,” he said in one filing. “While they may have been successful in keeping some measure of his physical being intact, it is not clear that they were able to do the same for his mental state.”

The Georgia Supreme Court denied Rhode’s emergency request for a stay this afternoon, as did the state pardons board. His attorneys planned to also appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rhode was stabilized at a local hospital after his suicide attempt and placed in a restraining chair to prevent him from pulling out the sutures on his neck or doing any other harm to himself, state attorneys said. Kammer countered that Rhode, who is mentally ill, was put in a “torture chair” and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Source: jacksonville.com, September 27, 2010


Georgia preparing to execute suicidal inmate

Brandon Rhode's self-inflicted
neck wound
JACKSON — As Georgia authorities prepared Monday to put to death an inmate whose execution was postponed after he attempted suicide last week, the prisoner's attorney contended his client is "no longer competent" and shouldn't be executed.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the request for a stay of execution around 8 p.m.

Rhode's attorney, Brian Kammer, urged the Georgia Supreme Court and the state pardons board to push back the execution again so experts can evaluate whether the 31-year-old has the mental competence to be executed, or understands why he is being punished. He said Rhode lost half his blood Tuesday when he cut himself and could have suffered brain damage.

"He has been subjected to the surreal and incomprehensible: Heroic measures taken to stabilize his life by the prison staff that would then execute him," he said in one filing. "While they may have been successful in keeping some measure of his physical being intact, it is not clear that they were able to do the same for his mental state."

The Georgia Supreme Court denied Rhode's emergency request for a stay Monday afternoon, as did the state pardons board. His attorneys applied Monday afternoon to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution. The court turned down the request.

Rhode was stabilized at a local hospital after his suicide attempt and placed in a restraining chair to prevent him from pulling out the sutures on his neck or doing any other harm to himself, state attorneys said. Kammer countered that Rhode, who is mentally ill, was put in a "torture chair" and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

The inmate's legs are shackled and his hands are handcuffed and tied in a bag that is closed with a zip tie to prevent him from tearing out his sutures, Kammer said. The lights of Rhode's prison cell are kept on at all times and he's watched day and night by two prison guards posted on either end of his bunk, he said.

"This week of torturous treatment, both in prison and the court, along with a life without parole sentence, would serve as sufficient punishment," he said in a plea to commute his sentence.

Source: AP, September 7, 2010

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