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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Verdict in Morocco blasts case expected Friday

The trial of 9 people accused over an April bomb attack that killed 17 in Marrakesh neared closure Thursday as a lawyer for the alleged mastermind insisted his client was innocent.

Prosecutors say Adil al-Atmani and eight accomplices orchestrated the April 28 blast at a cafe packed with European tourists, but defence lawyer Hassan Mouhib told the court in Sale, near the capital Rabat, that the government had not proved its case.

A final hearing is set for Friday with a verdict expected later in the day against the suspects who all deny guilt in the case.

Mouhib asked the tribunal to be "fair" in judging his client Atmani, who initially admitted to his role in the bombing but later retracted his confession, claiming he had been set up.

Prosecutors last week said Atmani and co-accused Hakim al Dah should be sentenced to death.

But lawyers representing the victims' families previously asked the court to sentence the accused to life in prison and not death, partly to deprive them of boasting that they will die as martyrs.

Mouhib invoked Morocco's new constitution, which was massively backed in a July referendum, which guarantees the "right to life."

Morocco has not enforced its death penalty provision since 1992.

Atmani has said he made trips to Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Algeria, which prosecutors have pointed to as proof of his links to global jihadist organisations, including Al-Qaeda.

But his lawyer dismissed those arguments, saying his client had travelled in pursuit of trade opportunities.

According to co-defendant Mohamed Njim, Atmani previously expressed a desire to practice jihad (holy war) in Chechnya.

Moroccan authorities had initially blamed Al-Qaeda's north African branch for the bombing but AQIM, seen behind a series of attacks and kidnappings in north Africa, denies responsibility.

Source: Yahoo.com, October 27, 2011

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