Showing posts from March, 2012


‘A Short Film About Killing’: The movie that brought an end to the Polish death penalty

The most intellectually challenging film I have ever seen about capital punishment. Definitely a must-see. DPN review and YouTube trailer available in our 'Films & Documentaries' section — DPN editor As far as European cinema goes, there are few figures quite admired in critical circles as the inimitable Krzysztof Kieślowski. Known for his Dekalog series of 1989, as well as The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colours trilogy, Kieślowski embodied everything so extraordinary about the power of European cinema and that of his native Poland in turn.

Ohio has sentenced 313 to death since 1981

COLUMBUS — An annual report on Ohio’s capital punishment system says 313 defendants have been sentenced to death since the state’s death penalty law took effect in 1981, with 46 executions. The report says 16 inmates were spared by governors and another 22 died of natural causes while on death row. The report released Friday by Attorney General Mike DeWine also says eight inmates were ruled ineligible for execution because they were mentally disabled and eight were set for resentencing, which could include another death sentence. The report says 71 death sentences were thrown out by judges for reasons besides mental disability or resentencing. Ohio, with 146 men and one woman on death row, is in the midst of an unofficial execution moratorium while a federal judge reviews state lethal injection procedures. Source: AP, March 30, 2012

Arthur Execution: Alabama death penalty case far from over

A Thursday execution was halted for a man set to die for the 1982 murder-for-hire of a Muscle Shoals businessman, but his legal battle is far from over. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied Alabama's request to reconsider the stay of execution for Thomas Douglas Arthur, who has maintained his innocence for more than 29 years on death row. The stay was granted after a 3-judge panel overturned a judge's ruling to stop Arthur's appeal, which contends Alabama's lethal injection procedure is cruel and unusual. The court has yet to rule on a motion to have the full 11th Circuit re-examine the decision to allow the appeal. If the court declines, Arthur will be allowed to appeal his death sentence. Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2012

Amnesty International Condemns Hangings in Japan

Execution chamber at Tokyo Detention Center Amnesty International said today that Japan's decision to hang three prisoners after nearly 2 years without executions is a huge step backwards for a country that has taken positive steps over the last year in terms of the death penalty. Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa authorized the executions of 3 men, hanged in jails in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka, explaining that this was his 'duty' as minister. "Today's hangings are a huge step backwards," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific deputy director. "They bring Japan back into the minority of countries which still execute civilians. Justifying acts which violate human rights as a 'minister's duty' is unacceptable. Leaders have a responsibility to address crime without resorting to the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment." Tomoyuki Furusawa, 46, was executed at Tokyo detention center; Yasuaki Uwabe, 48

Saudi journalist facing the death penalty for his tweets reportedly to be released

Hamza Kashgari Hamza Kashgari, a journalist deported from Malaysia back to his native Saudi Arabia, where he was wanted on charges of apostasy, is reportedly expected to be freed in the coming weeks. Kashgari had posted a series of poetic tweets, sharing an imaginary conversation he was having with the Prophet Mohammed. The tweets were deemed blasphemous, prompting a severe backlash, with over 30,000 responses and a Facebook page calling for his execution. Kashgari deleted the tweets, apologising repeatedly, but to no avail. He fled to Malaysia, with the intention of seeking asylum in New Zealand, but was deported home, where he faced charges of apostasy, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. Upon his return, Kashgari was detained, with some reports emerging that he had repented for his tweets. Reports of his repentance in a Riyadh court have now begun to surface, with Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran confirming it, adding that he is expected to be released in the coming week

China: Three executed over fatal fire

March 29, 2012: Three people responsible for a fire, in which 11 people were killed and two others badly injured in China's Jilin province last year, were executed, court officials said.  Wang Jiansong, Qu Long and Wang Lu were convicted of setting fire to a bar. The fire spread to the upper floors of a budget hotel May 1, 2011, Xinhua quoted officials with the Intermediate People's Court as saying in Tonghua city. Eleven people, including hotel tenants and firefighters who responded to the accident, were killed when the fire spread. The three were found to have set fire to seek revenge on the bar's owner with whom they had disputes, said officials. Their death sentences were approved by the Jilin provincial Higher People's Court. Source: IANS, March 29, 2012

Tunisia: Efforts to Abolish Death Penalty Impeded By Islamic Law

Efforts to do away with the death penalty in Tunisia, which have grown since the revolution, are being held back by the tenets of Islamic Law, says the head of Amnesty International in Tunisia. "The abolition of the death penalty is causing a controversy within the Constituent Assembly as some members affiliated with Ennahda are claiming that it contradicts Shariaa [Islamic Law]," said Sondes Garbouj, president of the organization's Tunisian branch, after attending a session of the Subcommittee of Rights and Liberties that is in charge of deciding the issue. Farida Laabidi, the head of the subcommittee and a member of the Islamist party Ennahda, believes exactly that: the death penalty should be maintained in keeping with the teachings of Islam. "Shariaa is explicit regarding the death penalty. According to Shariaa, there are three cases where it can be used: intentional murder, qataa al-tariq [an outdated term that loosely translates to violent banditry], and adu

Japan executes first three prisoners since 2010

Execution chamber at Tokyo Detention Center Japan has hanged three death row inmates in its first executions since July 2010 . Reports said the unnamed prisoners, hanged in separate prisons, had all been convicted of multiple murders. Japan is one of the few advanced industrialised nations to retain the death penalty. It is usually reserved for multiple murders. Though the majority support the death penalty, rights groups say Japan's death row is particularly harsh . "Today, three executions were carried out," Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa said. "I have carried out my duty as a justice minister as stipulated by law." There are currently more than 100 people on death row, including Shoko Asahara, the mastermind behind the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway. No executions were carried out in 2011. Official figures in Japan as of 2011 put support for capital punishment at over 80%. But rights groups like Amnesty International have called for it t

India puts Sikh radical Rajoana's execution on hold

Balwant Singh Rajoana India has put on hold the execution of a prisoner, sentenced to death for his role in the 1995 murder of Punjab state's Chief Minister Beant Singh. Balwant Singh Rajoana's hanging, which had been set for Saturday, was postponed after a mercy petition to the president, the Home Ministry said. Several opposition parties and Sikh groups had called a strike demanding a halt to the impending execution. If carried out, the execution would be the 1st in India since 2004. Rajoana, who was sentenced in 2007, has not appealed against the sentence, although other convicted co-conspirators have had their death sentences reduced on appeal. Tight security The Press Trust of India news agency said the hanging had been stayed following a mercy petition by top Sikh religious body the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to President Pratibha Patil. PTI quoted a letter from the Home Ministry to the Punjab government detailing the reasons for the stay of

Texas executes Jesse Joe Hernandez

Jesse J. Hernandez A convicted child sex offender was executed Wednesday for the beating death of a 10-month-old boy he was baby-sitting at a home in Dallas. Jesse Joe Hernandez smiled and laughed at times before receiving a lethal injection for the slaying of Karlos Borja 11 years ago. "God bless everybody. Continue to walk with God," the 47-year-old Hernandez said. Moments later, he shouted "Go Cowboys!" in honor of his favorite football team. As the drugs took effect, the condemned man repeated his appreciation for those he knew who had gathered to witness the execution. "Love y'all, man," Hernandez said. "... Thank you. I can feel it, taste it. It's not bad." He took about 10 deep breaths, which grew progressively weaker until he was no longer moving. 10 minutes later, at 6:18 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead. No one related to the slain child attended the execution, the 4th this year in Texas. It was carried out about 2 hours

Texas accuses anti-death penalty charity Reprieve of fomenting violence

Extraordinary escalation in war of words as Texas prison service accuses charity group of behaving like a prison gang. Texas, America's most prolific practitioner of the death penalty, has launched an extraordinary attack on the international anti-death penalty charity Reprieve, accusing it of intimidating and harassing drug companies and likening the group to violent prison gangs responsible for the eruption of prison riots. The attack comes from the Texas department of criminal justice, TDCJ, which each year carries out the lion's share of executions in America. In a letter to the attorney general of Texas, Greg Abbott, the TDCJ accuses Reprieve of "intimidation and commercial harassment" of manufacturers of medical drugs used in lethal injections. In astonishingly vivid language, the TDCJ says that Reprieve, which is headquartered in London, "crosses the line from social activists dedicated to their cause to authoritarian ideologues who menace and harass p

Ohio death-row inmate Billy Sowell dies of natural causes

The state says a condemned Ohio inmate has died of natural causes after more than a year at a prison medical facility. Billy Sowell was sentenced to death for shooting 36-year-old Calvert Graham in Graham’s apartment in Cincinnati in 1983. Ohio prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Sowell died of multiple organ failure yesterday at 5:45 a.m. at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus, where he’d been treated for health problems since February 2011. Although the 75-year-old Sowell was still considered a death row inmate, 2 federal courts had ruled in favor of overturning his sentence. The state says it stopped appeals because of Sowell’s illness. Inmates dying of natural causes on death row are rare but not unheard of, with 6 such deaths in Ohio in the past 6 years. Source: Columbus Dispatch, March 28, 2012

Execution of Balwant Singh would be a step back for India

The execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana must be halted and an official moratorium on capital punishment established in India, Amnesty International said in an open letter to the country’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Balwant Singh’s execution is scheduled for 31 March 2012, in Punjab state. While death sentences continue to be imposed by Indian courts, no executions have been carried out in India since 2004. Amnesty International publishes its new report Death Sentences and Executions 2011 on Tuesday 27 March. As of 22 March 2012, more than two-thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, 17 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and 10 are abolitionist in practice. “Resuming executions after an 8 year hiatus would place India in opposition to regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty,” said Bikramjeet Batra, Amnesty International’s Policy Adviser. “We urge Prime Minister

Iranian who spent seven years on death row tells of ordeal

Ali Mahin Torabi was 16 when he was arrested for alleged murder in Iran. Here is his account of his seven agonising years in jail before he managed to escape. It was February 2003; I was aged 16, at school in the city of Karaj, in the western outskirts of Tehran, when one of my classmates, Milad, came into the class looking very upset. He said he'd had a quarrel with someone and wanted to sort things out during the break. When the bell rang, I followed him outside so I could stop him fighting. He got physical with a student, Mazdak; I tried to separate them but then Mazdak thought I was taking Milad's side. At the end of the day, Mazdak stopped me outside school. Milad had given me his folder, which had a knife in it, and I'd put the knife in my pocket. Then Milad and Mazdak got physical, I slapped Mazdak, and all the kids got into a fight. A few of them, who also had knives, started to attack me and beat me. I took out the knife to scare them, but there was a huge crow

Leading pharma firm Lundbeck signs anti-lethal injection pledge

Leading pharmaceutical company Lundbeck has become the first to sign up to a new ‘ Pharmaceutical Hippocratic oath ’ for the industry which condemns the use of drugs in executions. The pledge builds on last year’s successful move by the firm to prevent its products being used to carry out the death penalty in the US – while ensuring that they remain available for legitimate medical use. Reprieve is now urging other pharmaceutical companies to follow Lundbeck’s lead in signing up to the Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath, and ensuring that their drugs do not reach US execution chambers. Under the oath, companies pledge that: “ We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings .” Reprieve investigator, Maya Foa said: " Pharmace

Amnesty sees hope in China on death penalty

China is still executing thousands of prisoners per year but there are flickers of hope that attitudes there towards the death penalty are changing, the head of Amnesty International said. Salil Shetty, secretary general of the London-based human rights group, told AFP that the rise of blogging and social media in China had increased public pressure on its rulers over the use of capital punishment. The Chinese government scrapped the death penalty for 13 rarer white-collar offences last year but retains it for non-violent crimes such as drug trafficking and corruption. In its annual review of death sentences and executions published on Tuesday, Amnesty said China's use of the death penalty continued to be shrouded in secrecy, and accurate figures were impossible to obtain. "While still accounting for the majority of the world's executions, in 2011 the Chinese authorities continued to shroud the country's use of the death penalty in secrecy and impeded verification

Death penalty 2011: Alarming levels of executions in the few countries that kill

Public execution in Iran   Countries that carried out executions in 2011 did so at an alarming rate but those employing capital punishment have decreased by more than 1/3 compared to a decade ago, Amnesty International found in its annual review of death sentences and executions.  Only 10 % of countries in the world, 20 out of 198, carried out executions last year.  People were executed or sentenced to death for a range of offences including adultery and sodomy in Iran, blasphemy in Pakistan, sorcery in Saudi Arabia, the trafficking of human bones in the Republic of Congo, and drug offences in more than 10 countries.  Methods of execution in 2011 included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.  Some 18,750 people remained under sentence of death at the end of 2011 and at least 676 people were executed worldwide.  But these figures do not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believes were carried out in China, w

Amir to assist 2 OFWs on Kuwait death row

Execution by Hanging in Kuwait President Aquino has personally appealed to the Amir of Kuwait, who was in Manila for a state visit last week, to spare the lives of 2 Filipino workers on death row, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.   In response, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah said a commutation of sentence is possible on the 1st Filipino convict because the family of the victim had already given a tanazul or affidavit of forgiveness.  Regarding the 2nd Filipino prisoner, the Amir assured Aquino that he will look into the matter and that once forgiveness is secured from the family of the victim, pardon will be easier to grant.  The convicts’ identities were not disclosed but 1 of the 2 Filipinos, whose name had been reported previously in the media, is Jakatia Pawa, a domestic helper in her 20s from Zamboanga del Norte, who was found guilty of killing her employer’s 22-year-old daughter.  2 other Filipinos have been meted the death penalty in Kuwait but the

One Iranian lawyer's fight to save juveniles from execution - animation

As part of Amnesty International's 2012 death penalty campaign the Guardian and animators from Sherbet tell the extraordinary story of Mohammad Mostafaei, a lawyer who has saved 20 of the 40 juveniles he has defended from execution in Iran. Actor Paul Bettany speaks the lawyer's words.   Related articles: Death Penalty News: Behnoud Shojaee, aged 21, was executed in ... Oct 13, 2009 Behnoud Shojaee was sentenced to qesas (retribution) by Branch 74 of the Criminal Court in Tehran on 2 October 2006, after he was found guilty of killing a boy thought to be called Ehsan the previous year, when he was 17. Death Penalty News: Iran: Behnoud Shojaee again in imminent ... Aug 17, 2008 Behnoud Shojaee is again in imminent danger of execution: his family was unable to afford the diyeh, or financial compensation, required to obtain a pardon. His execution, which was due to take place on or aroun