"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, June 29, 2012

Iran: Two hanged in public near Tehran

Iran Human Rights, June 28: Two prisoners were hanged publicly in Robat Karim (near Tehran) early this morning Thursday June 28.

According to the Mehr news agency one of the prisoners was convicted of drug trafficking while the other prisoner was convicted of rape. The prisoners were hanged in Davoudieh square of this city in fron of several hundred people.

At least 12 people have been hanged publicly in June 2012 in Iran.

Three of the United Nation’s Special Rapporteurs published earlier today a statement condemning the executions in Iran. The statement also underscored the high number of public executions in Iran saying:  “Executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution”.

Source: Iran Human Rights, June 28, 2012

Photos of the execution (source: Iran-Resist)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Arizona executes Samuel Lopez

Samuel Lopez
A convicted murderer who challenged the fairness of Arizona's clemency board and won a temporary reprieve was executed on Wednesday for raping, beating and stabbing a woman to death in 1986.

Samuel Villegas Lopez, 49, was pronounced dead at 10:37 a.m. local time at the state prison complex in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, state officials said.

His execution was the first in which witnesses watched, via closed-circuit TV, the insertion of the catheters that deliver the fatal drug pentobarbital.

Attorneys for inmates in prior executions condemned the practice of inserting catheters into the prisoners' groins. Officials said the executioners had found it difficult to find suitable veins in the arms and legs.

In earlier executions, witnesses only saw the prisoner after the catheters had been inserted. Lopez was sentenced to death in 1987 for raping 59-year-old Estafana Holmes and stabbing her to death in a violent, drawn-out assault at her Phoenix apartment.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down his last appeal on Tuesday, paving the way of the execution. He also lost a number of last-minute efforts to avoid the death penalty, including a request with the state Supreme Court to delay his execution until Arizona has a new governor. He claimed that Gov. Jan Brewer and the state's clemency board were prejudiced against him.

Brewer denied his lawyer's allegations that she placed "political cronies" on the board who'll never recommend lessening a death-row inmate's sentence to life in prison.

In denying him clemency, the board members called him "the worst of the worst."

Defense attorney Kelley Henry didn't dispute Lopez's guilt, but focused on the fact that trial attorneys failed to present any evidence that Lopez had a horrific childhood -- a mitigating factor that could have gotten him a sentence of life in prison.

A neuropsychiatrist testified that Lopez's childhood was filled with poverty, neglect, abuse and periods of homelessness during which he often had to sleep in cemeteries. Lopez dropped out of school in the ninth grade and became addicted to sniffing paint.

In an affidavit provided to the board, Lopez wrote that he has no memory of the crime because he had been spending so much time sniffing paint that he would forget entire days.

Lopez becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Arizona and the 32nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1992.

Lopez becomes the 23rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1300th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Reuters, Rick Halperin, June 27, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Indonesia Moving to Reduce Death Row Population by Increasing Rate of Executions

Kerobokan Prison
(6/25/2012) The Bali Post quoted the National Chief Prosecutors office as confirming that prosecutors in Banten (West Java) and Jakarta are making preparations for a suden surge of executions of prisoners now under sentence of death in Indonesia.

A Junior Chief Prosecutor, Hamzah Tadja, confirmed steps are in play that will soon bring 20 people on death row in the two locales before a firing squad.

The numbers slated for death are 3 in Banten and 17 in Jakarta. While confirming the preparations are ongoing, Hamzah refused to give a time or a place for the coming executions.

“I am not allowed to tell you (the time of the planned executions). Later, when it’s time, you’ll know,” Hamzah explained on Monday, June 25, 2012.

He added that he was unable to provide complete data on the total number of people now sitting on death row across Indonesia, because local prosecutors have yet to file formal reports on the actual number of those under a sentence of death who have exhausted all possible avenues of appeal.

Indonesia has recently formalized the appeal process for those under sentence of death in order to shorten the time between sentencing and actual execution. In the past, the appeal process could consume decades.

The last execution before a firing squad in Indonesia occurred in 2008 when the three Bali bombers were shot.

Source: balidiscovery.com, June 25, 2012

Arizona inmate Samuel Lopez to be executed in new open process

Samuel Lopez
FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) - Witnesses expect to be able to see prison officials inject a lethal drug into a condemned inmate for the first time in Arizona history on Wednesday, when the state is scheduled to execute its fourth prisoner of the year.

Arizona opened up the process after a federal judge recently sided with The Associated Press and other news organizations in Idaho to allow witnesses full viewing access to lethal injections.

Until now, witnesses from the news media, the state and victims' family members walked into the death chamber at the state prison in Florence after the inmates had been injected and covered with a sheet up to their chest or neck. Once the witnesses were in place, the drugs then coursed through the inmates' veins.

Now witnesses will see the actual injection, something that defense attorneys sought in an effort to ensure inmates don't experience any unnecessary pain.

Lopez was sentenced to die for the brutal rape and murder of a 59-year-old Phoenix woman in 1986. Of the 126 inmates on Arizona's death row, only five have been there longer than him.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down his last appeal on Tuesday, paving the way of the execution. He also lost a number of last-minute efforts to avoid the death penalty, including a request with the state Supreme Court to delay his execution until Arizona has a new governor. He claimed that Gov. Jan Brewer and the state's clemency board were prejudiced against him.

Source: nbc29.com, AP, June 27, 2012

Arizona death-row inmate loses last appeal

PHOENIX (AP) - A death-row inmate set to be executed in Arizona on Wednesday has lost his last appeal, clearing the way for the lethal injection to proceed.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a request from Samuel Villegas Lopez to delay his execution to consider arguments that his trial attorneys were incompetent.

Now nothing stands in the way of Lopez's 10 a.m. execution at the state prison in Florence for the Oct. 29, 1986, brutal rape and murder of a 59-year-old Phoenix woman.

If the execution proceeds, he will be the fourth inmate to be executed in Arizona this year.

For the first time in state history, witnesses will be able to view the actual injection before the lethal drugs are administered. Before, inmates were injected behind closed doors before witnesses were allowed to come in as the fatal dose was given.

Source: AP, June 27, 2012

Saudis to behead joy-rider for hit-and-run incident

A Saudi court sentenced a middle-aged joy-rider to death by beheading for accidentally killing 2 people while performing a car stunt near the capital Riyadh, the Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported on Tuesday.

A pastime known as “drifting,” in which drivers make their cars spin and skid at high speed, is popular among Saudi men with few options for entertainment in a conservative kingdom where cinemas do not exist and mixing between unrelated men and women is forbidden.

Al Watan reported that the defendant, which it said identified himself as “Mutannish” – “he who ignores” in Arabic, struck and killed two men while performing the thrill-seeking stunt and fled the scene before being arrested.

“The court of Onaiza handed down a sentence to kill the drifter ‘mutannish’ by beheading as punishment for his heinous deed and to deter others who tamper with the nation’s security,” the report stated.

Al Watan did not say when the sentence would be carried out. A Justice Ministry spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Saudi authorities have treated deaths resulting from acts of “drifting” as criminally negligent homicides.

In 2005, a Saudi naval officer found guilty of killing three minors in a stunt-driving accident was handed a death sentence that was subsequently reduced to 3,000 lashes and 20 years in prison, according to local media.

Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict version of Sunni Islam, does not have a written penal code and judges issue verdicts according to their own interpretation of the Koran.

Amnesty International has said that at least 82 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, many of them by public beheading.

Source: Reuters, June 26, 2012

UK doctors vote to end to use of medicines in executions

The British Medical Association’s annual meeting today called for an end to the use of medicines in executions, and controls on the distribution and export of drugs used for this purpose.

The conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion calling on the BMA to “work with relevant international organisations (including the WMA and WHO) to prevent the export and use of pharmaceuticals for the purpose of execution.”

The motion was proposed by Dr. Timothy Crocker-Buque, Chair of the North Thames Regional Junior Doctors Committee, during the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in Bournemouth.

Recent months have seen key execution drugs in short supply in the USA. As a result, American death rows have increasingly turned to foreign suppliers to provide the ingredients necessary for the lethal injection ‘cocktail’ used to execute prisoners.

Drugs imported for the purpose of executions are not tested or verified by the US Food and Drug Administration. As such, there can be no guarantees as to the quality or efficacy of the drugs. Furthermore, the drugs are administered in a complex series of injections by prison wardens who have on average 15 hours’ worth of medical training; executions are frequently ‘botched’, causing the prisoner pain and suffering tantamount to torture.

US states’ willingness to make use of a range of anaesthetics in order to kill prisoners means that both pharmaceutical companies and national governments need to remain vigilant to ensure that medicines reach legitimate medical users, and are not delivered into the hands of executioners to facilitate capital punishment.

The motion passed by the BMA is as follows:

That this Meeting:-
i) recalls the important role the BMA played in the abolition of capital punishment in the UK;
ii) condemns the use of capital punishment, wherever in the world it takes place;
iii) believes that it is unethical for doctors to be involved in the process of execution;
iv) notes that many executions are carried out using pharmaceuticals produced by multi-national pharmaceutical companies;
v) commends the decision by the UK Government to halt export of pharmaceuticals from the UK for use in executions abroad;
vi) calls on the BMA International Committee, Ethics Committee and other relevant bodies to work with relevant international organisations (including the WMA and WHO) to prevent the export and use of pharmaceuticals for the purpose of execution.

Professor Vivienne Nathanson, Director of Professional Activities at the British Medical Association, said: “The BMA is very pleased that doctors voted against the use of pharmaceuticals in capital punishment. The Association has campaigned against capital punishment for many years and we will continue to do so. We also believe it is completely unethical for doctors to have anything to do with the execution process.”

Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said: “We are seeing more and more doctors and pharmaceutical manufacturers revolt at the grotesque abuse of medicines in executions. The British Medical Association – which, as early as 1950, advised the Royal Commission against a switch to lethal injection in the UK on the grounds that it was not ‘humane’ – is an extremely powerful and important voice in this debate.

“Pharma companies, governments and regulators all have a crucial role to play in ensuring that medicines are not abused in this way. It is vital that they remain vigilant and act quickly, to ensure these essential medicines don’t fall into the wrong hands.”

Source: Reprieve, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

UAE: Briton Sentenced to Death for Selling Pot

June 25, 2012: The Foreign Office confirmed a young British man was sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates for selling marijuana to an undercover officer.

The 21-year-old man's name was not released, The Independent reported.

He was tried and convicted in Abu Dhabi with a 19-year-old Syrian who received the same sentence.

News media in the UAE reported that the mother of the Syrian comforted the British man's mother after the sentence was handed down. The pair allegedly sold $400 worth of marijuana to a police officer posing as a buyer.

Pauline Crowe of Prisoners Abroad, a charity based in London, suggested an appeal has a good chance of success.

"If the sentence has just been passed, the dust will settle. Then if there is an appeal process; it is likely that the Government will support that," she told the Independent.

Crowe said the case is a reminder that travelers need to be aware of local laws, which can be far harsher outside of Europe.

At the moment, a British national is under a death sentence in Indonesia after being convicted of trying to smuggle cocaine into Bali.

Source: UPI, June 26, 2012

Abu Dhabi death sentence pair were 'big-time dealers'

The 2 men sentenced to death for selling Dh1,500 worth of marijuana to an undercover policeman were experienced dealers involved in smuggling larger quantities of drugs including opium and heroin, according to the head of Abu Dhabi Criminal Court.

The sentencing of Briton NL, 21, and MB, 19, from Syria, earlier this week caused controversy for the relatively small amount of drugs involved.

But Chief Justice Sayed Abdul Baseer said yesterday that the pair's involvement in drug dealing had been observed by police long before the sting operation in which they were caught selling 20 grams of hashish.

He said the pair had previously dealt in harder drugs, including opium and heroin, and were involved in a highly organised and professional operation.

"They would study the market and plan their steps ahead," said the chief justice.

The chief justice added that the pair knew what they were doing each day in advance. "They even discussed what penalty they could face if they were caught," he said.

Experts who examined the mobile phone and BlackBerry messenger records of the two men uncovered numerous discussions between the two about various drug deals in which they debated how to import the drugs and how to sell them once they were in the country.

In one conversation the Briton - who had previous convictions for possessing and taking drugs - described the state of the UAE drug market, explaining that 1kg of hashish could fetch Dh9,000.

He also mentioned that he believed the punishment for dealing was a life sentence, while the maximum jail term for consumption was 4 years.

A separate conversation between the Briton and a Spanish person, identified as R, showed that the Briton had shipped at least 1 consignment of drugs into the country, while a 3rd phone call involved an Emirati man requesting an undisclosed amount of opium.

In yet another conversation the Syrian asked the Briton to provide him with Dh1,000 worth of hashish. The Briton then asked for a chance to cut the requested amount and weight it - proof, said the chief justice, that the pair were involved in dealing, and not just consuming drugs.

Items recovered from their homes were also consistent with dealing, he said.

"Police found [in the Briton's house] special cutters to cut hashish and sell it later on," said the chief justice.

Officers also found paper rolls used to pack hashish and other instruments used to consume the drug.

The chief justice took the opportunity to explain why 2 others involved in the case were given more lenient sentences.

He said that the 3rd defendant GA, a 17-year-old Emirati who was ordered to enter rehabilitation, was guilty only of consuming the banned drug Tramadol. In such a case, where a juvenile was involved, the law prescribed a period of rehabilitation.

The 4th defendant FM, from Sudan, was also convicted of consuming only Tramadol. However, as he was not a minor he received a jail term of 1 year. As he is not Emirati he will also be deported.

The chief justice pointed out that all the defendants had confessed to the charges, noting that the Emirati acquired the Tramadol from the Briton for free, and that the Syrian admitted selling large amounts of hashish through another unnamed Emirati.

He also explained that in cases of drug dealing, the law was not concerned with the amount involved or how much it was worth.

"The criminal factor is fulfilled through the agreement to sell and buy, not necessarily after money has been paid and the delivery has occurred."

Despite the chief justice's comments, the verdict of the criminal court represents only the first stage in a long process.

Under law, any death sentence must be presented in 4 different courts and to 19 judges before it can be passed to the president or ruler of the emirate for approval.

A legal source said that in the emirate of Abu Dhabi there were no previous instances of a death sentence for drug dealing passing through all these stages, as the sentence tends to be reduced either by the appeals court or the court of cassation.

All death sentences must automatically be appealed by the public prosecution.

If the appeal court upholds the verdict the court of cassation then studies the case to see if it fulfils the Sharia requirements.

If the court is unconvinced it returns the case to the appeals court for a 2nd hearing. A different panel of judges will then study the case and if they uphold the death sentence the case will return to the court of cassation for a final verdict.

Those accused have a chance to defend themselves at each stage of the process.

Source: The National, June 27, 2012

North Korea: Four refugees deported by China publicly executed

June 25, 2012: North Korea has publicly executed four refugees who were repatriated by China and sent 40 others to its notorious prison camps, a South Korean activist said.

China has repatriated 44 fugitives from its communist neighbor in recent months, said Kim Heung-Kwang, who heads NK Intellectuals Solidarity, a Seoul-based defectors’ group.

Four of them were executed and 40 sent to camps for political prisoners, he told a seminar.

South Korean rights groups say there are six political prison camps in the North holding around 200,000 detainees.

Kim said he had obtained his information from a source inside the North, but gave no details.

The South’s unification ministry, which is in charge of cross-border affairs, declined to comment.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans looking to escape hunger or repression in their communist homeland have fled in recent years. Virtually all cross the border to China, which repatriates those fugitives it catches.

Beijing says they are economic migrants rather than refugees, a policy criticized by international rights groups.

The refugees often travel on from China to southeast Asian countries, hoping to fly from there to South Korea. Last week 19 refugees were arrested in Thailand on charges of illegal entry.

Sources: Agence France-Presse, June 26, 2012

Saudi Arabia: Five Executed for Murder and Drugs

June 26, 2012: Saudi authorities beheaded four of its citizens for murder and a Syrian national for drug smuggling, the interior ministry said.

Three Saudi nationals were executed in the kingdom's eastern Qatif region for stabbing and then shooting to death an Indian, Kohimo Ahmad, after robbing the shop where he worked, the ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Hussein bin Ahmad Shweikhat, Abdel Aziz bin Hasan al-Maatouq and Hussein bin Ibrahim al-Maatouq were beheaded after the three were found guilty of having stabbed and then shot Ahmad with an automatic rifle.

In a separate case, Khaled bin Saeed al-Asmari, was executed in the town of Abhaa in the kingdom's southern region of Asir for stabbing to death fellow Saudi, Abdullah bin Saad al-Masmaa, after a dispute, the ministry said.

And William Hatoum, a Syrian, was executed in the northern region of Jawf after being found guilty of smuggling drugs into the ultra-conservative kingdom, it said.

Hatoum was the third Syrian national to be executed in Saudi Arabia for drug smuggling since January.

The latest beheadings bring to 45 the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.

Source: Agence France-Presse, June 26, 2012

China executes 3 Taiwanese for drug trafficking

Beijing: China executed three Taiwanese drug smugglers on Tueday as UN observed International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Chen Tianlu, Xu Futai and Wang Zhenzong, all hailing from Taiwan, were executed in Zhangzhou in east China's Fujian province after being convicted of smuggling a popular club drug across the Taiwan Strait.

The executions were carried out after the Supreme People's Court approved their death sentences, officials with the Intermediate Court of Zhangzhou said.

The executions coincide with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking being observed by United Nations.

The three men were convicted of smuggling hundreds of kilograms of ketamine, a drug popular in Taiwan's nightclubs, from Fujian to Taiwan by boat from 2009 to 2010.

Source: zeenews.com, June 26, 2012

Indian president defends record death row pardons

President Patil
As India's first woman president ends her term, she is being criticized by the media for being overzealous in granting clemency to nearly three dozen convicts on death row. President Pratibha Patil has defended her choices, insisting she "took well considered decisions" after taking the advice of the home minister.

India's outgoing president has defended herself against media criticism that she went on a "mercy overdrive" during her term by granting clemency to nearly three dozen convicts on death row.

Pratibha Patil, who became India's first woman president in 2007 and leaves office next month, commuted 35 death sentences to life imprisonment during her five years in the post -- more than any other head of state before her.

The Indian media has generally been critical of her record on the issue, questioning why clemency was deemed appropriate in some cases involving murder, rape and child abduction.

"President Pratibha Patil goes on mercy overdrive," was the verdict of the Times of India, while the Mail Today questioned her motives.

"In her apparent overzealousness to come across as the apostle of mercy, she appears to have glossed over some gruesome details," it said.

In a statement issued by her office late Monday, Patil defended her choices, insisting she "took well considered decisions" after taking the advice of the home minister.

"A queer pitch has been created as though many brutal criminals have been shown mercy and released," the statement said. "The President is discharging a constitutional obligation and not doling out generosity."

India has hundreds of condemned convicts awaiting execution, including the killers of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, and Pakistani national Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

A complex and lengthy appeal process means those sentenced to capital punishment often sit on death row for many years. In most cases the death penalty is commuted to life imprisonment.

India's last execution was in 2004, when a former security guard was hanged for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

Source: NY Daily News, June 26, 2012

Related articles:
Jun 06, 2012
On 29 April, President Pratibha Patil of India had commuted the death sentence of a domestic help, Om Prakash of Uttarakhand, who had murdered a retired Brigadier and his two family members, to life imprisonment. Source:.
Sep 14, 2010
The death penalty of Sheoram, Shyam Manohar and four others has also been turned into life imprisonment. They had barged into a house in UP, and had shot dead 3 persons and took out a victory procession with their ...
Jun 02, 2012
On 29 April, President Pratibha Patil of India had commuted the death sentence of a domestic help, Om Prakash of Uttarakhand, who had murdered a retired Brigadier and his two family members, to life imprisonment. Source:...
Jun 01, 2011
Although India voted against the resolution for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, 2008 and 2010, President Patil had commuted the death sentences of 20 ...

US Supreme Court Rules Against Mandatory Life Without Parole for Children

A message for Alabama, Arkansas, and the entire United States: a sentencing scheme of mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders (JLWOP) is cruel and unusual punishment. That’s what the Supreme Court said today when it ruled in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs that such sentencing schemes violate the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In these cases, the Court extended its reasoning in Graham v. Florida, in which it previously ruled against JLWOP in non-homicide cases, to children convicted of homicide. The decision does not mean that a child can never be sentenced to life without parole, although the Court strongly suggested that such sentences should be rare. It simply means that the sentencing judge must have the opportunity to consider age and circumstance when handing down a punishment.

Evan Miller was 14-years-old when he and an older boy used drugs and alcohol given to them by a middle-aged man; then, while intoxicated, they got into a fight with the man and hit him with a baseball bat. They left his trailer on fire, where the man died of smoke inhalation. Evan was charged as an adult, convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in prison for intentional murder. The court did not consider his age or the abuse and neglect he suffered throughout his life, which had led him to attempt suicide the 1st time at age 7.

Kuntrell Jackson was barely 14 when he accompanied other teens on a spontaneous robbery of a video store; Kuntrell stayed outside for most of the robbery but after he entered the store one of his co-conspirators shot the store clerk. For being there, Kuntrell was charged as an adult and sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole for an unintentional killing where he was not the actual killer. The boy’s youth was not taken into account in sentencing.

Legally, these boys couldn’t vote, they couldn’t marry, they couldn’t join the military, they couldn’t drink, they couldn’t drive – but they broke the law and their state threw the book, the shelf, the whole library at them, and then buried them under it.

Absolutely, their crimes were horrible – lives were lost – and should be punished. But sentencing them to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole ignores the huge capacity of kids for rehabilitation, and our responsibility as a society to give them the chance to become productive members of society. They are not to be thrown away.

Today the Supreme Court made the right decision in holding that the mandatory sentencing of a child to die in prison, without first considering the circumstances of the crime, is not consistent with our Constitution.

The criminal justice system should, at least, protect the children ensnared in it. There are lessons they need to learn and progress they can still make. Automatically sentencing them to life without parole does not advance our society, or the kids. Today, the Supreme Court got it right. Now the real work lies ahead for us to prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place.

Source: ACLU, June 25, 2012

Saudi beheads citizen for murder

40 executions in kingdom so far this year.

Saudi authorities beheaded on Monday one of its citizens after he was convicted of shooting dead 2 fellow Saudis, the interior ministry announced in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Musfer Bin Atallah Al Jaeed shot dead Ahmad Bin Mayud Al Sawat and Fares Bin Masud Al Sawat after a dispute, the ministry said.

Al Jaeed was beheaded in the the western province of Taef.

His beheading brings to 40 the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.

Under the AFP count, at least 76 people were beheaded in 2011, while rights group Amnesty International put the number of executions last year at 79.

The death penalty in Saudi Arabia applies to a wide range of offences including rape, apostasy, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking, as well as murder, as stipulated by Sharia law.

Source: Agence France-Presse, June 25, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ruling could affect Nebraska death penalty law

A Friday ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court striking down that state's execution law could affect Nebraska's use of the death penalty.

The court, in a split decision, agreed with 10 death row inmates who said the Arkansas constitution says only its Legislature can set execution policy, an authority state lawmakers gave its Correction Department in 2009.

Nebraska death-row inmate Michael Ryan makes the same argument in an appeal pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. He says Nebraska lawmakers were wrong in 2009 to give the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services the authority to set the state’s lethal injection protocol when use of the electric chair was abolished.

And while the Arkansas ruling has no direct bearing on Nebraska, it shows the argument -- which Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning's office has called frivolous -- has merit.

In the Arkansas court's majority opinion, Justice Jim Gunter wrote: "It is evident to this court that the Legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch, in this case the (Arkansas Department of Correction), the unfettered discretion to determine all protocol and procedures, most notably the chemicals to be used, for a state execution."

2 members of the seven-member court dissented, arguing that the Correction Department's discretion is not "unfettered" because it is bound by the federal and state constitutions that guard against cruel and unusual punishment.

"In addition, Arkansas is left no method of carrying out the death penalty in cases where it has been lawfully imposed," Justice Karen Baker wrote.

In the Nebraska case, Richardson County District Judge Daniel Bryan Jr. did not address the question as to whether Nebraska's death-penalty law violates the state Constitution; the case was thrown out on procedural grounds.

Ryan's lawyer, Jerry Soucie of the Nebraska Commission of Public Advocacy, is asking the Nebraska high court to send the case back to Bryan to rule on that question, among other things.

Soucie also argues that Ryan was sentenced to die in the electric chair, which the state no longer uses. Nebraska switched to lethal injection after a state Supreme Court ruling that the chair was unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment. At the time, Nebraska was the only state with electrocution as its sole means of execution.

In his order, Bryan said courts have jurisdiction in such cases only if "a prisoner under sentence asserts facts that claim a right to be released on grounds that there was a denial or infringement of state or federal constitutional rights that would render the judgment or conviction void or voidable.

"Here, Ryan … is asking that his death sentence be vacated for constitutional infringements and that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole. The grounds he alleges occurred well after the final judgment in the criminal matter and do not deal with the judgments of the death sentence ordered by the court, but deal with the method of inflicting the death penalty."

That issue, the judge said, already was decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court in death-row cases in 2006 and 2008.

Soucie asked that Ryan's death sentence be reduced to life without parole.

Ryan was convicted in the cult-related 1985 killings of James Thimm, 26, and Luke Stice, 5, near Rulo. He was sentenced to death for Thimm's murder.

Thimm was tortured for several days by members of Ryan's cult at their Rulo compound. He was beaten, his fingers were shot off, he was sodomized with a shovel handle, his legs were skinned and several of his bones were broken. Finally, Ryan killed him by stomping on his chest.

Source: Journal Star, June 23, 2012

Iran: Alcohol drinkers sentenced to death

Soldiers destroying alcohol in Iran
The Khorasan justice department has confirmed the death penalty for 2 individuals who were caught drinking alcohol for the 3rd time.

ISNA reports that Hojjatoleslam Hassan Shariati, the head of the Khorasan justice department, told a press conference: “The execution sentence for the 2 people who had been caught using alcoholic beverages has been confirmed and is now in process.”

He added: “We will not show mercy in alcoholic beverage offences and we will sentence the offenders to the harshest letter of the law.”

In 2007, in an unprecedented move, the Tehran criminal court sentenced an alcoholic to death. He had been caught offending for the fourth time; however, he was later acquitted.

The judge in Tehran had stipulated that according to the Islamic penal code, if an individual is flogged twice for alcohol offences, the third offence could receive the death penalty.

Unofficial reports indicate that consumption of alcoholic beverages is on the rise in Iran.

Shargh Newspaper recently reported that according to traffic police, 26 % of drivers stopped by police test positive for drug and alcohol use.

Source: Radio Zamaneh, June 24, 2012

Iran's 'hidden' alcoholism problem

Public flogging in Iran
Iranian health officials have expressed deep concern over rising alcohol intake, calling for measures to tackle the issue.

The warning is significant given that Iran banned alcohol after the 1979 Islamic revolution. But there is no consensus on how to address the problem. Some authorities have tried to cover up the issue.

Although there had been warnings by low-key figures over the level of alcohol intake, it was a recent statement by a senior health official that led to an intense debate about how to tackle the problem.

"We receive worrying reports from hospitals and physicians about an increase in alcohol consumption in the southern districts of Tehran," said Baqer Larijani, the head of the Health Ministry's Policy-Making Council.

Abbasali Nasehi, the director-general of the Health Ministry's Mental Health Department, expressed similar concerns, saying: "We have little information about alcohol addiction in the country. We have around two million [drug] addicts in the country, and some of them are also addicted to alcohol."

Iran's police chief, Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, had previously said there were only 200,000 alcoholics in Iran, but others had cast doubts about the figure, saying it would be higher.

It is estimated that around 60m to 80m litres of alcoholic drinks are smuggled to Iran each year. This amount is in addition to the spirits made domestically, including the popular "araq" made from fermenting and distilling raisins.

References to wine and drinking are an inseparable part of Persian poetry. But since the revolution, the authorities have tried to interpret these purely within a spiritual context, especially because the late Ayatollah Khomeini used the same terminology in his poetry.

Alcohol was banned and bars closed down a few months after the revolution. With the introduction of Islamic law, or Shariah, drinkers faced severe punishments such as hefty fines and even public lashings. 

Prohibition in numbers:

  • Alcohol was banned in 1979
  • 200,000 alcoholics in Iran
  • 829 drivers banned in 2011/2012 after alcohol related offences
  • 60-80 million litres or $730m of alcohol smuggled into Iran each year
  • 80% is smuggled in from Iran's western border
  • 69% increase in seizures over the past year
  • It is estimated that only 20-30% is actually confiscated

Source: BBC News, June 2012

Death penalty sentence for two Iranians for “third offense” of consuming alcoholic beverages

Universal Tolerance (UTO) -- Yesterday, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s news agencies reported that according to Razavi Khorasan’s Chief of Justice, the Supreme Court have confirmed the death penalty sentence for two Iranians for “third offense” of consuming alcoholic beverages.

Hassan Shariati told ISNA news agency, without revealing the name of the convicted or details of the case, that the execution is in process.

It is not surprising to see people like these two being murdered by officials who who claim muslimhood and have law enforcement authority, but if Razavi Khorasan’s Chief of Justice had the slightest knowledge of the criminal law, he would not allow the punishment of those who have been recommended for leniency in the criminal code.

Article 179 of Islamic Penal Code, approved in 1996, states that “whenever a person consumes alcohol and is punished [by lashes] each time, they should be killed the third time”; however, not only this law has never been enforced in Iran, but also, more importantly, it has been abolished in the new Islamic Penal Code and judicial judges can no longer sentence the convicted to death in such circumstances. Even though the new Islamic Penal Code has been approved by Guardian Council and the parliament has sent it to the president for announcements through official newspapers, the president is required to notify the official newspapers as soon as possible to publish the new law. We have to try and preserve the rights of the suspects and convicts for whom the law has recommended leniency; thus, it is unfair to allow execution of people convicted of such crimes.

The new Islamic Penal Code may not conform to human rights standards, but in some cases it has been modified to benefit the convicts, including cases like this where death penalty have been abolished for people with third offenses punished by Sharia Law.

Based on my explanation above, the death penalty for these two young men is against the law and justice and needs to be revoked. Nonetheless, these convicts can also ask for “forgiveness”.

Source: Universal Tolerance Organization, Mohammad Mostafaei and [name deleted by request], June 25, 2012

Iranian pair face death penalty after 3rd alcohol offence

Medieval and barbaric punishments: Public flogging in Iran
Medieval and barbaric punishments: Public flogging in Iran
2 people previously lashed 160 times for consuming alcohol, which is forbidden under Islamic Sharia law

2 Iranians have been sentenced to death for persistent consumption of alcohol under the country's Islamic Sharia law, which forbids the use, manufacturing and trading of all types of alcoholic drinks.

The 2, who have not been named by the authorities, have each previously been lashed 160 times after twice being arrested for consuming alcohol. Being convicted for the 3rd time makes them liable for the death penalty.

The head of the judiciary Seyed Hasan Shariati, based in Iran's north-eastern province of Khorasan Razavi, told the semi-official Isna news agency that the supreme court had upheld their death sentences and that officials were preparing for their execution.

"2 people who committed the offence of consuming alcohol for the 3rd time have been sentenced to be executed. The verdict has been confirmed by the supreme court and we are preparing to administer it," he said.

Under Iranian Sharia law, certain crimes such as sodomy, rape, theft, fornication, apostasy and consumption of alcohol for the third time are considered to be "claims of God" and therefore have mandatory death sentences.

Sentences for such crimes, which are called Hodud in the Islamic terminology, are not at the discretion of the judge but are defined by Sharia law.

For some of these crimes, including theft and lesbianism, the death penalty is only handed down if the convict is a re-offender who has already been punished 3 times for the same crime in the past. In the case of alcohol, the death penalty comes on the 3rd offence.

According to Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer based in London, a decision on whether such a punishment can be issued depends on the judge's knowledge – a loophole which allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is presented.

"Prostitutes are often victims of such punishment and can be given a death sentence," Sadr said. "Because having illicit sexual relationships is their job and they often get caught by the police it's very likely that they will have committed the crime 3 times in the past."

In crimes related to alcohol consumption, Shariati warned: "We will show no mercy in finding, trying and punishing those breaking the law and we will punish them to the highest extent."

Despite the ban, many people in Iran drink alcohol, usually a homemade liquor called araq, which contains 45% pure ethanol. It is usually mixed before consumption and can be dangerous because of the ethanol used in its distillation.

Hosts who throw parties call an alcohol vendor who delivers it to the door. Western alcohol is smuggled to Iran and can be found in underground markets but can be costly. People who belong to non-Muslim minorities such as Christians and Armenians, which are recognised by the authorities, are allowed to produce and consume alcohol in the country.

In a rare acknowledgement of Iran's hidden alcohol consumption, which has become - as Golnaz Esfandiari of Persian Letters puts it in her blog - a "means of escape" for the young from state restrictions, a senior official in the country's health ministry warned recently against reports of an increase in its use.

Source: The Guardian, June 25, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Uganda says gays now free to meet

Responding to growing international criticism of anti-gay efforts in Uganda, the government said in a statement Friday that it does not discriminate against people “of a different sexual orientation.’’

“No government official is (supposed) to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others,’’ the statement said.

It was signed by Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo, the official accused by gay activists of orchestrating a hate campaign that includes breaking up gay conferences and threatening to expel civil society groups he says promote homosexuality in the conservative east African country.

This is the first time the government is making a statement that appears to recognize the rights of gay people in Uganda, where most homosexuals remain closeted for fear of attacks, and it seemed to take even the activists by surprise.

“I think we’ve really challenged Lokodo now, as this statement shows,’’ said Frank Mugisha, a prominent gay activist. “He’s facing the pressure.’’

Homosexuality is already illegal under Uganda’s penal code, and in 2009 a lawmaker with Uganda’s ruling party introduced a bill that proposed the death penalty for what he called “aggravated homosexuality.’’

Parliamentarian David Bahati said at the time that homosexuals deserved to die for recruiting young, impoverished children into gay culture by luring them with money and the promise of a better life.

The bill has since been shelved. Uganda’s president said it hurt the country’s image abroad. The bill has been condemned by some world leaders, with U.S. President Barack Obama describing it as “odious.’’

But the bill is highly popular among local Anglican and Pentecostal clerics. Some recently petitioned the authorities to quickly pass it. Bahati said he had been “assured’’ that the bill would be passed one day.

Uganda’s ethics ministers over the years have been noted for strong anti-gay stances, but gay activists and even some government officials say Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, had gone too far. He is accused of ordering police to break up two gay conferences this year, and on a talk show he said recently that he had compiled a list of nearly 40 foreign civil society groups he wants expelled for allegedly promoting homosexuality in Uganda.

A government official said Lokodo had been forced to “own’’ the statement issued on Friday after a meeting in which he was officially asked to tone down anti-gay rhetoric.

“He was going into issues of morality and he was giving unnecessary interviews,’’ the official said of Lokodo. The official was interviewed on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal for frankly discussing the behind-the-scenes actions.

Lokodo is now the subject of court case brought by lawyers and activists who say he violated the right of Ugandans to assemble when he had police break up a gay meeting in February. This week, Lokodo and the police were accused of disrupting another gay meeting in Kampala, an act condemned by rights groups including Amnesty International.

“We are seeking a declaration that his acts were illegal,’’ said Francis Onyango, the lawyer who filed the case on behalf of Uganda’s gay community.

The case against Lokodo is expected to start on Monday.

Source: AP, June 22, 2012

Vietnamese student given death penalty for drug smuggling

The Supreme People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday increased the sentence of a 23-year-old student convicted of drug smuggling from life in prison to death.

Tran Ha Duy, a former student of Hong Bang University from Lam Dong Province, received the death penalty for smuggling a total of 7.5 kilogram of crystal methamphetamine (ice) into Vietnam beginning in 2010.

At the court of first instance in March, Duy was sentenced to life imprisonment for smuggling the drug from Benin and Malaysia into Vietnam between October of 2010 and July the following year.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office appealed that decision, arguing that a life sentence amounted to an insufficient deterrent, noting that drug smuggling has become more “complicated” recently.

According to the verdict, she was working for a man known only as Francis in Benin, adding that the drugs were to be transported to another country from Vietnam.

They said Duy convinced her friends and relatives to smuggle drugs also. Her younger sister, 21-year-old Tran Ha Tien, a former student of Van Lang University, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for transporting over 4 kilograms of drugs.

Prosecutors said for every trip, the smugglers were paid between US$500 and $1,000.

Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws, with those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine eligible for the death penalty.

Source: Thanh Nien News, June 21, 2012

Arkansas Court Upends Death Penalty

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty law on Friday, faulting a provision that permitted the Corrections Department to select the fatal drugs used in an execution.

The court ruled 5 to 2 that the Legislature must set the quantity and type of drugs in a lethal injection. The 2009 law left those decisions to the director of the Corrections Department. The court sided with 10 death row inmates who challenged the law’s constitutionality.

Prison officials across the nation are grappling with a shortage of an anesthetic called sodium thiopental that is one of three drugs used in a lethal injection. The only American company that manufactured the drug stopped producing it in 2010, saying the active ingredient had become difficult to obtain.

Arkansas does not have any doses of the drug left, and its law does not specify whether a substitute is allowed.

The 37 inmates on the state’s death row will not be executed until the Legislature responds to the ruling, said Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department. But, she said, “we still have a responsibility to execute these inmates.”

Source: The New York Times, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Former Texas Death Row Inmate Testifies at Congressional Hearings on Solitary Confinement

On June 19, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held hearings on solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, including the conditions of many state death rows. The hearings marked the 1st time lawmakers on Capitol Hill have considered this issue. 

Anthony Graves, a former Texas death row inmate, described the conditions of his incarceration in a 8 by 12 foot cage with no physical human contact for years. Meals were passed through a slot, as if feeding an animal. Graves equated his time on Texas’s death row with solitary confinement and described it as “physical, emotional, and psychological torture.”

He added, “I saw guys who dropped their appeals because of the intolerable conditions. Before his execution, one inmate told me he would rather die than continue existing under these inhumane conditions. I saw guys come to prison sane, and leave this world insane, talking nonsense on the execution gurney. One guy suffered some of his last days smearing feces, lying naked in the recreation yard, and urinating on himself.” 

In 2010, Graves was completely exonerated and released from death row because of new evidence of his innocence. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “We can have a just society, and we can be humane in the process. We can punish wrongdoers, and they should be punished under our system of justice, but we don’t have to cross that line.”

Source: DPIC, June 21, 2012

Last ever UK death sentence conviction quashed

Liam Holden, the last person to be sentenced to death in the United Kingdom, is cleared by the Court of Appeal of murdering a soldier in west Belfast in 1972.

A Belfast man, who was the last person to be sentenced to death in the United Kingdom, has been cleared of murdering a soldier in 1972.

Liam Holden spent 17 years in jail after being convicted. His death sentence was commuted to a life term.

At the time, he told the court he was forced to sign a confession after soldiers threatened to kill him and used water torture on him.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeal in Belfast overturned his conviction.

Clear guidelines

The Crown had previously said it would not object to the holding of an appeal after assessing evidence contained in a confidential annexe of material.

This showed that by interrogating Mr Holden for more than 3 hours, the military was in breach of clear government guidelines that suspects arrested by soldiers should be handed over immediately to the RUC for questioning.

At the time in 1972, many people would not have believed allegations of torture.

The Conservative government and the majority unionist community would have dismissed such claims as Provisional IRA propaganda.

It is shocking that someone could be locked up for 17 years as a result of a confession that, it would appear, was extracted in this horrific way.

What is equally shocking is that it has taken decades for cases like this to come to light and for these apparent miscarriages of justice to be put right.

'My water torture nightmare'

The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with 2 other appeal court judges, said on Thursday that as evidence of the Army guidelines had not been made known to either the defence or prosecution teams during his trial, the appeal was being allowed and the conviction quashed.

Speaking outside court, Mr Holden said: "I'm delighted that after 40 years its over. But it's a pity my parents weren't alive to get this result."

Although the death penalty was abolished in Britain in 1969, it remained in Northern Ireland until 1973.

Mr Holden was 19 and working as a chef when he was taken from his home and brought to an Army post at Blackmountain school, where he was held for almost 5 hours.

By the end of his time in military custody he had agreed to sign a statement admitting he had killed Private Frank Bell, who died three days after being shot in the head as he patrolled Springfield Avenue, west Belfast, in September 1972.

"By the time they were finished with me I would have admitted to killing JFK," he said in an interview earlier this week.

Mr Holden said he was subjected to sustained torture and then threatened that he would be shot if he did not confess to the killing.

"I was beaten and they told me to admit I had shot the soldier, but I said that wasn't true because I didn't," he said.

"Then 6 soldiers came into the cubicle where I was being held and grabbed me.

"They held me down on the floor and one of them placed a towel over my face, and they got water and they started pouring the water through the towel all round my face, very slowly.

"After a while you can't get your breath but you still try to get your breath, so when you were trying to breathe in through your mouth you are sucking the water in, and if you try to breathe in through your nose, you are sniffing the water in.

"It was continual, a slow process, and at the end of it you basically feel like you are suffocating."

Mr Holden said he eventually confessed after he was threatened with being shot.

Source: BBC, June 21, 2012

Mississippi executes Gary Carl Simmons Jr.

Gary Simmons Jr.
PARCHMAN, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi has executed a former grocery store butcher who dismembered a man during a 1996 attack in which he raped the man's female friend and locked her in a metal box.

Gary Carl Simmons Jr., 49, was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. CDT after an injection Wednesday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He was condemned for the Aug. 12, 1996, shooting death and dismemberment of Jeffery Wolfe, whose body parts were found in a south Mississippi bayou.

"I've been blessed to be loved by some good people, by some amazing people. I thank them for their support. Let's get it on so these people can go home. That's it," Simmons said as he lay strapped on a gurney in the execution chamber moments before the procedure was carried out.

Once the drugs began flowing, Simmons took a few deep breaths and yawned before going motionless.

In the hours before the execution, Simmons' lawyers filed a motion attempting to stop it with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Mississippi Supreme Court and the state's governor declined efforts to block the execution during the day.

Simmons becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Mississippi and the 21st overall since Mississippi resumed capital punishment in 1983. 

Simmons becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1299th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Samuel Lopez, in Arizona, is the last person scheduled to be put to death this month, next Wednesday, June 27. 

Source: Houston Chronicle, Rick Halperin, June 20, 2012

Mississippi Executes Its Sixth Death Row Inmate Of 2012

Mississippi has executed the 6th death row inmate of the year. M-P-B's Jeffrey Hess reports Gary Carl Simmons was executed by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Parchman last night.

Simmons was convicted of the 1996 murder of Jeffrey Wolfe as well as the kidnapping and rape Wolfe's female friend.

Simmons worked as a butcher and allegedly used those skills, and knives from work, to dismember Wolfe and scatter his body parts in an alligator infested Jackson County bayou.

After the execution, Wolfe's step-mother Linda Wolfe says Simmons never apologized even with his last words.

"Did he tell us, 'I am sorry. I wish I could take it back'? No, He didn't take nothing back. Like he said, 'Let's get it over with. Let's get done so these people can go home'. Well that is where we are going. We are going back to Houston, Texas and our hearts are proud. And we are proud of y'all. And thank y'all for every prayer, every thought and everything you have done the last 16 years," Wolfe said.

Wolfe's father Paskiel Wolfe reacted emotionally to the execution.

"Do you think God is going to forgive you for doing such a good deed? No. You are going to go to Hell. And that is where you are gonna be. And I hope you burn in Hell. When you take your last breath I will be leaving to go and have a cold beer," Wolfe said.

Two dozen protestors sing and light candles in honor of Wolfe and Simmons in protest to the execution.

Carrying a sign reading, killing won't solve killing, James Bowley says he will continue to oppose the death penalty despite the state putting more people to death this year than at any time in the last 60 years.

"It is obviously not going to stop any this year but it might make a person or two or three or ten who drive by think about it. And that is what education is all about is getting people to stop and think. Obviously it won't stop and it won't step the next ones but maybe next or in two years or in ten years," Bowley said.

There is the potential for additional executions later this year, if the Supreme Court rejects any more appeals before its session which finishes at the end of the month.

Source: Jeffrey Hess, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, 20 Jun 2012