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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…

President asks China to spare Filipino woman scheduled to be executed for drug trafficking

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has asked his Chinese counterpart to spare a Filipino woman facing execution for trafficking 6 kilograms (13 pounds) of heroin into the country, officials said Thursday.

The 35-year-old woman is scheduled to be executed anytime between Thursday and July 2, and her family is preparing to travel to China for what could be their final meeting, said Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

He told reporters that the woman was arrested at the Hangzhou International Airport in January 2011 along with a Filipino man. She travelled as a tourist and has been convicted of hiding the heroin in her luggage. Her companion was sentenced to death with a 2-year reprieve.

Hernandez quoted Chinese authorities as saying that the woman had trafficked illegal drugs to China 18 times since 2008 and was paid $3,000 to $4,000 per trip. She pleaded not guilty but the evidence against her was overwhelming, Hernandez said.

He said Aquino's letter asking for President Xi Jinping to commute her death sentence to life imprisonment will be delivered later Thursday.

China has previously ignored such appeals and executed 4 Filipino drug convicts in 2011.

Relations between the Philippines and China have been strained over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, but Hernandez said that the Philippines respects Chinese laws and the verdict of the Supreme People's court.

"The Philippine government itself has a strong anti-illegal drug policy and is closely co-operating with law enforcement agencies in China and other countries in efforts against drug trafficking," he said.

The Philippines does not have the death penalty, while China executes more people than any other country. It keeps the data strictly secret, and no reliable estimates on its number of executions are available.

Source: Montreal Gazette, June 26, 2013

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