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

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…

Sudan: More than half a million call to free pregnant woman sentenced to death for apostasy

More than 620,000 Amnesty International supporters have taken action to call for Meriam Yehya Ibrahim's release.

Lawyers have confirmed to Amnesty International that an appeal has been lodged against the conviction of a pregnant Sudanese Christian woman, who has been sentenced to death for her religious choice and to 100 lashes for 'adultery'.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim has remained in prison with her 20-month-old son since she was sentenced to death for 'apostasy' and to 100 lashes for 'adultery' last Thursday. Her sentence has provoked statements of concern from Sudanese civil society, the United Nations, and governments around the world as well as an exceptional response from Amnesty International supporters, more than 620,000 of whom have joined the call for her release.

"The plight and the bravery of this young pregnant mother has clearly touched the world. More than 620,000 Amnesty International supporters have taken action to call for her immediate and unconditional release," said Manar Idriss, Amnesty International's Sudan researcher.

"Since Meriam has been sentenced, we are deeply concerned at the conditions of her detention and use of cruel and inhuman forms of restraint. We have received worrying reports that she has been constantly shackled. The Sudanese authorities must guarantee Meriam's safety and release her immediately and unconditionally."

According to information received by her lawyers, since her sentence Meriam, who is eight months pregnant, has been constantly chained by her feet, a practice commonly used on prisoners who have been sentenced to death. She has reportedly told her lawyers that the chains were heavy, making any movement painful.

Her lawyers filed an appeal at the Appeal Court of Bahri and Sharq Al Nil today. If the appeal is unsuccessful, they are planning to explore further avenues, and take the case to Sudan's Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.

"We welcome the fact that an appeal has been lodged, although Meriam should never have faced any charges or courts in the first place. Amnesty International will continue campaigning for Meriam. We remain hopeful that with enough international and local support this abhorrent conviction and sentence can be overturned," said Manar Idriss.

Meriam, who is 8 months pregnant, was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother's religion. Her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood. She was arrested and charged with 'adultery' in August 2013 after a family member claimed that she was committing adultery because her marriage was invalid, as her South Sudanese husband is a Christian. The court added the charge of 'apostasy' in February 2014 when Meriam asserted that she was a Christian and not a Muslim.

Meriam was convicted of both charges on 11 May 2014 and given 3 days to recant her faith. When she refused, she was sentenced to death for 'apostasy' and 100 lashes for 'adultery'.

Source: Amnesty International, May 22, 2014

Sudan lawyer warned to drop appeal against mother's death sentence

The lawyer for a pregnant woman sentenced to hang for apostasy in Sudan has received threatening phone calls warning him to drop an appeal against the death penalty.

As international outrage deepens over the ruling by an Islamic Sharia judge, the lawyer, Mohamed Jar Elnabi, is expected to return to court on Thursday on behalf of his client Meriam Ibrahim.

"Meriam's lawyer is filing an appeal but [on Tuesday] he received a threatening phone call to stop working on the case," said Tina Ramirez, the director of Hardwired Global, a religious freedom campaign group that is championing Ms Ibrahim's case.

Ms Ibrahim, 27, who is 8 months' pregnant, is being held shackled to the floor in a women's prison in Khartoum, where her 20-month-year old son is living with her.

She was found guilty of adultery and apostasy - the abandonment of her religion - because she married a Christian and refused to recant her Christianity, despite testifying that she had never been a Muslim.

The court ruling delayed the implementation of its sentence - 100 lashes and death by hanging - for 2 years so that she can give birth to her 2nd baby and raise the child to be a toddler.

But her family fears that she will not survive a 2nd labour in prison, as her 1st pregnancy was so difficult.

"It would be dangerous for anyone to give birth in jail in Sudan, where the conditions are hell," Ms Ibrahim's brother-in-law, Gabriel Wani, said.

"But Meriam had a very difficult first pregnancy and she is not receiving the medical care she needs, so we are really worried about whether she will survive."

Ms Ibrahim was raised in a Christian family and married Daniel Wani, a Sudanese biochemist who lives in the US, in a Khartoum chapel in 2011. The Sharia court convicted her because her father was a Muslim, even though he left his family when his daughter was 6.

Mr Wani, who is wheelchair-bound, was "devastated" when he saw his wife for the 1st time since her sentencing on Monday, his brother said. "Emotionally, it's really challenging for him," said Gabriel Wani.

He and Daniel fled to the US as refugees in 1998 to escape the civil war. "Daniel is going to stay and fight and we are hopeful that the appeal will be successful," his brother said. "But it's just so tough. He was devastated when he saw her. We are all praying for her."

Mr Wani had been trying to arrange the paperwork for his wife and their 1st child, Martin, to move to the United States when she was denounced to the police by a man claiming to be her brother.

The Islamic court ruled that as her father was a Muslim, so was Ms Ibrahim and therefore she had committed adultery by marrying Mr Wani.

Source: The Telegraph, May 22, 2014

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