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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Saudi beheads another Pakistani on drug trafficking charge

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi Arabia beheaded a Pakistani convicted of drug smuggling on Friday, the 73rd execution in the kingdom so far this year.

Shirin Khan was put to death in Riyadh province after being found guilty of smuggling heroin into the kingdom in swallowed balloons, the interior ministry said.

In the whole of 2014, Saudi Arabia carried out 87 executions, and Amnesty International has spoken of a "macabre spike" in the kingdom's use of the death penalty this year.

The Gulf has become an increasingly important market for illicit drugs in recent years, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says.

The Pakistani city of Karachi is a key transit point for heroin from Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia has carried out a spate of executions of Pakistani drugs mules.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's version of Islamic sharia law. The cabinet has affirmed that the kingdom's legal system ensures "justice for all", Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

But Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in September last year that trials "are by all accounts grossly unfair" and defendants are often not allowed a lawyer. He said confessions were obtained under torture.

The Gulf state has carried out around 80 executions annually since 2011. In comparison, Iran has executed more than 1,000 people since January last year, Ahmed Shaheed said the UN special rapporteur on Iran.

Source: Daily Pakistan, May 1, 2015 (wr)

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