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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…

Islamic State has killed at least 30 people for "being gay", UN told

Gay man thrown off building top by ISIS in Iraq in June 2015
Gay man thrown off building top by ISIS in Iraq in June 2015
US ambassador tells security council meeting it is "about time" the issue of violence and discrimination towards LGBT people is highlighted

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for killing at least 30 people for sodomy, the head of an international gay rights organisation has told the 1st UN security council meeting in New York to focus on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"It's about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking centre stage," said the US ambassador, Samantha Power, who organised the meeting with Chile's UN envoy. "This represents a small but historic step."

Diplomats said 2 of the 15 council members, Chad and Angola, had not attended the informal closed meeting.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the council that courts established by Isis in Iraq and Syria claimed to have punished sodomy with stoning, firing squads and beheadings and by pushing men from tall buildings.

Fear of the extremist group, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, was fuelling violence by others against LGBT individuals, she said.

Subhi Nahas, a gay refugee from the Syrian city of Idlib, told the council that President Bashar al-Assad's government "launched a campaign accusing all dissidents of being homosexuals" when the country's uprising started in 2011. Soon afterwards gay hangouts were raided and many people were arrested and tortured. "Some were never heard from again," he said.

When the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front took Idlib in 2012, he said, its militants announced "they would cleanse the town of those involved in sodomy". Arrests and killings of accused homosexual people followed. In 2014 when Isis took the city, the violence worsened, he said.

"At the executions hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding," Nahas said. "If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate, too."

He was able to escape to Lebanon, then to Turkey, where he was threatened by a former schoolfriend from Idlib who had joined Isis. Finally he reached the US.

Stern stressed that persecution of LGBT people in Iraq and Syria began long before the emergence of Isis, and called for UN action to relocate LGBT persons most in need and to bring the gay community into broader human rights and humanitarian initiatives.

Source: The Guardian, August 25, 2015

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