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'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

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Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Executions in Saudi Arabia and Iran – the numbers

The difference between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic regime of Iran
The difference between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic regime of Iran
Only China carries out more executions a year than Iran, according to human rights groups


The move prompted outrage in predominantly Shia Iran. The ensuing war of words and protests resulted in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran.


The figures mark the highest number of recorded executions in one year since 1995, when 192 people were killed. It also marks a 67% increase on the 90 in 2014. Saudi Arabia does not release its own figures on the number of people it executes.

Despite its protestations against the execution of Nimr, Iran is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa that carries out more executions than Saudi Arabia each year – globally, it is second only to China.

Iranian statistics reported 289 executions in 2014 (278 men and 11 women), but Amnesty International says reliable sources put the figure far higher. It claims that at least 743 executions were carried out in 2014.

It is worth noting, however, that Iran’s population of almost 80 million is more than twice that of Saudi Arabia. Of the executions publicly recognised by Iranian authorities, 122 (42%) were people convicted of drug offences.

Iran’s figures for 2015 are set to be even larger. Between January and 1 November last year Amnesty recorded 830 executions, with the majority being related to narcotics.

Similarly, nearly half of 2015 executions in Saudi Arabia were drug-related. However, the 47 executed in Saudi Arabia last Saturday were convicted of alleged terrorism-related offences.

According to Amnesty, the methods of execution used in Saudi Arabia in 2014 were beheading and via firing squad, while in Iran those sentenced to death are hanged. Some public executions are carried out in both countries.


Source: The Guardian, January 4, 2016


Saudi Arabia’s Barbaric Executions

Iranians infuriated by the killing of a cleric ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.
Iranians infuriated by the killing of revered Shiite cleric al-Nimr
ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Dec. 2, 2015.
The execution of the popular Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other prisoners on Saturday was about the worst way Saudi Arabia could have started what promises to be a grim and tumultuous year in the kingdom and across the Middle East. It is hard to imagine that the Sunni rulers of the kingdom were not aware of the sectarian passions the killings would unleash around the region. They may even have counted on the fierce reaction in Iran and elsewhere as a distraction from economic problems at home and to silence dissenters.

The immediate consequence of the executions was a burst of hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two rivals are already backing opposite sides in civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Iranians infuriated by the killing of a revered cleric promptly ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Though Iranian leaders condemned the action and arrested protesters, Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-led allies in Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates were quick to cut or curtail ties with Iran.

That in turn promised to set back international efforts to resolve the wars in Syria and Yemen and to combat the Islamic State and other Islamist terrorist organizations.

Saudi Arabia’s income has sharply declined as a result of the prolonged drop in oil prices — caused, in part, by the regime’s insistence on maintaining production levels — and the government has announced cutbacks in the lavish welfare spending that Saudis have long taken for granted. The executions provided both a sectarian crisis to deflect anger over the cutbacks and a graphic warning of what can befall critics.

But the executions were not out of character for Saudi Arabia. The country has a dismal human rights record with its application of stern Islamic law and its repression of women and practitioners of religious traditions other than Sunni Islam. The regime has become only more repressive in the years since the Arab Spring. According to Human Rights Watch, the mass execution this weekend followed a year in which 158 people were executed, the most in recent history, largely based on vague laws and dubious trials. Sheikh Nimr was a vocal critic of the regime and champion of the rights of the Shiite minority in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, but not an advocate of violent action.

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Source: The New York Times, The Opinion Pages, Editorial, January 4, 2016

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