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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…

Fresh concerns for Saudi juveniles after mass execution

Dawoud al-Marhoon
Dawoud al-Marhoon
Three Saudi juveniles remain at grave risk of execution, international human rights NGO Reprieve has warned, as fresh details emerged of the cases of several young protestors who were executed on Saturday.

Ali Saeed al-Rebh and Mohammad Faisal al-Shioukh, two protestors who were teenagers when they were arrested in 2012, were among 47 prisoners executed across Saudi Arabia on Saturday (2nd). They were killed alongside a third young man, Mohammad Suweimal, and the prominent activist Sheikh Nimr.

It’s now been revealed that Ali, who 18 at the time of his arrest, was in school when he was arrested by police officers for attending protests. He was later subjected to torture, including being burnt with cigarettes and beaten, before being sentenced to beheading in the country’s secretive Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). The charges that included helping to organise demonstrations with a mobile phone and attending an address given by Sheikh Nimr.

Mohammed, who was 19 when he was arrested, was convicted in the same court on charges including chanting against the Saudi government and painting anti-establishment graffiti on walls. A ‘confession’ he signed after being beaten with electric cables and batons was used to secure his death sentence.

Following Saturday’s mass execution, three juveniles are still awaiting execution – Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah al –Zaher. All three, who are held in solitary confinement, were tortured into signing statements that were used to convict and sentence them to death in the SCC. Speaking last month, Abdullah al-Zaher’s father, Hassan al-Zaher, said that the court process had been so secretive that the family had been unable to follow the progress of their son’s trial. He appealed to the international community to “please help me save my son from the imminent threat of death.”

Speaking yesterday, Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood said the UK government had “expressed our disappointment” at the executions to the Saudi authorities, adding that ministers would “continue to raise” the cases of the juveniles.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting the juveniles, said: “With the executions of young protestors who were tortured and convicted in secret trials, the Saudi authorities have demonstrated utter contempt for the rule of law, basic human rights and their international obligations. There are now serious concerns that juveniles Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher could be next in line for the swordsman’s blade. Saudi Arabia’s closest allies – the UK and the US included – must do all they can to bring an end to this wave of killings.”

Source: Reprieve, January 4, 2016

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