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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…

UAE: Court sentences 4 Emiratis to death for joining IS

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A top court in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday sentenced four Emiratis to death after convicting them of joining the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria, local media reported.

The 4, who were tried in absentia, are part of a group of 11 defendants accused of "joining the terrorist Daesh group in an Arab country", the official WAM news agency said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Local newspapers said that the group had travelled to Syria.

They were also charged with "promoting" IS online, helping to finance the group and insulting UAE leaders, WAM said.

3 other Emiratis, a Bahraini, a Mauritanian and a Syrian were handed jail sentences of between three and 10 years, the local Gulf News daily reported. Another Emirati was acquitted.

Abu Dhabi's Federal Supreme Court does not allow international media access to such trials.

The UAE is a member of the US-led coalition that has been bombing IS jihadists in Iraq and Syria since September 2014.

UAE authorities have enacted tougher anti-terror legislation, including harsher jail terms and even introducing the death penalty for crimes linked to religious hatred and extremist groups.

In July, the UAE executed an Emirati woman for the jihadist-inspired 2014 murder of an American school teacher in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall.

Her husband is accused of seeking to carry out attacks on targets including Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 circuit and has reportedly claimed to be the local leader of IS. He is currently on trial.

In another case, the same court jailed three Arabs for 10 years each after convicting them of ties to the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, WAM said on Sunday.

It acquitted 3 others for lack of evidence against them, it added.

The UAE is also playing a key role in a Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the Huthis and their allies in Yemen since March last year.

Source: Agence France-Presse, Feb. 15, 2016

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