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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…

ISIS crucifies Catholic priest on Good Friday: reports

Father Tom Uzhunnalil
Father Tom Uzhunnalil
The Indian Catholic priest kidnapped by ISIS-linked terrorists in Yemen earlier this month was crucified on Good Friday, it has been claimed.

Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, 56, was taken by Islamist gunmen, reportedly linked to ISIS, who attacked an old people's home in Aden, southern Yemen, killing at least 15 people, on March 4.

The terrorists reportedly carried out the heinous murder on Good Friday, after threatening to do so earlier in the week, according to the Archbishop of Vienna

It was reported last week that several religious groups had received threats that Father Thomas would be crucified on Good Friday, but this was denied by his church in hometown of Bangalore.

However, the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, told a congregation gathered in St. Stephen's Cathedral in the Austrian capital that the priest had been crucified.

It is not known how the Archbishop became aware of Father Thomas' alleged fate, but his confirmation of the crucifixion during Easter Vigil Mass was reported in Austrian media.

Yemeni authorities have blamed ISIS for the March 4 attack on the refuge for the elderly operated by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in main southern city Aden.

Four gunmen posing as relatives of one of the guests at the home burst inside, killing four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard.

'According to our information, the extremists who attacked the elderly care home in Aden have kidnapped priest Tom Uzhunnalil, a 56-year-old Indian, who was taken to an unknown location,' a Yemeni security official said.

'We are aware that no group has yet claimed the criminal attack... but information points to the involvement of Daesh,' said the source, who asked to remain anonymous, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

However, members of Father Tom's order have denied that he is due to be crucified, saying they have no information on his health or whereabouts.

We have absolutely no information on Fr Tom,' Father Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians' Bangalore province, told UCANews.

'But even today we do not know who has taken him and what their motives are because no one has claimed responsibility.'

The Vatican's Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said earlier this month that Pope Francis 'was shocked and profoundly saddened' to learn of 'this act of senseless and diabolical violence.'

Aden had been racked by lawlessness since Hadi supporters, backed by Gulf Arab military forces, drove fighters from Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi group from the city in July last year.

The Yemeni government has repeatedly vowed to restore security to the city but so far had had little success.

Al-Qaeda and IS have stepped up attacks in Aden, targeting mainly loyalists and members of a Saudi-led coalition battling Huthi rebels and their allies since March last year.

Al-Qaeda distanced itself from the mass shooting Friday, saying it was not responsible.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has declared Aden to be Yemen's temporary capital as Sanaa has been in the hands of rebels since September 2014.

Source: Mail Online, March 28, 2016


ISIS crucifies Catholic priest on Good Friday: reports
The militant group Islamic State (ISIS) continued their persecution of Christian groups, by allegedly crucifying a Catholic priest on Good Friday, the Washington Times reports.

The victim was Reverend Thomas Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest, who was kidnapped in Yemen earlier this month during a raid on a Catholic nursing home run by Mother Teresa’s organisation Missionaries of Charity.

Father Uzhunnalil, a native of India, was captured on March 4, in a raid which also killed 16 Christian nuns and nurses. His death by the same method the Romans used to kill Jesus—an event marked by Christians around the world on Good Friday—was confirmed at the Easter Vigil Mass by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna

News of his execution comes as ISIS’s crackdown on groups not affiliated with its radical brand of Salafism has helped fuel a huge drop in Iraq’s Christian population.

Less than 30 years ago Iraq’s official census counted 1.4 million Christians residing in the country, however since then figures have decreased radically, Al Jazeera reports.

The Iraqi civil war, between 2005 and 2007, forced thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee to nearby Syria, while others settled in Lebanon and Jordan. After the start of Syria’s Civil War in 2011, some Christian refugees returned to Iraq, however as ISIS spread across Syria and Iraq, figures have fallen once again.

According to the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, an Iraqi research thinktank, said the number of Christians in Iraq had dropped to fewer than 400,000 as of 2015.

Source: Newsweek, March 28, 2016

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