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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…

Iran: 5 prisoners transferred to solitary confinement for their execution

Iran death penalty
According to reports from Iran, 5 death-row prisoners from different wards in Isfahan Prison, central Iran, have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their execution.

Iran's fundamentalist regime executed 8 prisoners on April 13 in Gohardasht Prison, northwest of Tehran. The prisoners had been transferred to solitary confinement earlier in the week.

These executions are taking place while Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Iran in recent days to establishe trade relations between the Iranian regime and Italy. The EU High Representative is expected to visit Iran soon.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement on Wednesday that the Iranian regime executed 14 prisoners in various prisons across the country within a 5-day period.

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before."

"Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,300 executions during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of "God's commandments" and "laws of the parliament that belong to the people."

Source: NCR-Iran, April 15, 2016


Female Prisoner Hanged in Northeastern Iran on Drug Charges

A woman sentenced to death on drug charges was reportedly hanged in northeastern Iran on Thursday morning Tehran time.

On the morning of Thursday April 14, a woman was reportedly hanged at Kashmar Prison (located in the Razavi Khorasan province, northeastern Iran) on drug charges. A report by the Kurdistan Human Rights Network identifies the prisoner as Ameneh Rezaian, a 43-year-old woman who was arrested 2 years ago by Iranian authorities on charges of possession and trafficking of narcotics.

The report makes mention of another woman at Kashmar Prison, Khavar B., who is sentenced to death on drug charges and is currently on death row.

Iranian official sources, including state media and the Judiciary, have been silent about Ameneh Rezaian's execution.

Source: iranhr.net, April 15, 2016


UN rights chief calls for end to executions for drug offences

The United Nations human rights chief today appealed to Iran to halt executions for drug offences until the new Parliament debates a proposed law that would remove the mandatory death penalty for drug crimes.

"Given the broadening recognition in Iran that death penalty does not deter drug crime and that anti-narcotics laws need to be reformed, I call on Iran to take the important 1st step of instituting a moratorium on the use of death penalty," said High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

Last year, at least 966 people were executed in Iran - the highest rate in more than 2 decades - the majority for drug offences. At least 4 of those executed in 2015 were juveniles. So far this year, 60 executions have reportedly been carried out in Iran, less than the number in the same period last year.

He, however, noted that 5 men were hanged last weekend, 3 of them on charges of narcotics trafficking. The other 2 men were convicted of murder.

In at least 1 of the cases, that of Rashid Kouhi, there were serious concerns about the fairness of the trial and the denial of his right to appeal. Kouhi was sentenced to death in 2012 after he was found in possession of 800 grams of crystal meth. He was executed last Saturday in Gilan province in northern Iran.

In December last year, 70 parliamentarians presented a bill to amend the existing mandatory death penalty for drug offences. The bill provides for life imprisonment in such cases. It remains to be seen whether it will be taken forward in the new Parliament.

"There have been encouraging signs from within Iran towards reform of the law, from the judiciary, the executive and the legislature and I hope the new Parliament will adopt these changes," Mr. Zeid said. "But it is unfortunate that executions for drug-related offences - crimes that clearly do not meet the threshold under international human rights law for application of the death penalty - continue to be carried out in the meantime."

He also expressed serious concerns about the large number of juvenile offenders reported to be on death row in Iran. He urged the authorities to ensure that no one is executed for offences committed under the age of 18, stressing that there is a strict prohibition against the execution of juvenile offenders in international human rights law, including in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran ratified in 1975 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it ratified in 1994.

Source: UN News Centre, April 15, 2016

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