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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…

Mauritania must quash the death sentence against blogger

Mauritania must quash the death sentence handed down to a blogger for apostasy and release him unconditionally, Amnesty International said today, ahead of his appeal court hearing in the south-western city of Nouadhibou tomorrow.

Mohamed Mkhaitir, 33, was sentenced to death in December 2014, after a year in pre-trial detention, for writing a blog that criticized those who use Islam to discriminate against certain groups in the society. 

It is the 1st time the death sentence has been imposed for apostasy in Mauritania since the country gained independence in 1960.

"The death penalty should not be used in any circumstances, the sentencing of Mohamed Mkhaitir to death for writing a blog that criticized those who use religion to discriminate is unjust and it shows how far the Mauritanian authorities will go to try and stamp out dissent", said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa researcher.

"The Mauritanian authorities must quash the death sentence and immediately and unconditionally release him."

Mohamed Mkhaitir is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for the peaceful expression of his right to freedom of expression. 

Amnesty International considers the use of penal sanctions to compel religious belief is a violation of international human rights law, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Mauritania is state party.

The organization opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime. The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Source: Amnesty International, April 20, 2016

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