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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…

Seven prisoners hanged en masse in Iran

According to reports from inside Iran, the mullahs' regime on Thursday hanged 5 men and 2 women in a prison in Birjand, north-east Iran.

2 of the victims were identified as Mohammad Niazi and Moheb Rahmati. The names of the other prisoners were not given. They were accused of drugs-related offences.

The hangings bring to at least 24 the number of people executed in Iran in the past week alone, while European officials have been paying visits to Tehran. 3 of those executed were women.

Iran's fundamentalist regime on Saturday hanged 3 prisoners in a jail in Rasht, northern Iran, as the European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was in Tehran to build greater trade ties between the EU and the regime.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement on Wednesday that the increasing trend of executions "aimed at intensifying the climate of terror to rein in expanding protests by various strata of the society, especially at a time of visits by high-ranking European officials, demonstrates that the claim of moderation is nothing but an illusion for this medieval regime."

Ms. Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, arrived in Tehran on Saturday along with 7 EU commissioners for discussions with the regime's officials on trade and other areas of cooperation.

Ms. Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in Tehran.
Ms. Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU
for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in Tehran.
Her trip was strongly criticized by Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI who said: "This trip which takes place in the midst of mass executions, brutal human rights violations and the regime's unbridled warmongering in the region tramples on the values upon which the EU has been founded and which Ms. Mogherini should be defending and propagating."

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 18, 2016

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