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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…

Muslim cleric who advocated death penalty for homosexual acts leaves Australia

Anti-gay Muslim cleric Farrokh Sekaleshfar
Anti-gay Muslim cleric Farrokh Sekaleshfar
A British sheikh who advocated death as the penalty for homosexual acts has left Australia ahead of a decision to revoke his visa.

The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, told Sky New on Wednesday he had already decided to cancel the sheikh’s visa and he was unlikely to be allowed to return.

The Australian government chose to review the visa of the Shia Muslim cleric Farrokh Sekaleshfar after a video surfaced of him telling a Michigan audience in 2013 that “death is the sentence for homosexual acts” in Islam and this was “nothing to be embarrassed about”.

Sekaleshfar, British-born medical doctor and preacher, was due to give lectures throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at the Imam Husain Islamic centre in Sydney’s south-west.

On Tuesday evening Sekaleshfar left Australia. He told the ABC the Islamic centre “thought it was in my best interests and for the best interests of the community” if he left, but said he had not been asked or directed to do so by the government.

Sekaleshfar said he had been “caught up in politics” and said: “Never have I incited hatred or violence against human beings. I want [everyone] from the prime minister to the people of Australia to understand that. And 99.9% of all the stories try to misconstrue that.”

Dutton said: “I had made a decision last night to cancel the visa, and obviously this individual has decided to leave of his own accord last night, which we welcome. And it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to return to our country.

“Obviously this individual understood what was on the way and decided to leave before all of that process could be undertaken.”

Dutton explained that Sekaleshfar may have been granted a visa because he is a British citizen and may have applied electronically. “It’s difficult for the department to go through the Facebook or social media postings of millions and millions of people each year that would seek visas, and when we receive information we act quickly.”

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, told 2GB radio: “The moment this man’s presence and what he had said was drawn to our attention, the minister and I spoke about it, the minister acted decisively and his visa was revoked.”

The resources minister, Josh Frydenberg, added to condemnation of the Sekaleshfar’s views on Tuesday. “Certainly the views he has expressed publicly and indeed recorded on tape calling for the killing of homosexuals is completely unacceptable,” he said.

“They’re abhorrent, they have no place in Australia, indeed no place anywhere in the world.”

On Monday Sekaleshfar told Guardian Australia the point of his sermons was not that “any Tom, Dick and Harry go and exercise the sentence”, adding that it could only be carried out by the state in a country where “the majority of people want Islamic law to be exercised”.

“The death sentence isn’t against homosexuals, it’s about people who, in an Islamic country, go in public and commit the act of anal copulation,” he said. “It’s only relevant when you do that act in public.”

Sekaleshfar told the ABC the Orlando massacre was not justifiable and denied that his lecture could have incited such violence.

“No speech, especially when you’re not inciting any hatred, it was given three years ago, that would never lead to such a massacre,” he said.

“They’re connecting me to that … to that animal, they’re connecting me to him; not at all, he was an Isis sympathiser, a follower of [Abu Bakr al-]Baghdadi – these people are criminals.”

Source: The Guardian, June 15, 2016

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