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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…

Two Christians and a Muslim man get death penalty in Pakistan for blasphemy

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan.
2 Christians and a Muslim man were on Tuesday sentenced to death by a Pakistani anti terrorism court for committing blasphemy.

The Anti-Terrorism Court of Gujranwala district announced the verdict in the case which was pending for the last one year.

ATC Gujranwala Judge Bushra Zaman handed down death penalty to Anjum, Javed Naz (who are both Christians) and Jaffer Ali for committing blasphemy. Naz and Ali have been sentenced to an additional 35 years each.

The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 5 million on Anjum and Rs 8 million each on Naz and Ali.

Gujranwala city police had arrested Anjum, Naz and Ali a year ago on blasphemy charges.

The judge announced the verdict after prosecution presented all witnesses.

Anjum, a resident of Farid Town, some 80km from Lahore ran a chain of Locus Schools System in Gujranwala. Asif, Anjum's brother, told PTI that his brother never committed any blasphemy.

"Javed Naz was a cousin of Anjum and employed at one of his schools. When Anjum fired Naz on corruption allegations he turned against my brother," he said.

Asif said later Naz started blackmailing Anjum by claiming that he had his voice recorded in which he had made blasphemous remarks.

"When Anjum stopped paying money to Naz, he along with his Muslim friend Ali got a blasphemy case registered against Anjum," he said.

Police during investigation also booked Naz and Ali in the blasphemy case.

"My brother is innocent and we will challenge the ATC verdict in the superior court," Asif said.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. 2 high-profile politicians then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law.

Pakistan's tough blasphemy law has attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently misused to settle personal scores.

Source: firstpost.com, June 28, 2016

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