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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…

Amnesty International Condemns Third Round of Indonesia Executions

Nusakambangan Island, July 25, 2016
Nusakambangan Island, July 25, 2016
Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will put the Indonesian government on the wrong side of history if he proceeds with the third round of executions, Human rights watchdog Amnesty International cautioned on Wednesday (27/07).

Amnesty International made this statement in light of recent reports that several death-row inmates have been moved to the notorious Nusakambangan Prison in Central Java. At least 14 death-row inmates have been confined on the notorious execution island since Sunday evening, including ten foreign nationals.

It is generally understood that death-row inmates are moved to Nusakambangan Island days before they are executed by firing squad. They are held in isolation and receive counseling from religious guides, while the government fulfills their last wishes.

Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s director of campaigns for Southeast Asia and Pacific, said the organization is concerned that some of the prisoners facing the firing squad were convicted in manifestly unfair trials and have not yet exhausted all avenues of appeal, including submitting a clemency request to the president.

“President [Jokowi's] era was supposed to represent a new start for human rights in Indonesia. Sadly, he could preside over the highest number of executions in the country’s democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice,” Benedict said in a statement on Wednesday.

In a report published last year, Amnesty found that in 12 cases defendants were denied access to legal counsel at the time of their arrest and at interval periods thereafter. Some claimed they were subject to torture and other ill-treatment while in police custody and were forced to “confess” to their alleged crimes. However, allegations of torture and forced confessions were reportedly never investigated further by the authorities.

According to Amnesty, Pakistani authorities have called on their Indonesian counterparts to halt the execution of Zulkifar Ali, a Pakistani national and textile worker, who had reportedly described how he was tortured in custody and spent more than a decade on death row for a drug offence.

During his pre-trial detention, he was reportedly refused the right to contact his embassy and was not permitted any access to a lawyer until approximately one month after his arrest.

“As the case of Zulkifar Ali shows, international law has been repeatedly violated in death penalty cases, from the time of arrest to trial and at the [appellate] stage. Regardless of what we think of the death penalty, no one must have their life decided on the basis of such flawed proceedings,” Benedict said in the statement.

It appears that limited access to legal aid also occurred in the case of fellow death row inmate Merry Utami, a 42-year-old Indonesian woman who was sentenced to death in 2003 after being arrested at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and found in possession of 1.1 kilograms of heroin.

Adriana Venny of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, said Merry and her lawyers are still in the process of requesting a pardon from President Jokowi as the copy of the 2014 Supreme Court ruling was delivered only days before Merry was moved to Nusakambangan Prison.

Last year, despite repeated pleas for mercy from foreign governments and international organizations, Indonesia executed 14 people for drug trafficking – among them citizens of Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands and Nigeria.

Only Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso of the Philippines received a stay of execution last year after Maria Kristina Sergio, who allegedly planted drugs in Veloso's luggage, gave herself up to that country's police. Veloso will not be in the next round of executions.

Source: Jakarta Globe, July 27, 2016


MPR Speaker Supports Drug Executions

Jakarta. Zulkifli Hasan, speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), supports the death penalty for drug convicts, he said in Jakarta on Tuesday (26/07).

“It has been a full legal decision, as also reminding that our country is in drug emergency,” Zulkifli, adding that the illegal drug distribution chain in Indonesia should be cut off down to its roots.

The death penalty is a major aspect in the government's war against drugs.

“Narcotics have ruined the future of our youth. Therefore, let us battle it together,” Zulkifli added.

He praised the work of law enforcement agencies, particularly the Attorney General's Office, in combating the threat.

The AGO will execute 16 drug convicts currently on death row, with preparations taking place now.

The imminent executions will be the third in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, a sharp difference in policy between him and predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who put the sentence on hiatus for a number of year.

Source: Jakarta Globe, July 27, 2016

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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