Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Indonesian woman appeals for clemency

Merry Utami
Merry Utami
A last-minute clemency appeal has been launched for an Indonesian woman believed to be facing the firing squad in the country's next round of executions, feared to be imminent.

The woman, known as MU or Merry Utami, was a poor woman who had been "manipulated" by a drug syndicate, when she smuggled 1.1 kilograms of heroin at Jakarta airport in October 2001, activists say.

The mother of 2 lost her appeal to overturn her death sentence in 2003.

On Saturday when she was transferred to the notorious Nuskambangan island prison, she received a copy of the decision of the judicial review into her case saying that her final legal pathway had failed.

The island is the same location where Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran faced the firing squad, along with 6 others, in April last year.

Holding a press conference in Jakarta, the women's rights group Komnas Perempuan said they had filed an emergency clemency request to President Joko Widodo on Tuesday while MU met with her family and a preacher at the prison.

Head of the organisation, Azriana, said MU should be granted a reprieve as her case highlighted how easily poor women in Indonesia fell prey to drug syndicates.

"Most women involved in drug syndicates come from poor family ... We need to postpone the death penalty to these poor women who are manipulated."

MU, Komnas Perempuan says, became a migrant worker in Taiwan in the late 1990s after divorcing from her husband who allegedly beat her.

When she returned to Indonesia, they alleged she became embroiled in a relationship with a man named "Jerry", who organised for her to go to Nepal. Here she collected a package which she brought back to Jakarta on October 31, 2001.

"These kind of women are innocent. MU was excited ... her boyfriend promised to marry her. In reality once she got caught, that was the end (of their relationship)," Adriana Venny from the organisation added.

The comments come amid increasing signs in Indonesia that the next round of executions could be carried out as early as this week.

Local undertaker Suhendro Putro - who prepared coffins for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - told AAP on Monday that he was given directions to be "ready" to bathe the bodies of more death row prisoners.

However, the Attorney General Office has yet to announce how many people will be executed or when.

They have previously said they only wanted to give the required 3 days' notice in order to avoid the "soap opera" that surrounded last year's executions, which drew widespread condemnation from the international community.

Source: news.com.au, July 26, 2016

Women's Commission Pleads for Mercy for Death-Row Inmate Merry Utami

Jakarta. The National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, appealed to President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (26/07) to postpone the execution of Merry Utami — a convicted drug-trafficker now on death row.

Merry, 42, one of the death-row inmates scheduled for a third round of executions by the Indonesian government, was moved from the Tangerang Women's Prison to the notorious Nusakambangan prison island on Sunday morning.

Merry was sentenced to death in 2003, after being arrested at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and charged with possession of 1.1 kilograms of heroin.

The commission's chairwoman, Azriana R.M., said it had sent a letter to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Tuesday morning urging a stay of Merry's execution until a clemency decision is announced.

In the letter, the commission said it fully supports the government's effort to fight drug abuse but rejects the death penalty for people who have been coerced into smuggling drugs by human trafficking syndicates.

"The government needs to consider clemency for Merry. She is a victim of domestic violence and human trafficking. The state should not execute innocent people," said Azriana during a press briefing in Jakarta on Tuesday.

In 2001, having divorced a man who forced her to become a migrant worker in Taiwan, Merry began a relationship with a man named Jerry. After three months the two traveled to Nepal.

After three days, Jerry headed to Jakarta for a business trip and asked Merry to join him one day later as there were some items he needed her to bring from Nepal.

"Merry was told to bring a new handbag to be sold at the Tanah Abang market. She complained that the bag was unusually heavy, but she was told that was normal since it was an expensive bag," said Komnas Perempuan commissioner Adriana Venny.

Merry's appeal was rejected by the Tangerang High Court in 2002. In 2014, the Supreme Court refused to annul her death sentence.

Adriana 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.

In 2015, 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 Veloso of the Philippines received a stay of execution last year after a woman, 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 26, 2016

Indonesia to hold next round of executions on Friday

Indonesian President Joko Widodo
Indonesian President Joko Widodo
Indonesia will execute several people including a Pakistani on Friday, a Pakistani embassy official said, its first executions since last year when it put to death 14 people, most of them foreign drug convicts, sparking an international outcry. Indonesian officials have said 16 people will be executed this year, including citizens of Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, though they have not confirmed any more details.

Syed Zahid Raza, chargé d'affaires at the Pakistani embassy in Jakarta, said the embassy had been informed about the imminent execution of the Pakistani, Zulfikar Ali, convicted of smuggling drugs.

"We were invited to meet with officials from the attorney general's office today who told us the executions will take place on Friday," Raza told Reuters on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office declined to comment on any time frame. Pakistan on Monday urged Indonesia to stay Ali's execution, citing concern that his 2005 trial had been unfair. Ali will make a last-ditch attempt to escape the death penalty by appealing directly to Indonesian President Joko Widodo for clemency, Raza said.

Indonesia says it is facing a "drugs emergency" and has vowed no mercy for traffickers. Its executions by firing squad have caused outrage overseas though surveys show Indonesians are largely in favour of capital punishment. Last year, Australia recalled its envoy to Jakarta, and Brazil said it was shocked and was evaluating ties after their citizens were executed. But President Widodo has disregarded diplomatic pressure and vowed to ramp up a war on drugs in what is among Southeast Asia's biggest markets for narcotics.

The executions will take place at a maximum security prison on Nusakambangan Island in Central Java but it is not clear how many prisoners will face the firing squad this week.

Authorities have not given a breakdown of the numbers of foreigners on death row but citizens of France, Britain and the Philippines are known to be among them.

Source: timesofoman.com, July 26, 2016

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