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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…

Iranian Official Confirms Execution of 20 Sunni Prisoners

Mass execution in Iran (file photo)
Mass execution in Iran (file photo)
Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the Attorney General of Iran, has confirmed the execution of 20 Sunni prisoners at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison on Tuesday August 2.

Iran Human Rights (AUG 3 2016): In an exclusive interview with Iranian state run media IRIB, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the Attorney General of Iran, said 20 Sunni prisoners were executed at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (west of Tehran) on Tuesday August 2, but he did not mention their identities. Earlier, the Judiciary in the Kurdistan province had issued a statement about the execution of a "group of convicts" for membership in "Sunni militant groups". The statement did not mention the number of executions or the identities of the prisoners. Iran Human Rights is further investigating these executions and will be publishing an updated report.

On Tuesday August 2, Iran Human Rights had reported on the execution of at least ten Sunni prisoners at Rajai Shahr Prison; including Shahram Ahmadi, Khaled Maleki, Mokhtar Rahimi, Bahman Rahimi, Kaveh Veisi, and Kaveh Sharifi. On Monday August 31, the ward where the men were being held was raided by special guards in black gear and the prisoners were placed under strict security measures. According to close sources, the Iranian forces handcuffed and shackled the feet of around 30 Sunni minority prisoners and transferred them to an unknown location. A confirmed source tells Iran Human Rights: "They took a total of 36 people out from Hall 10, and seven of them have only been sentenced to death in the lower court. Their cases are still in review at the Supreme Court."

According to close sources, the family members of several of the prisoners were informed by Iranian authorities to come in for their final visit on Tuesday August 2 at 3pm Tehran time. "More than 20 families were told to come to Rajai Shahr Prison, and we're currently on our way there," the wife of one of the prisoners told Iran Human Rights. She insisted her husband was innocent and deserved a fair and open trial. While the families were on their way to the prison, they reportedly received phone calls from unidentified sources telling them to meet at Behesht e Zahra cemetery instead for the funeral of their family members.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns the execution of the Sunni prisoners and calls for international condemnation of these executions. “Many if not all of these prisoners were subjected to unfair trials and sentenced to death based on confessions extracted under torture. Their execution is a crime, and Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the other leaders of the Islamic Republic must be held accountable for these crimes," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for Iran Human Rights.

Source: Iran Human Rights, August 3, 2016

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