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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…

Tweet Proclaiming Atheism Lands Saudi Man 2,000 Lashes, 10 Years Behind Bars

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a 28-year-old man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for tweeting that he is an atheist.

The nation’s strict Sharia law defines atheism as “terrorism,” and the man refused to take back his words, insisting that he has a right to express his lack of belief. 

Saudi religious police who monitor social networks found over 600 tweets from the man, mocking the Koran and stating that teachings of the prophet Muhammad's lies stokes cultural hostility. 

In addition to imprisonment and violent punishment, he was also fined 20,000 riyals (over $5,300). 

Laws defining atheism as terrorism were introduced under King Abdullah in 2014, aimed at stopping political and religious dissent that could “harm public order.” 

In 2012, blogger and activist Raif Badawi, 32, ran a website called “Free Saudi Liberals” and was arrested for "insulting Islam through electronic channels,” "setting up a website that undermines general security," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "going beyond the realm of obedience.” 

He was sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes, and a fine of 1 million riyals, with the public whipping take take place over a period of 20 weeks.

His wife, relatives, and activists have consistently pleaded with Saudi Arabia to stop the lashings, fearing that Badawi will not survive. "The first lashing session was tough — it took a toll on his fragile body," Dr. Elham Manea, a friend and spokesperson of the family, told Mashable at the time. "His health condition is not that good at all. We are glad that this medical examination has confirmed that he is not fit to be flogged again." 

The whippings began January 9, 2015, and sparked a massive international outcry. Top United Nations officials called the flogging, “a form of cruel and unusual punishment,” and a petition from Amnesty International received nearly a million signatures. 

In a video of the lashing, he is repeatedly struck as the crowd shouts "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great), while officials warn that no cellphone recording is allowed.

Source: Sputnik News, August 31, 2016

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