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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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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…

Doubts Over Saudi-UK 'Assurances' on Juvenile Executions

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia: Darkness at Noon

3 Saudi juveniles remain on death row, 1 year after the UK began seeking 'assurances' that they would not be executed. 

Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher, Ali al Nimr, and Dawood al-Marhoon were aged 15, 17 and 17 respectively when they were arrested for allegedly taking part in protests in the country's eastern province. All 3 face beheading after they were sentenced in the secretive Specialised Criminal Court, on the basis of 'confessions' they signed following torture. Last September, the death sentences of the 3 were upheld, and they could now be executed at any time. 

The UK has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, and for the past year, the UK Foreign Office has sought regular 'assurances' from the Saudi government that the three would not be executed. Last month, Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood told Parliament: "our expectation remains that they will not be executed." 

However, the 3 juveniles remain on death row, and their families say that they fear the executions could go ahead without warning. Speaking to Channel 4 last month, Ali al Nimr's father, Mohammed al Nimr, said that his son was "waiting to be called" to the "execution square." 

Concerns for the 3 juveniles have been heightened by recent reports of other rights abuses in the country. Earlier this week, it was reported that the Saudi authorities had executed a member of the royal family for the 1st time in 40 years; while Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, is said to be facing a new round of 'lashes' as part of a flogging sentence handed down for his criticisms of the government. 

The British government has so far stopped short of calling for the 3 juveniles' death sentences to be scrapped - something that other governments, such as France, have done. Human rights organization Reprieve has written to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, asking her to request that Saudi Arabia commute the sentences. 

In January this year, several juveniles were among 47 prisoners executed en masse in the Kingdom. They included Ali al-Ribh, a teenager from the Eastern Province who, like Ali, Abdullah and Dawood, was arrested in school in the wake of protests. Last week, a UK Foreign Office minister said that she was "horrified" by news of the mass execution. 

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said: 

"It's appalling that Ali al Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon could be beheaded at any moment for the so-called 'crime' of attending a protest. Saudi Arabia's 'assurances' that they won't execute these 3 boys count for nothing when the Kingdom has continued to behead juveniles and other prisoners, many of whom were tortured into bogus 'confessions.' Theresa May must call urgently for these death sentences to be scrapped."


Source: Reprieve, October 21, 2016

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