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…

Pakistan acquits two hanged men, as 'insane' man faces execution

Concerns have been raised over wrongful executions in Pakistan, after two brothers who had already been hanged were found to be innocent.

The news comes amid fears for a mentally ill prisoner who is due to be executed on Wednesday (2nd), in violation of Pakistani and international law. 

The wife of Imdad Ali, a severely mentally ill man, has asked President Mamnoon Hussain to grant mercy to her husband before his scheduled hanging on Wednesday, but has had no response. Government psychiatrists have confirmed that Mr Ali suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Mr Ali is held in isolation, and is unaware that he faces execution. Click here to sign Reprieve's online clemency petition.

The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law, and fears of a wrongful execution for Mr Ali have grown since a human rights committee in Pakistan's upper house of parliament highlighted yesterday that two brothers were recently acquitted after they had been hanged. The Supreme Court found earlier this month that the brothers, Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam Qadir, were innocent. Both men were executed last year, after the President declined to grant their mercy petitions.

Senator Farhatullah Babar demanded an inquiry into the two wrongful executions, and said his committee would seek a pardon from the President for Imdad Ali. He said: “In order to prevent the fate of Ghulam brothers befalling others on the death row, the moratorium on execution should be restored as the current system of capital punishment is reviewed.”

Pakistan has hanged an estimated 418 people since a moratorium on executions was lifted in December 2014. Under international law, the President has a duty to review death penalty cases, and Article 45 of Pakistan’s Constitution grants the President powers to “grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute” death sentences. However, since executions resumed in 2014, approximately 444 people have had their mercy petitions rejected, and there are fears that the authorities are enforcing an informal blanket policy of rejection.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said: “Pakistan’s President has already condemned innocent people like the Ghulam brothers to death by declining to grant their mercy petitions – he cannot risk another wrongful execution on Wednesday. Imdad Ali is so mentally ill that he doesn’t even know that he faces the gallows. It’s clear his hanging would put Pakistan in serious breach of international and Pakistani law. The President must urgently heed these warnings, and grant mercy to Imdad.”
  • Detail on the cases of Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam Qadir, and Senator Babar's comments, were reported here.
  • Government psychiatrist Dr Tahir Feroze has told Reuters: "I have been treating this man for the last eight years, and there is absolutely no room for doubt in this that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia."
  • More information about Imdad Ali is available on the Reprieve website.
Source: Reprieve, October 28, 2016

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