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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Family of Saudi disabled death-row protester appeal for help

Saudi Arabia
The family of a disabled man who faces execution in Saudi Arabia for allegedly attending protests have appealed for help to save his life – and given fresh details of the abuses he has suffered.

Munir al-Adam was arrested in 2012 in the midst of a Saudi crackdown on political protests. Born with a hearing and sight impairment, Munir was tortured so badly by Saudi police that he became completely deaf in one ear. He was forced to sign a false confession, later used to sentence him to death in a secretive trial. Last weekend, the Saudi Supreme Court confirmed Munir’s death sentence, along with those handed to 13 other alleged protesters. He could now be executed at any time.

In a statement given to human rights organization Reprieve, Munir’s family said: “We are issuing a warning of our son’s potential imminent execution. Now that he has been sentenced to death and the verdict has been confirmed by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, his case is with the Ministry of Interior to carry out his execution.”

The family also gave details of Munir’s secretive trial before the Specialized Criminal Court, the Kingdom's secret anti-terrorism court, which has handed death sentences to scores of alleged protesters. The family said that during the proceedings, Munir and his lawyer were “subjected to threats”, eventually forcing the lawyer to recuse himself from the case. The judge refused to consider any evidence beyond Munir’s false confession, the family said, “despite our repeated requests [to the Court] to produce any evidence proving our son’s guilt.”

Detailing his torture, they said: “Munir was subjected to various methods of torture, including the falaka (foot whipping) technique, being forced to stand for long periods of time, sleep deprivation, being beaten with a stick, wire or hose, being shocked with electricity, and being prevented from using the toilets. […] Munir has been held in solitary confinement for more than a month now.” 

Last week, US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May faced calls to intervene to prevent the executions – including from British MPs from across the parties, who have asked Mrs May to “personally urge Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Bin Salman to halt the 14 upcoming executions.” 

Commenting, Director of Reprieve Maya Foa said: “The Saudi authorities have put Munir and his family through an appalling ordeal. It is deeply worrying that the courts have confirmed the death sentences handed to Munir and 13 others – including juveniles – after patently unfair trials, which introduced no evidence beyond the defendants' coerced confessions. The UK, US and other governments that are close to the Saudis must waste no time – they must intervene now and urge Saudi Arabia to halt these planned executions, before it’s too late.” 

The statement from Munir’s family can be read in full below:


We, the family of the detainee Munir Abdullah Ahmed al‐Adam, hereby appeal to human rights organizations and the international community to immediately and urgently intervene to save our son from execution. The Saudi Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh handed the death sentence to our son Munir without any actual evidence. The judge adopted the ruling based on a confession that our son was forced to accept duress of physical and psychological torture, and the threat of further torture if he did not comply.

The notorious prisons of Saudi Arabia's General Investigations Directorate are well known for extreme torture ‐ our son Munir al‐Adam lost hearing due to the severity of his torture; his eyesight is also affected because he was detained in solitary confinement with alternately very dim and very bright lights. Munir was subjected to various methods of torture, including the falaka (foot whipping) technique, being forced to stand for long periods of time, sleep deprivation, being beaten with a stick, wire or hose, being shocked with electricity, and being prevented from using the toilets.

The charges against Munir are false and untrue – his sentence is invalid and in violation of local and international law. Our son has been sentenced to death without any evidence. The court relied only on his coerced confession. The judge in his case, despite having multiple opportunities to consider evidence before Munir’s sentencing hearing, simply said, “I cannot accept any evidence, I am content to rely upon his confession.” How can someone be sentenced to death based on no evidence?

Munir was arrested at age 20. After nearly three and a half years in detention, he was brought before an unfair trial, in which our son and his lawyer were subjected to threats, which made the lawyer withdraw and abandon his defense. In a trial that was supposed to be fair, neither Munir nor his lawyer was given the time or opportunity to examine his case. Both were pressed on to quickly respond to the charges throughout the sessions and trial, which were merely a formality, despite our repeated requests to the judge, prosecutor and the President of the Court to produce any evidence proving our
son’s guilt. Unfortunately, our requests were not considered.

We are issuing a warning of our son’s potential imminent execution. Now that he has been sentenced to death and the verdict has been confirmed by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, his case is with the Ministry of Interior to carry out his execution. Munir has been held in solitary confinement for more than a month now. He is denied communication with the outside world and cannot receive visitors – he is completely isolated.

Even if we suppose that, hypothetically, Munir is guilty as charged, is it fair and just that he receive a death sentence? Has he shed blood, or killed someone?

Source: Reprieve, July 29, 2017

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