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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…

Iraq: Four German women could face death penalty for joining ISIS

Mosul, Iraq
Mosul, Iraq
BERLIN – Four German women, including a 16-year-old girl, who joined Islamic State in recent years are being held in an Iraqi prison and receiving consular assistance, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday.

It said diplomats had visited the four in a prison at the airport in Baghdad on Thursday and they were doing well given the circumstances. 

They could face the death penalty in Iraq for belonging to the militant group, the magazine added.

It said Iraqi authorities had given Germany a list with the women’s names at the beginning of the week, identifying the teenager only as Linda W. from the small town of Pulsnitz near the eastern city of Dresden.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

German prosecutors said on Tuesday they were checking reports that a 16-year-old under investigation for supporting Islamic State was among five women arrested in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Iraqi forces declared victory over Islamic State earlier this month.

Der Spiegel said one of the Germans had Moroccan roots and another seemed to come from Chechnya but had a German passport.

The BfV domestic intelligence Agency estimates that 930 people have left Germany in recent years to join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. About 20 percent of them are women. 

Minors account for about 5 percent of the total number, of which half are female, it reckons.

Source: Reuters, July 22, 2017


German girl arrested in Mosul is missing Linda Wenzel, say authorities


A German girl who was believed to have been fighting for Islamic State in Mosul when she was arrested last week is the missing 16-year-old Linda Wenzel, German authorities have confirmed.

Wenzel’s parents had been searching for their daughter since she disappeared from her home in the village of Pulsnitz, near Dresden, in July last year. She is thought to have converted to Islam after being groomed on social media.

Wenzel, whom German authorities named only as Linda W, is receiving consular assistance from the German embassy in Iraq. Lorenz Haase, a prosecutor in Dresden, would not confirm reports that the teenager had been fighting for Isis.

“Our information ends with the girl’s arrival in Istanbul about a year ago,” he said.

Iraqi officials this week said they had arrested a foreign woman they believed was German, who had been recruited by an Arab Isis member through social media. They did not identify the woman as Wenzel.

Arrested by Iraqi forces, she was part of a group of 20 female Isis supporters from Russia, Turkey, Canada, Libya and Syria who had barricaded themselves with guns and explosives in a tunnel underneath the ruins of Mosul’s old city.

Video released last weekend showed images of a disheveled and dust-covered girl who appeared to match Wenzel’s description. However, there were contradicting reports about the her identity as some said it was Wenzel, while others identified her as either a Chechen Isis fighter or a Yazidi girl.

Wenzel had been missing since 1 July last year when she failed to return home after telling her parents she was spending the weekend at a friend’s house. Hidden under the mattress in her room, police later found receipts for two plane tickets, from Dresden to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Istanbul.

Earlier in the year, she had told her parents of her growing interest in Islam, but hid the fact that she had converted to the religion. During Ramadan, she told the family she was on a diet. “We didn’t think anything of it, and even bought her a copy of the Qur’an,” said her mother, Katharina.

Investigators discovered a prayer rug, a tablet with hundreds of photographs and the login for a Facebook account that Linda had used.

Hundreds of Germans, including several girls and young women, have in recent years left the country to join Isis in Syria and Iraq. Some have been killed in battle and suicide bombings, and others have returned to Germany, but there are many who remain unaccounted for, according to security officials.

Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that another four German women who joined Isis in recent years were being held in an Iraqi prison and had been visited by diplomats. They could face the death penalty in Iraq for belonging to the militant group,it said.

Germany’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the report. 

Der Spiegel said one of the Germans had Moroccan roots and another apparently came from Chechnya but had a German passport.

Source: The Guardian, Nicola Slawson and agencies, July 22, 2017

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