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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…

Partially deaf and blind Saudi man 'moved into solitary confinement in preparation for his execution'

Execution in Saudi Arabia
Munir al-Adam 'held in cell for 24 hours a day' and could be beheaded at any time

A disabled man sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for attending a protest has been moved into solitary confinement in preparation for his execution, a human rights group has claimed. Mr Adam has impaired sight and was already partially deaf when he was arrested, but he now cannot hear in one ear at all. He claims this is a result of being badly beaten by police.

Human rights group Reprieve, said Saudi authorities had not given a reason for his move to solitary confinement, which took place on 22 June. But it said prisoners were usually transferred into cells alone prior to their execution.

Mr Adam's family had not been allowed to visit him, the group said, adding that it believed he was being held in a cell for 24 hours a day without outdoor exercise breaks.

The 23-year-old steel cable worker could be executed at any moment without his family being notified, Reprieve director Maya Foa said.

"There’s usually no date and no location given," she added. "The system is incredibly secretive and opaque, which adds to the distress for the families of those involved."

Reprieve said the case against Mr Adam – made in a secretive criminal trial – relied on a false confession he was tortured into giving. He has since retracted the statement.

Munir al-Adam was found guilty of “attacks on police” and other offences during protests in the east of the kingdom in the April 2012.

A court in the country's capital, Riyadh, sentenced the 23-year-old to death in January last year. That sentence was upheld in May 2017.

In May, the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court upheld the death sentence against Mr Adam, days after US President Donald Trump visited the kingdom.

Reprieve had called on Mr Trump to raise the issue of human rights during the trip, but he is not thought to have broached the subject.

News that Mr Adam had been moved into solitary confinement came after the Saudi interior minister announced that six people were executed earlier this week. Among them was a Pakistani man arrested for drug offences.

The deaths are thought to bring the number of executions by Saudi Arabia this year to 44.

The oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom has one of the highest execution rates in the world, handing down the death penalty for terror, murder, rape and armed robbery, but also for non-violent crimes including drug trafficking offences.

The country executed a record 158 people in 2015 and another 153 people last year, according to Amnesty International.

A June report by Reprieve found that 41 per cent of those executed in Saudi Arabia in 2017 were killed for non-violent acts such as attending political protests.

UN experts have called for an end to executions for non-violent offences, but authorities claim the death penalty acts as a useful deterrent to criminals.

The most common form of execution in the kingdom, which enforces ultra-conservative Islamic laws, is beheading by sword.

Earlier this week campaigners in the UK lost a high profile case calling on the Government to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia because of humanitarian concerns.

Campaign Against the Arms Trade had presented hundreds of pages of evidence from the UN and the European parliament, among other organisations, of air strikes in Yemen.

But judges said the material, although "substantial" was only "part of the picture".

Source: The Independent, Harriet Agerholm, July 13, 2017

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