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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

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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