Iran: The death penalty is an inhumane punishment for death row prisoners, their families and society as a whole

"Whether guilty or not, the outcome of the death penalty is the same. In Iran, the death penalty is by hanging, and it takes from several agonising seconds to several harrowing minutes for death to occur and for everything to be over."

Every year several hundred people are executed by the Iranian authorities.
According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and other human rights groups, death row prisoners have often no access to a defence lawyer after their arrest and are sentenced to death following unfair trials and based on confessions extracted from them under torture. 
These are issues which have been addressed in IHR’s previous reports. The current report is based on first-hand accounts of several inmates held in Iran's prisons and their families. The report seeks to illustrate other aspects of how the death penalty affects the inmate, their families and, as a consequence, society.
How does a death row inmate experience his final hours?
Speaking about the final ho…

Japan marks anniversary of sarin attacks as execution speculation grows

The sarin gas attack by Aum Shinrikyo on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995.
Tuesday marked the 23rd anniversary of a deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, as speculation grows that members of the cult behind it could soon be executed.

At Kasumigaseki Station, one of the targets of the attack, subway staff gathered at 8 a.m., around the same time the events occurred on March 20, 1995, to observe a moment of silence and offer flowers.

Toyohiko Otomo, the 57-year-old chief of the station, and Shizue Takahashi, 71, who lost her husband, Kazumasa, an assistant stationmaster, were among those who offered flowers at the station.

"We will work together to make further efforts to ensure the safety of passengers so that they can feel safe using the service," Tokyo Metro Co. said in a statement.

The subway operator set up stands to allow people to offer flowers at Kasumigaseki, Kodenmacho, Tsukiji and three other stations where lives were lost in the attack.

13 people were killed and thousands more injured when members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult released bags of sarin on packed rush hour trains, piercing the pouches with sharpened umbrella tips before fleeing.

The nerve agent caused horrendous deaths and injuries, and prompted mass panic, turning the busy capital into something resembling a war zone.

Passengers streamed out of stations vomiting, coughing and struggling to breathe, with emergency services administering life-saving treatment by the side of the road.

Ambulances streamed through the streets, and helicopters landed on major roads to assist with evacuations.

On that day, Kazumasa Takahashi unwittingly picked up a punctured packet of the nerve gas from the floor of one of the trains at Kasumigaseki Station.

He and another colleague died.

"I came here today, with the same feeling I have every year," Shizue Takahashi told reporters at the station after paying tribute to her late husband.

"The health of some victims is deteriorating, and some families are also going through a tremendously difficult time," she said, adding that the passage of time had not healed the pain suffered by victims' families.

After years of legal proceedings, the prosecution of 13 Aum Shinrikyo members on death row for the attacks and other crimes finally concluded in January, clearing the way for their execution.

Last week, authorities began separating and transferring them to different detention facilities equipped with the infrastructure to carry out executions by hanging.

The transfers have prompted speculation that cult leader Shoko Asahara and the 12 of his followers on death row could soon be executed, though there has been no official indication.

Authorities usually announce executions after the fact, with no advance warning.

Takahashi said the timing of the transfers initially startled her, but stressed that the executions must proceed in due course.

"The death penalty came as the result of long trials, and it has entered the next phase," she said.

"It is not at a phase where I can say or do anything about it. I feel that steps should be taken in accordance with the law," she said.

Some experts, however, oppose the executions - with the exception of Asahara - saying authorities risk transforming the other 12 into martyrs that will help the cult's successor groups recruit new members.

Source: Japan Times, March 20, 2018

Japan prepares to execute up to 13 members of Aum Shinrikyo cult

Cult leader Shoko Asahara in 1995.
Some cult members, who killed 13 people in a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, have been moved to new facilities

Japan is believed to be preparing to execute as many as 13 members of a doomsday cult in what could become the country's biggest round of hangings in the past decade.

Tuesday marked the 23rd anniversary of Aum Shinrikyo's sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, which killed 13 people and caused illness among thousands of others.

Some of the members of the cult were transferred to detention facilities outside of Tokyo last week, fuelling local media speculation that their executions could be imminent. Japan normally doesn't execute people until all accomplices' cases have been finalised. That milestone was reached in January this year.

Japan executed 15 people throughout the course of 2008, the largest number to be sent to the gallows in a single year in recent history.

It is unclear whether the Aum Shinrikyo members would be put to death on the same day, but executions in Japan are routinely shrouded in secrecy until the final moments. In previous cases, inmates have spent years on death row only to be informed of their impending execution hours before being led to the gallows. Families are sometimes informed only after the hanging has taken place.

Amnesty International argued that if the government proceeded with the Aum Shinrikyo executions in coming months, it would be seen as a "cynical" attempt to get the news out of the way before the elevation of a new emperor next year and the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020.

"The mark of a civilised society is recognising the rights of every individual, even those responsible for heinous crimes," said Amnesty east Asia researcher Hiroka Shoji.

"The death penalty can never deliver justice as it is the ultimate denial of human rights."

Aum Shinrikyo was a violent cult that sought confrontation with the state as a prelude to the end of civilisation. On 20 March, 1995, members used umbrellas with sharp tips to puncture bags filled with liquid sarin in five train carriages during Tokyo's morning rush hour.

13 members were sentenced to death for a range of Aum-related crimes including the subway attack. Seven were transferred to a number of different detention facilities outside of Tokyo. Ringleader Shoko Asahara, 63, who is also subject to a death sentence, is yet to be moved.

Gallows at Tokyo Dtention CenterThe Japan Society for Cult Prevention and Recovery (JSCPR) has written to the justice minister calling for everyone but Asahara to have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

"Asahara was the brain and the other 12 were merely the limbs," said Taro Takimoto, a JSCPR board member who himself was a victim of a sarin attack by Aum Shinrikyo.

Japan was recently challenged about the death penalty in a United Nations human rights forum. Several countries called for the punishment's abolition, or at least for a moratorium on executions being carried out.

But the Japanese government said sovereign countries should be allowed to make independent decisions.

"The majority of the Japanese people consider the death penalty to be unavoidable in the case of extremely heinous crimes and therefore Japan currently does not have any plans to establish a forum to discuss the death penalty system," the government said in a formal reply.

Shizue Takahashi, 71, whose husband Kazumasa died in the subway attack, laid flowers at Kasumigaseki station in central Tokyo on Tuesday morning. Referring to the death row inmates, she told Kyodo News: "I hope they will be executed according to law and without making a fuss about it."

Source: The Guardian, March 20, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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