In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many r…

Zulfikar’s case

Zulfikar Ali
The death on Thursday of Zulfikar Ali, a Pakistani suffering from liver cancer and diabetes and who had been languishing in Indonesian prisons since 2004, serves as a reminder of the miscarriage of justice he suffered. 

Zulfikar was given the death penalty for drug trafficking even though ample evidence existed to suggest he was innocent. He was never caught with any drugs and was only arrested after an Indian national who was found in possession of heroin named Zulfikar as his accomplice. Later, however, that person claimed a false confession was beaten out of him by the police. 

Zulfikar also said that his own confession was the result of torture and that the police had asked for a bribe to set him free. Leading up to his trial, Zulfikar was denied consular access even though this is a bedrock principle of international law; he was not allowed a lawyer till a month after his arrest. 

Despite there being more than enough doubt to make a conviction impossible, Zulfikar was given the death penalty. Even his terminal illness was not enough to get him mercy. Earlier this year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo had said during a visit to Pakistan that he would look into Zulfikar’s release on humanitarian grounds but that never transpired.

There is no reason to doubt the commitment of the then government in Pakistan to Zulfikar’s cause. It did what it could to ensure he had legal representation and was able to eventually able to get him access to embassy officials. The government also paid a portion of his medical bills since the Indonesian government does not pay for the medical treatment of prisoners. But Pakistan should not give up the fight even now. It is essential that his name be formally cleared. 

We may also want to think about the scores of convicts who are on death row here but whose guilt is in doubt and whose trials did not meet the minimum standards of justice. 

There have been horror stories of people on death row who have been executed by mistake even though they still had appeals pending. A true commitment to justice requires we call out not just foreign countries that mistreat our nationals but to examine our own shortcomings as well.

Source: The News, Editorial, June 3, 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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