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“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

Malaysia: Death penalty abolitionists hope govt fulfills promise at next Parliament sitting

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KUANTAN: Death penalty abolitionists are hoping there will be new development during the Parliament sitting next month.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said a bill regarding the death penalty was supposed to be brought up last year but had been delayed.

"We have been waiting for it and will be watching what the government plans to do. We are keeping our hopes up that there will be a move forward," she said during a forum held here on Monday (June 10) night.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin reportedly said in March that the government had decided to abolish the mandatory death penalty for 11 offences.

He said the government had instead proposed to give discretionary power to the courts in commuting sentences for the offences.

The nine offences fell under the Penal Code and two under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971.

Shamini said Amnesty International Malaysia was in support of the government's decision but would ask that this be considered the first step towards total abolition.

"Other countries have done it. Mongolia did it. They carried out the abolition step-by-step.

"We ask for the government not to stop there and make this the first move towards the total abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia," she said.

Lawyer Hon Kai Ping said the Bar Council had been very clear in its stand on the debate about abolishing capital punishment although there had not been any recent development in fulfilling Pakatan Harapan's manifesto promise.

"The Bar Council referred to foreign laws to support its argument but the latest reason from the Prime Minister is that we cannot follow every one of their values. It is as if we are in reverse gear," said the former Pahang Bar chairman.

Hon said he understood public sentiments on the debate but stressed that the death sentence could be replaced, for example, by imprisonment with or without parole.

"In this respect, we have to look at it this issue in its totality. Whether we, as Malaysians, want retribution or rehabilitation. Whether we can place trust in a convict to change," he said.

During the forum, the wife of a death row inmate shared her experience watching her husband Muhd Zulkifli Abd Ghani, 60, walked free of a drug trafficking charge but then got sentenced to hang after the decision was appealed.

Rokiah Abd Majid, 57, said her husband had given a lift to his friend Din and another man named Alias in 2000 when three other men brought two sacks into Muhd Zulkifli's van during a stopover.

"On the way to Beserah, his van was stopped by the Customs Department and it was found that the sacks contained some 22kg of ganja.

"He was remanded for more than two years while going through trial.

"The judge decided to release him and Alias, but the Alias was rearrested outside the court," she said.

Rokiah said her husband was free for about seven years before he was summoned by the Court of Appeal and his release was overturned.

"His lawyer told him to abscond but he refused. He wanted to fight the case because he's innocent," she said.

Rokiah said the government's move to repeal the mandatory death penalty was welcome.

"We are grateful for that.

"I hope my husband can be free again one day. He has been in prison for so long but now there is something to hope for," she said.

Source: The Star, Ong Han Sean, June 11, 2019


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