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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Iran: Eight Prisoners Executed on Murder and Moharebeh Charges

Public execution in Iran
Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Eight prisoners sentenced to death for murder and Moharebeh (enmity against God) charges were reportedly hanged at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (Alborz province, northern Iran) on Wednesday September 28.

According to close sources, on Thursday September 22, eleven prisoners at Rajai Shahr were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. 

The execution sentences of eight of them were reportedly carried out on Wednesday. 

The other three prisoners were returned to their cells after their executions were stopped by the complainants on their case files.

A close source who asked to be annonymous has confirmed the names of the prisoners: Ali Rabizadeh, Majid Gonjehali, Adnan Anwar, Hossein Karimi, Mohammad Jafari, Karim Hatamzadeh, Farajollah Hatami, and Mehdi Alizadeh. 

According to the source, Karim Hatamzadeh was executed on Moharebeh charges related to armed robbery, the other seven were executed on murder charges.

Additionally, on Sunday September 25, a Baluch prisoner, Mehdi Nazari, sentenced to death for drug related offenses, was transferred from his prison cell to an unknown location. 

There has been no information on his whereabouts or condition since then.

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 29, 2016

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Iran: 7 inmates executed on drug charges

Seven prisoners were recently executed in southern Iran on drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Seven prisoners sentenced to death for drug related offenses were reportedly hanged at Minab Central Prison (Hormozgan province, southern Iran). 

According to close sources, the executions were carried out early morning on Tuesday September 27. 

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these seven executions.

The prisoners were reportedly transferred from their wards to solitary confinement on Sunday September 25 and were permitted to have their immediate family members see them for the last time on Monday. 

The names of the prisoners have been confirmed to Iran Human Rights by close sources as: Khodabakhsh Balouch, Ali Balouch, Chaker Balouch, Mohammad Mohammad Zehi, Majid Nariman, Mehdi Moradi, Mohammad Ghourchizadeh.

Iranian authorities continue carrying out executions for drug offenses, even though last month, a top judicial official claimed that the death penalty is not a deterrent against drug crimes. 

"The death penalty for drug traffickers has not acted as a deterrent so far. We fought against many drug traffickers in accordance to the law, but, unfortunately, the volume of drugs entering and transiting through the country has increased," said Mohammad Bagher Olfat, who is in charge of social assistance and crime prevention in the Iranian Judiciary. 

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 29, 2016

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The Philippines should not reinstate the death penalty, even for Peter Scully

Alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully (center)
Alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully (center)
Bringing back a flawed system to kill a rotten individual means that we dispense with the individual but are stuck with the system

There have been calls to reintroduce the death penalty in the Philippines as the trial of alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully takes place and horrific details of the crimes he is accused of emerge.

The abolition of the death penalty in south-east Asia isn’t so much a movement that has swept through the region as a fragile mosaic. In the countries that don’t execute the line is held – but tenuously. And in some countries where they do execute, there’s the sense that it could turn. There are unofficial moratoriums or death sentences handed out that don’t lead directly to the gallows, just a lifetime in jail.

Japan has the death penalty and its use is shrouded in secrecy, but the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers, said it would declare its opposition to the death penalty at a meeting in early October due to growing concern over miscarriages of justice.

Thailand continues to regularly sentence people to death, however executions are rare, with no lawful executions since 2009.

Malaysia and Singapore still execute.

Executions have been on hold in Vietnam because the government cannot acquire the drugs used for lethal injection (pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs have refused to supply their medicines for such means).

Indonesia has the death penalty. After a lengthy informal moratorium under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the killings resumed again in 2014.

After Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986, the Philippines abolished the death penalty via a newly drafted constitution. But there was a “get out” clause allowing congress to reinstate it “hereafter” for “heinous crimes”.

As the first country in Asia to abolish the death penalty, the Philippines played an important role in the region, signalling a move away from pre-modern forms of punishment. Abolitionists hoped the removal of the death penalty in the region would act as a sort of nudge or cause a domino effect.

In the absence of a nudge, abolition of the death penalty could be posited as an entry into a trading bloc or partnership. Having capital punishment on your statute books is a barrier to entering the EU, for example. Turkey abolished the death penalty in a bid to qualify for membership, although there has been talk of bringing it back following the July coup attempt.

It can easily be assumed that progress towards enlightenment is linear. We abolish capital punishment and we don’t go back. We don’t go back even when the mob and the media are begging for it.

If you accept, as I do, that the abolition of the death penalty is a move towards a more enlightened, humane, civilised and less barbaric society, then opposition to the death penalty must occur regardless of individual cases that grip and even sicken the public imagination. Which brings us to the case of alleged Australian paedophile, Peter Scully.

Reading an account of the crimes he is accused of (he is pleading not guilty), it would be hard not to lapse into fantasies of revenge if he’s found guilty – to want him to be made to suffer horribly and even more; that he be eradicated, dissolved, removed from the world. Murder is murder. Child abuse is stealing someone’s life from them. What other punishment could be fitting? And yet ...

Nietzsche’s warning that “he who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster” is true here.

And more. Bringing back a flawed system to kill a rotten individual means that we dispense with the individual but are stuck with the system.

This is a system – as the United States is finding out more and more with advanced DNA technology – that executes the wrong people, or executes poorly – many long minutes between the first dose of the drug, or the first wave of the shock and the prisoner pleading for death, then finally the death.

Even if all goes “well”, it is possibly the most cruel and unusual punishment to have the time and date of your death fixed by the state. You know when you will die and by what means, and each minute of waiting until that moment must of course be filled with terror and dread.
But it need not be this way. Christopher Hitchens wrote:
... it is possible to eliminate the execution of the innocent, simply by joining the association of countries that have dispensed with the death penalty.
Those in the international community who have been appalled by the spate of extrajudicial killing by the Duterte government in the Philippines must surely also be appalled by talk of reintroducing capital punishment. This is frontier justice not just at night, on the borders, but brought right into the daylight and given the centre seat in the justice system.

Source: The Guardian, Opinion, Brigid Delaney, September 28, 2016

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Iran upholds 16-year sentence for anti-death penalty campaigner Narges Mohammadi

Iranian human rights and anti-death penalty lawyer Narges Mohammadi
Iranian human rights and anti-death penalty lawyer Narges Mohammadi
An Iranian appeals court on Wednesday upheld a 16-year prison sentence for a prominent Iranian human rights advocate.

Narges Mohammadi had been sentenced in May on charges of violating national security and acting against the Islamic regime through her support of an anti-death penalty campaign.

As vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran, Mohammadi gained attention in 2014 for defending women who had acid thrown on them in the city of Esfahan, purportedly for dressing immodestly.

While jailed this summer at Tehran’s Evin Prison, she staged a 20-day hunger strike in protest of authorities who barred her from speaking by phone with her family.

Mohammadi is mother to 9-year-old twins, who live in France with their father. Friends say she suffers from a chronic illness that causes partial paralysis, which has worsened due to her imprisonment.

The appeals court in Tehran upheld Mohammadi’s sentence following a hearing in the case last week.

“It is shocking for me as a human rights lawyer that a fellow lawyer with children would be sentenced to jail for even one day,” said Nasrin Sotoudeh, a colleague who served three years in jail until being released in 2013.

“She has committed no crime but doing her legal work. Is it wrong to defend the victims of violence?”

Mahmoud Behzadi, Mohammadi's lawyer, said his client had not decided whether to appeal to Iran's Supreme Court.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have assailed Mohammadi’s treatment as an example of how Iranian authorities use broad national security laws to punish dissidents or those seen as hostile to the conservative theocracy.

Human rights activists and dual nationals continue to be imprisoned during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate whose 2013 election had raised hopes of an easing of Iran’s harsh security laws.

Mohammadi is a supporter of the Campaign for Step by Step Abolition of the Death Penalty, known by its Persian acronym, Legam. Iran is one of the world’s leading practitioners of capital punishment, putting to death an estimated 1,000 people last year, many for drug offenses.

Last month, Iran put to death a teenager who was convicted of a crime when he was 17. Approximately 160 minors are on death row in Iran, according to Amnesty International.

Siavash Ramesh, a 28-year-old political activist, said Mohammadi’s sentence shows the Iranian regime won’t tolerate criticism of its death penalty laws.

“They sentenced her to give a warning to human rights activists and give her a lesson not to trespass against the regime’s imposed red lines,” Ramesh said.

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2016

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

UAE: Two brothers sentenced to death for killing brother-in-law

Dubai courts
Dubai: Two brothers have been sentenced to death for killing their brother-in-law by choking him with a plastic rope after he married their sister without the family’s consent.

A Pakistani man, F.A., who remains at large, lured his countryman brother-in-law, M.T., to discuss their family dispute in November 2014.

F.A. convinced the victim to meet him in a sandy area in Bur Dubai where he beat him before strangling him with a plastic rope and fled the country shortly after the incident, said records.

The Dubai Court of First Instance convicted F.A. of premeditated murder and his younger brother, 26-year-old I.A., was found guilty of aiding and abetting.

Presiding judge Fahd Al Shamsi handed the two accused the death sentence.

When he defended himself in court, I.A. pleaded innocent and contended that he was not present in the area where the murder happened.

“I was at work and did not participate in the crime …,” the younger brother told the court.

Court records said F.A. was the one who had plotted to kill M.T. and brought a plastic rope for the purpose of getting rid of his brother-in-law.

I.A. aided his brother by encouraging him to take revenge on the victim for marrying their sister against the family’s wishes.

A police lieutenant testified that the victim’s boss reported to Dubai Police’s operations room that M.T. had not returned the taxi to the company.

“The boss said M.T. went out on his shift as normal but did not return on time. The boss claimed that despite having repeatedly called the victim, he did not answer his phone. We tracked down the car’s location in the sandy area and discovered that he had been killed. Upon questioning the victim’s brother, he said he suspected that F.A. and I.A. must have been involved in M.T.’s killing. The deceased’s brother said that they had a family dispute after M.T. married the brothers’ sister against their wishes. The victim’s brother claimed that M.T. informed him that F.A. had called him the day before the incident and asked to meet him in Satwa to resolve the dispute. The brother said on the same day M.T. did not answer his phone despite having called him several times.

“Primary interrogations revealed that the defendant was involved in the victim’s murder. Immigration records showed that F.A. had fled the country six hours before the murder was discovered. Shortly after that police apprehended I.A., who admitted that the family had agreed to kill M.T. in Pakistan. The 26-year-old defendant said during questioning that he warned his elder brother not to take a hasty decision and kill the victim in the UAE. I.A. said his brother killed their brother-in-law without his knowledge,” testified the lieutenant.

Wednesday’s rulings remains subject to appeal within 15 days.

Source: Gulf News, September 28, 2016

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Four Prisoners Executed in Northern Iran

Public execution in Iran
Iran Human Rights (SEPT 28 2016): A prisoner sentenced to death for murder was reportedly executed at Urmia Prison while two prisoners in Shahroud and one prisoner in Gorgan prisons were reportedly executed on drug related charges.

According to reports by the unofficial news agency, HRANA, early morning on Monday September 26, a prisoner was hanged at Darya, Urmia's central prison (West Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran). 

The report identifies the prisoner as Amir Behrouz. 

On Sunday September 25, a prisoner -- identified as Javad Sanjehvali, 33, sentenced to death for drug related offenses -- was reportedly hanged at Gorgan Prison (Golestan province, northern Iran). 

On Thursday September 22, two prisoners sentenced to death for drug related offenses were reportedly hanged at Shahrud Prison (Semnan province, northern Iran). 

HRANA identifies the prisoners as Hossein Arabahmadi, 27, and Rahmatali Saadatiar, 40. 

According to the report, Hossein and Rahmatali were imprisoned and in imminent danger of execution for five to ten years before they were hanged. 

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent on the executions in this report.

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 28, 2016

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Pakistan says it ‘may limit’ death penalty, amid fears for mentally ill prisoner

Pakistan says it is seeking ways to limit the scope of the death penalty, amid fears for a mentally ill prisoner who faces hanging as early as next week.

Speaking on Monday at an event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the first secretary of Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the UN said the government was examining the country’s penal code to determine whether the death penalty could be “narrowed”, saying: “We are looking at the option of enhancing the duration of life sentence instead of awarding death sentences.” She added: “Pakistan remains fully committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of all our citizens.”

Pakistan has executed some 419 people since the lifting of a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014, making it one of the world’s most prolific executing states. Research last year by Reuters and human rights organization Reprieve found that – despite a claim by the Pakistani government to be targeting ‘terrorists’ – fewer than one in six of those prisoners who had been hanged could be linked to militancy.

Among those currently facing execution is Imdad Ali, a former electrician who is severely mentally ill. Yesterday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Mr Ali to stop his hanging, which had been scheduled to take place last week. Ruling that Imdad’s execution could go ahead, the Court said that a large proportion of prisoners in Pakistan suffer from mental illness and that they “cannot let everyone go.” He could now be hanged as early as next week, despite a prison medical report from earlier this month describing him as “insane.”

The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law. Yesterday, several UN human rights experts urged Pakistan to halt Mr Ali’s execution, while Amnesty International and the Asian Human Rights Commission have also called for the hanging to be stopped.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “While it’s encouraging to hear that Pakistan’s government may finally be turning away from its recent shameful spree of executions, the authorities must act now to prevent another illegal hanging. Imdad Ali could be executed within days, despite the government’s own doctors having declared him ‘insane’ – his hanging would be a grave breach of Pakistani and international law. If Pakistan’s leaders are serious about scaling back the death penalty, they must start right away, and call off Imdad’s execution.”

Source: Reprieve, septemebr 28, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications@reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org 

More detail on the comments made at yesterday's UNHRC event is available on request.

A statement by four UN rights experts, made yesterday, can be seen here; Amnesty International's comments can be seen here; while the Asian Human Rights Commission's comments are here.

4. Reuters' 2015 piece on executions in Pakistan can be seen here.

5. More information about Imdad Ali is available at the Reprieve website.

Emergency Action: Prisoner under new threat of execution


Imdad Ali suffers from such severe paranoid schizophrenia that he isn’t even aware that he could be executed as early as next week.

Imdad did not receive a proper medical assessment at his trial and was sentenced to death without his mental illness being properly considered. Despite now conceding that he is mentally ill, the Pakistan Supreme Court yesterday refused to stop his execution.

Last week, we helped to launch legal action in Pakistan and built an international campaign signed by over 10,000 Reprieve supporters. His execution was halted with only hours to spare – but now that the Pakistan Supreme Court has rejected his appeal, he could receive a new death warrant at any time.

Imdad's legal options have now been exhausted and his only chance is clemency from President Hussain of Pakistan. Will you call on President Hussain to grant mercy to Imdad and prevent his inhumane execution?


Time is against us, and we have to act quickly. On Friday, we will present our petition to the Pakistan High Commission in London to show the authorities how many people around the world oppose what they're planning. Please add your name to our call for mercy, and help us prevent the execution of a vulnerable, severely mentally ill man.

Source: Clive Stafford Smith, Founder, Reprieve

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Indonesia: Jokowi wants unified ‘national branding’ for positive image

“Wonderful Indonesia”
"A positive image must be maintained. I urge the use of the soft-power
approach be strengthened through cultural diplomacy, the promotion of
Indonesian cuisine and also promotion through sports." - Jokowi (no kidding)
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has urged the Cabinet to enhance the soft-power approach to improve Indonesia's image, highlighting national branding as a strategy to improve the country's competitiveness in trade, tourism and investment.

During a limited meeting on national branding held at the Presidential Office in Jakarta on Tuesday, Jokowi explained that currently each ministry acted independently in promoting trade, tourism and investment. 

For instance, the Trade Ministry with its “Remarkable Indonesia” tagline and the Tourism Ministry with the “Wonderful Indonesia” tagline.

As a result, strategies to build a positive image of Indonesia tended to separate and run alone. Even in exhibitions abroad, ministries did not coordinate well, he said.

"We will consolidate in order to be able to compete with other countries. I also urge the use of the soft-power approach be strengthened through cultural diplomacy, the promotion of Indonesian cuisine and also promotion through sports," Jokowi told his ministers.

He also asserted that establishing national branding was not simply the creation of a national logo or tagline, but an effort to achieve and maintain a positive perception of the country in the global environment.

"A positive image must be maintained by providing good, fast and professional services," he went on.

Source: The Jakarta Post, September 27, 2016

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Roof jury selection underway in Charleston federal death penalty case

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
The 1st of some 3,000 potential jurors in the Dylan Roof death penalty trial began reporting Monday to the U.S. District courthouse in downtown Charleston.

Jurors were summoned, some 80 at a time, before U.S. Judge Richard Gergel, whose questions were aimed at weeding out those who obviously cannot or who will elect not to serve: people over 70, having no one else to care for young children and the like. Also to be excluded: those whose minds are already made up about Roof's guilty, or whether to impose the death penalty.

Roof, 22, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is charged with federal hate crimes resulting in death in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans who were attending an evening Bible study at historic "Mother" Emanuel AME church downtown.

Of the first 80 prospective jurors in court on this morning, some 90 % were white. 9 were black. All were somber. Gergel deferred 2 teachers.

The initial jury selection is taking place in a relatively small courtroom on the 4th floor of an old federal courthouse on Broad Street. It has only about 80 seats, nearly all of which were taken up Monday by prospective jurors.

Gergel allowed a sketch artist, along with one pool print reporter to write accounts of what happened. Other journalists watched the proceedings on a flat-screen television in a nearby courtroom. Unlike state court, no cameras or reporters' tape recorders are allowed in federal court. The in-court proceedings in this story were furnished by the pool reporter.

Roof stared down at his defense table during much of the morning. During Monday's initial session, he appeared unemotional. In numerous pretrial hearings since last year, he has waived his right to be present in court.

The Roof case is set to be one of the most sensational criminal trials ever held in South Carolina, due to the racial dimensions of the case and the brutality of the crime.

Underscoring the emotionalism of the trial and the effect of publicity about the case, Judge Gergel has ordered dozens of pretrial documents to be kept secret so as not to taint the jury pool.

Roof also faces charges of murder in Charleston County state court. Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson is also seeking the death penalty in that case. Jury selection is set to begin in January in that case.

Monday's proceeding in federal court is designed to produce a smaller pool of some 700 prospective jurors. Those potential jurors will begin a more detailed questioning session on Nov. 7. The actual trial will not start until late November, observers estimate.

It's the opening day of a long, tedious and potentially confusing jury selection process in the Dylan Roof federal trial in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans at a historic downtown Charleston church.

Source: thestate.com, September 26, 2016

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Mass Execution: 17 Prisoners Hanged at Vakilabad Prison, Iran

Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison, Iran
Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison, Iran
Iran Human Rights has discovered that Iranian authorities executed 17 prisoners at Vakilabad Prison about two weeks ago on drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights (SEPT 27 2016): 17 prisoners sentenced to death on drug related charges were reportedly hanged at Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison (Razavi Khorasan province, northwestern Iran) on Sunday September 11, 2016.

"There are currently about 400 prisoners in Vakilabad Prison who are on death row for drug related offenses, and their execution sentences have been confirmed," a close source tells Iran Human Rights.

Close sources say these 400 prisoners are all relatively new individuals who were arrested by Iranian authorities within the last two or three years. 

The hundreds of other death row prisoners who were detained in Vakilabad prior to this have reportedly been executed. Iran Human Rights (IHR) has previously reported about the secret executions of several hundred prisoners in the Vakilabad prison.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these 17 executions. 

In 2015, 61% of the executions carried out in Iran (approximately 596 executions) were not reported by Iranian official sources.

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 27, 2016

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Pakistan heads for breach of international law after Supreme Court declines to intervene in hanging of mentally ill prisoner

Supreme Court justices dismissed the appeal, claiming that a large proportion of Pakistani prisoners suffer from mental illness.
"Supreme Court justices dismissed the appeal, claiming that a large
proportion of Pakistani prisoners suffer from mental illness."
Pakistan's Supreme Court today dismissed an appeal brought by lawyers for a severely mentally ill prisoner, who now faces execution in as little as a week's time. 

Lawyers for Imdad Ali, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, argued that he should not be executed as to do so would violate both Pakistani and international law. Mr Ali came within hours of execution last week, despite prison doctors having assessed him as being "insane", including on the night before the execution. 

Yet today, Supreme Court justices dismissed the appeal, claiming that a large proportion of Pakistani prisoners suffer from mental illness and they "cannot let everyone go." The judges conceeded that Imdad was mentally ill but concluded that they would dismiss the appeal because the case had already been considered by the Court and - in their view - nothing had changed. 

Mr Ali's execution received a last-minute stay from the Supreme Court last week, but with that stay now expired, he could receive a new 'black warrant' and face execution as early as next Tuesday (4 October). Just hours before his scheduled hanging last week, Mr Ali's severe mental illness meant he was unaware that he was due to be executed. 

The Pakistani Government is now the only body with the ability to halt Mr Ali's execution. Mr Ali’s lawyers have sent a mercy petition to Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain with testimony from medical experts. The petition provides an array of medical evidence for the President to consider, such as a statement from psychiatric consultant Dr Feroze Khan, who examined Mr Ali’s mental health and recommended that he be transferred to a mental health facility for active psychiatric treatment. 

A statement issued by 14 of Pakistan’s leading psychiatrists also warns that executing Mr Ali would run contrary to Pakistani law. The experts, including Dr Malik Hussain Mubbasshar, Professor Emeritus at Lahore’s University of Health Sciences, said that: “[The] Law does not allow such execution of prisoners suffering from this nature of mental disorder in which the prisoner is having a psychotic illness and is unable to know why he is being executed and what will be the consequence of this punishment.” 

Mr Ali comes from an extremely poor family. His family began to notice signs of mental illness as long ago as 1998 – but they could not afford to pay for private medical assessments, which could have identified his mental illness, and possible treatments, earlier. Following his initial detention, his mental illness has been exacerbated by 14 years in overcrowded prison cells and lengthy periods of solitary confinement. 

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, Deputy Director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve said: "It is indisputable that Imdad suffers from serious mental illness. There is therefore no doubt that, should Pakistan execute him, it will be committing a grave violation of both Pakistani and international law. It is shocking that the system has failed Imdad at every turn - right the way up to the Supreme Court. The Pakistan Government must immediately halt Imdad's execution, and undertake a comprehensive review into how someone who is clearly mentally unfit to be executed has been allowed to come so near to the noose."

More information about Imdad Ali is available at the Reprieve website

Source: Reprieve, September 27, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications@reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org

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Alabama death row inmate wants chance to argue for firing squad

Alabama death row inmate wants chance to argue for firing squad
An Alabama death row inmate says the courts should allow him to argue that getting shot would be a less painful way to die than enduring the state’s current execution protocol.

In a filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, attorneys for Thomas Arthur, convicted in 1982 in a murder-for-hire scheme, say the sedative used in Alabama’s lethal injection procedure could possibly trigger a heart attack before the administration of the lethal drugs in the procedure. Arthur’s attorneys said in the filing a district court improperly denied him the ability to argue for alternative methods of execution — such as a firing squad, a different sedative or changes to the current protocol.

“Absent this court’s intervention, Mr. Arthur will soon be executed without having been afforded the chance to prove that Alabama’s method of execution is highly likely to subject him to agonizing pain,” the filing stated.

The Alabama Supreme Court earlier this month set a Nov. 3 execution date for Arthur. Mike Lewis, a spokesman for the Alabama attorney general’s office, said they had no comment. Bob Horton, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, said in a statement the department “is prepared to carry out the execution as ordered by the Alabama Supreme Court.”

The filing, the latest in a years-long challenge brought by Arthur against the state’s death penalty, follows a July ruling that dismissed his challenge. Arthur’s attorneys want the circuit to send the case back to Alabama for further consideration.

Arthur first filed suit over the state’s methods of execution in 2011. The inmate argued that the sedative in the procedure — first pentobarbital, then sodium midazolam — wouldn’t render him unconscious in time to avoid the pain associated with rorcuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles, or potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Arthur’s attorneys said that violated his Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorneys for Arthur also said Alabama Department of Corrections officials didn’t regularly apply a consciousness test to inmates before administering the last two drugs in the execution protocol, a violation of his 14th Amendment due process rights.

Arthur won several stays of execution while his challenge and others to the constitutionality of the sedatives used in the procedure went forward. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Glossip v. Gross, a challenge to Oklahoma’s use of midazolam, that those challenging the constitutionality of an execution method had to propose one that would be less painful.

The inmate tried to argue that the state should use pentobarnital instead of midazolam at a trial in January, but lost that case as well as later motions to change the protocol due to Arthur suffering cardiovascular disease. Writing in July, U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Watkins wrote that Arthur had not had a health evaluation since 2009 and had not made “good faith” efforts to square his medical condition with the way the state proposes to execute him.

“Intense prodding by the court saw Arthur essentially standing mute as to the existence of a specific remedy, i.e., a proposed alternative method of execution, for an alleged unconstitutional risk,” he wrote.

Arthur’s attorneys say that due to their client’s health issues, the use of midazolam could give him a heart attack before staff administers the fatal drugs. They also argue that the trial court shouldn’t have prevented him from arguing for execution by firing squad, citing Utah’s use of the procedure in 2010.

“Over the past century, a firing squad execution has never resulted in a botched execution (i.e., resulting in an agonizing death for the inmate), in contrast to more than 7 percent of lethal injection executions,” the briefing said.

The state argued that execution by firing squad wasn’t a method available in the state.

Arthur also argues the use of pentobarbital, or modifications to the midazolam protocol, may do a better job rendering him unconscious. Arthur originally challenged pentobarbital’s use — the state had run out of the sedative by 2014, which led to the switch to midazolam — but his attorneys wrote that was about the use of pentobarbital in the old protocol, and that the “gradual administration” of the drug wouldn’t reflect Arthur’s initial complaint. The appeal also suggests the lower court applied the Eighth Amendment — not the 14th — in dismissing Arthur’s concerns over the consciousness test.

The inmate’s attorneys argue the court accepted “perfunctory” arguments from DOC personnel that they could not obtain pentobarbital, and prevented his defense from discovery that might have added more information about DOC’s efforts in that regard.

“Mr. Arthur is thus ... required on the one hand to prove the availability of an alternative execution method to ADOC, but prevented, on the other, from developing the factual record to meet that burden,” they wrote.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group, said the U.S. Supreme Court likely didn’t think about what available methods of execution meant when handing down Glossip.

“The question is if a state has chosen a mechanism like lethal injection, but administers that in a questionable way, is that considered a sufficiently flexible method of execution that you don’t need to consider other things like firing squad?” he said. “We don’t know the answer to that right now.

The state executed Christopher Brooks in January for the 1992 rape, murder and robbery of Jo Deann Campbell. Witnesses said Brooks showed no visible signs of distress during his execution. The state planned to execute Vernon Madison in May for the 1985 murder of Mobile police officer Julius Schulte, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the execution due to questions about the effect a series of strokes had on Madison’s state of mind.

Source: Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman, September 27, 2016

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Saudi Arabia executes Ethiopian maid

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi authorities on Monday executed an Ethiopian housemaid convicted of killing the child of her employer more than 3 years ago, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry noted in a statement that the execution was carried out after the death sentence was endorsed by the king.

Meanwhile the convict had confessed having knifed to death the 6-year-old girl in June 2013, allegedly in retaliation for her family's ill-treatment.

Monday's beheading brings to 119 the total number of executions so far this year in the conservative kingdom.

According to international rights groups, Saudi Arabia is among the top executioners in the world.

On Jan. 2, authorities beheaded 47 people, including a prominent Shiite cleric, on terrorism-related charges.

Report says Saudi Arabia has imposed death penalty for murder, armed robbery, banditry, rape, drug-trafficking, homosexuality and witchcraft.

The kingdom, which applies a strict interpretation of Islamic law, has repeatedly rejected calls to end the death penalty, saying the punishment deters would-be offenders.

The rate of crime in Saudi Arabia is often described as low by foreign ministries and other sources.

In many countries, there are established minimum and maximum sentences for different crimes or a penal code; in Saudi Arabia, that is virtually non-existent.

Only a handful of crimes, including murder, adultery and "consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex," carry specific punishments, and in each of those cases, it's death, according to Death Penalty Worldwide.

Source: dailytrust.com.ng, September 26, 2016

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