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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ohio has a troubled death penalty system yet intends to resume executions anyway

Ohio's death chamber
Ohio's death chamber
It’s been more than three years since Ohio last executed a convicted killer. Unfortunately, the state is poised to resume the barbaric practice next week despite serious questions over respect for constitutional protections and the basic fairness of how the state administers the capital punishment system itself.

Capital punishment had been halted in the wake of a botched execution. In early 2014, the state had converted to a new, untested two-drug lethal injection protocol — the sedative midazolam followed by hydromorphone, a painkiller — because it no longer could find suppliers for pentobarbital or sodium thiopental, the more powerful barbiturates it previously used in both single- and three-drug protocols.

Critics warned that midazolam wouldn’t sedate inmate Dennis McGuire sufficiently, and, indeed, witnesses reported that McGuire “snorted, gasped and struggled” during a procedure that dragged on for 26 minutes, more than 10 minutes longer than lethal-injection executions usually take. (Midazalom does not have the same anesthetic effect as a barbiturate; an expert in pharmacology and toxicology offers a good overview of execution drugs here.)

That grotesque killing led the state and, later, a federal judge to halt executions until officials could figure out what went wrong, and how to fix it.

Ohio already was reexamining its capital punishment system, and three months after McGuire’s execution, the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty issued 56 recommendations aimed at insuring defendants’ rights were protected and that the innocent were not executed.

But to date, “the most substantive of our recommendations to the Legislature lay idle,” retired state Judge James Brogan, who chaired the task force, complained Wednesday. “This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty convictions.”

The safeguards range from expanding defendant access to legal help, to barring death sentences unless specific biological evidence or a voluntary recorded confession link the suspect to the murder, to removing the death penalty from specific types of felony murder (committed in the commission of another crime).

Yet Ohio intends to forge ahead anyway, despite a dodgy history of wrongful convictions. Nine death row inmates in Ohio have been exonerated since 1979, four of them in the past four years. All but two of the nine had served at least a quarter-century before their exonerations, and three had served 39 years in prison. That is a pretty high failure rate in a state with 140 people on death row, and 53 executions since 1999.

The prospect that Ohio might resume killing the condemned before fixing the flaws spotlighted by the task force (I doubt they can be fixed) has sparked outrage, and a campaign is underway urging Gov. John Kasich to reinstate a moratorium.

This, of course, puts Kasich, a once and possibly future presidential contender, in a bit of a corner. Kasich is pro-death penalty, Still, his decision here shouldn’t be couched in terms of political popularity, but in terms of morality and good governance. It is immoral to kill, especially so for a state to kill its own citizens.

More prosaically, capital punishment, once administered, cannot be undone, but the system that delivers it is rife with errors, leading to wrongful convictions. It also is inherently unjust in that it falls disproportionately on the poor and minorities. And it is a massively expensive system to maintain, a cost that becomes harder to defend when you factor in the wrongful convictions — making it an expensive and failed system.

Rather than rushing back into the immorality of executions, Ohio ought to move in the opposite direction, and take steps to end the practice altogether.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Opinion, Scott Martelle, July 21, 2017


Op-ed: My husband supervised Ohio executions for 5 years. It changed his life


Screenshot from 'Monster's Ball', by Mark Forster (2001)
Screenshot from 'Monster's Ball', a film by by Mark Forster (2001)
Linda Collins is the widow of Terry Collins, who served for 33 years in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, including as director from 2006 - 2010.

To be asked to carry out an execution as part of your job is an extraordinarily difficult experience. I know this because my husband of 44 years, Terry Collins, was placed in this position many times throughout his career, including as director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. Each of the 33 executions he oversaw took a tremendous toll on him.

As I read the news that Ohio is planning to resume its use of the death penalty for the first time in more than three years, with plans to carry out at least 27 lethal injection executions, I think about all the stress and the burden that was placed on him and his staff. [DPN wishes to stress that, unlike in Nazi Germany or the defunct USSR, corrections officers are not forced to take part in executions, and can resign from their jobs at any time.]

The Department is like one big family. Over decades, you get to know people and their families. You care. When it comes to executions, Ohio is about to go from zero to 60. I am concerned about the risks this fast-paced execution schedule poses to the people tasked with carrying them out.

I know the dedicated professionals who work for the Department would undertake this somber task with the utmost care and the highest standards. But as we all know, even under the best circumstances, executions are very hard on the corrections staff, and sometimes executions don’t go as planned.

For many, participating in executions becomes a major event in their own lives, and can affect them for years to come. I saw the impact executions had on my husband, my best friend.

To be sure, executions go far beyond the walls within which they are carried out. After he retired, I was often struck by public comments Terry would make about executions.


Did the System Get it Right?


Unlike his usual manner, Terry had difficulty remembering the names of some of the prisoners whose executions he oversaw. Even though part of his routine was to personally speak to each and every one before they were executed, he described them as a blur. In retrospect, Terry said forgetting was a coping mechanism. To protect himself, his mind had to blur it out. I certainly would never want another person to go through that kind of anxiety and stress.

With each execution we talked about what nagged him most -- did the system get it right?

Terry’s deep concern about this came from having personally walked innocent people out the front doors of prisons. In fact, three innocent men have been exonerated from Ohio’s death row just since the state’s last execution in 2014. How many more are there?

Terry would often say the death penalty had to be 100 percent perfect, 100 percent of the time. And there is nobody on this Earth who is 100 percent perfect 100 percent of the time.

Loyal Employees Did Their Jobs


We would talk about those difficult execution days -- even when things went according to protocol, they were difficult days. I could see the stress in Terry even in the days before the scheduled execution. While they were hard on him, the trauma of participating in executions has had more severe effects on some of our friends who are more like family. I’ve seen and heard about alcohol and drug abuse, issues with depression, anxiety, and more. Many of those Terry knew who were tasked with carrying out executions would privately prefer not to, but, as loyal employees, they respected the expectations and the job.

Then there were the times when executions didn’t go as planned, as happened more than three years ago during the last execution. We read the reports about Mr. McGuire struggling against the restraints and gasping for air for 26 minutes. Terry was retired then, but he spent that day deeply concerned about all those involved.

I remember when Terry made his decision to retire from the Department. It was not long after the 2009 execution attempt of Romell Broom. When then-Governor Strickland ordered Terry to stop the execution attempt after more than two hours, I think that Terry had had enough.

I feel an obligation to speak out for those who may not be in a position to speak. No one should ever go through participating in an execution like that.

My husband dedicated his life to the safety of prisoners, to his colleagues, and the public just as all corrections professionals and staff do. Their work ensures incarceration is as safe and productive as possible.


It's Too Much to Ask


The criminal justice process doesn’t end when someone is sentenced and jailed. It takes a dedicated, professional, highly skilled staff to ensure that the prison population remains safely incarcerated. That’s what they do, and they do it well, with care and pride. It’s unimaginably difficult to go from looking after prisoners to assisting in the execution of prisoners.

Ohio corrections staff haven’t executed anyone in three and a half years. They are now being ordered to try a controversial drug combination they have never previously used. And they are being asked to go into this schedule knowing it will not let up for years. The executions will keep coming steadily down the line, with no break, no rest.

I respectfully ask our state officials to think of our corrections professionals, who are completely innocent public servants. The proposed execution schedule will harm them, and that’s simply too much to ask.

Source: WCPO, Linda Collins, July 21, 2017


Homicide Survivors Ignored in Study of Victims Needs


Regarding the Victims Families recommendation, HB 663 ("Secret Executions Bill " passed in the lame duck session of 2014) resulted in the appointment of a joint committee of the 2015-16 General Assembly which held a few hearings and produced nothing.

Two leading victims rights advocates questioned the sincerity of the legislatively mandated Joint Committee on Victim’s Services at a meeting of the committee this afternoon at the Statehouse.

“I am deeply concerned that there will not be a comprehensive review of the experiences of homicide survivors in Ohio,” said Melinda Elkins Dawson, whose mother was murdered in Barberton in 1998. “It is my hope and suggestion that it is not too late to accomplish such.”

The Joint Legislative Study Committee on Victims’ Rights was mandated by HB 663 in December, 2014, implementing recommendation 19 of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty. The recommendation was to study the needs of homicide survivors in Ohio and the resources available to them.

“One of the most helpful and hopeful signals ever sent regarding support for murder victim families was the establishment of your committee,” said Rev. Jack Sullivan Jr., executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation. Sullivan’s sister Jennifer was murdered in 1997 in Cleveland. Her murder remains unsolved. “I am amazed at the relatively few numbers of people who actually know you existed, how they may offer experiences, ideas and aspirations to help guide your work. During a meeting with Senator Coley earlier this year, I was impressed and delighted by his excitement over our proposal to study the services provided to murder victims families and to enhance the state’s efforts to serve their needs. I must also report that I was shocked to learn that this initiative was shut down.”

The two advocates also noted that this hearing took place during National Crime Victims Rights Week, which seeks to raise awareness of the rights and needs of crime victims. They also noted the supplemental appropriations bill introduced on Tuesday. “Especially in light of the Billions of dollars appropriated yesterday, we are puzzled that $30,000 could not be found to support the vital work of this Joint Committee.” said Sullivan.

BACKGROUND:


The Joint Committee was appointed in May 2015 and had its first meeting in January 2016. In a conversation following that first meeting with committee chairman Senator Bill Coley, it became clear that the Joint Committee on Victim’s Rights had not developed a plan to comprehensively study the issue, and that the Committee intended to complete its work by the June recess. Ohioans to Stop Executions and Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation Victims Families for Reconciliation met with Senator Coley in February and offered to recruit the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University to independently conduct two studies. The first was to be an assessment of all of the agencies in Ohio which provide victims services for homicide survivors, and the second was to give Ohio homicide survivors the opportunity to provide input to the process by sharing their own experiences to help the committee understand what their needs were, what was helpful and what was missing. Senator Coley reacted with enthusiasm, offering to find the money to cover the costs which would be incurred by the Kirwan Institute. Within weeks, Senator Coley indicated that no funds could be made available and any studies would be done internally. Yet, no evidence exists that any serious and comprehensive studies are being conducted.

- Today’s Testimony: Melinda Elkins Dawson: http://archive.otse.org/melinda-elkins-dawson-testimony/

- Today’s Testimony: Jack Sullivan Jr.: http://archive.otse.org/jack-sullivan-jr-testimony/

- March 2015 Letter from Ohio Homicide Survivors requesting House and Senate leadership appoint the Joint Committee as mandated in HB 663 as passed in December, 2014: http://archive.otse.org/letter-ohio-homicide-survivors/

- February 2016 Letter from Kirwan Institute offering assistance to produce a comprehensive study of available victim services and a second study allowing for broad input by Ohio Victim Survivors: http://archive.otse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/VictimsServicesResearchKirwanInstitutetoColeyFebruary4th2016.pdf

- February 2016 Letter from OTSE and MVFR to Joint Committee Chairman Senator Coley: http://archive.otse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/OTSEMVFRLettertoColeyFeb42016.pdf

Source: OTSE, April 13, 2016 in Press Release

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Israeli Ministers Call for Death Penalty for Halamish Terrorist

Halamish, Samaria, Israel
Halamish, Samaria, Israel
In the opposition, MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) said the ministers’ calls for death penalty are an attempt to replace decision-making.

Several ministers in the Security Cabinet called for the terrorist who massacred a family Friday night to be executed ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Military courts can sentence someone to death, though the option has not been used since 1962, when senior Nazi Adolf Eichmann was hanged after being convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The ministers called for the death penalty after 19-year-old Palestinian terrorist Omar al-Abed entered a home in Halamish, in Samaria, and began stabbing members of the Salomon family, who were having Shabbat dinner. He murdered Yosef Salomon, 70, and his children Chaya, 46, and Elad, 36, who was celebrating the birth of his fifth child. He also severely injured Yosef’s wife Tovah, who remains hospitalized. Elad’s wife was able to hide together with her five children, saving their lives. An IDF soldier who lives nearby shot al-Abed before he was able to continue the massacre.

“The option of the death penalty exists in military courts,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said. “There is no need for legislation; just to ask. I call on the military prosecution to demand the death penalty for the terrorist that killed the Salomon family.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Bayit Yehudi, took to twitter to say that “the murderers of children and families deserve the death penalty. This punishment exists in the military courts if there is consensus among the judges. This is a case that requires the death penalty for the murderer.”

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz made similar comments on Saturday night, saying that he plans to bring up the demand in the cabinet meeting, and that the Attorney-General said that the death penalty is a possibility if it is the Security Cabinet’s position.

“The beastly man who murdered three family members should get the death penalty. If it weren’t for the resourcefulness of the soldier who shot him, he would have murdered more…It’s time to implement the policy,” of allowing death sentences in a military court, Katz stated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting of Likud ministers that they should behave responsibly.

“Since the beginning of the events,” Netanyahu said of the wave of violence that began with Israeli Arabs killing three Israeli policemen last Friday, “I held a series of meetings and evaluations of the situation with all the security forces, including those in the field. We are getting an up-to-date picture of the situation and recommendations of how to act, and we are acting in accordance with them.

“We are managing this calmly, decisively and responsibly, and we will continue to do that to protect security. I also expect you to behave with the necessary responsibility,” the prime minister stated.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forrer also called for the death penalty, a policy his party has long touted.

“A similar thing happened to the Fogel family,” when Palestinians massacred five members of a family in their beds in Itamar in 2011, “and the murderers are sitting in prison and enjoying good conditions and continuous funding from the Palesitnian Authority,” Forrer said.

In the opposition, MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) said the ministers’ calls for death penalty are an attempt to replace decision-making.

“Any reasonable person knows that it’s not a punishment, because death is exactly what this heinous terrorist hoped for, and that the call will not be implemented and will remain a populist call for revenge,” she stated. “It is unfortunate and disconcerting that cabinet ministers have decided to protect the prime minister from his right for political reasons, instead of dealing with solutions that will prevent murderous and shocking terrorist attacks like the one on Friday night.”

Source: Jerusalem Post, Lahav Harkov, July 23, 2017


Minister calls for death penalty for Halamish killer


Yirael Katz says Israel already has legislation in place that would allow a military court to impose the measure

Israel's intelligence minister said Saturday that he would push for the death penalty for the 19-year-old Palestinian terrorist who stabbed to death 3 Israelis as they celebrated their Sabbath meal.

Yisrael Katz said that Israel's military court system already had statutes in place for the death penalty in cases like this.

"We need to use the option that we have in military rule and I call on the military prosecutor to demand the death penalty," Katz told Channel 2 TV.

In Israel, the death penalty is applicable only in limited circumstances, and has only been carried out once, in 1962, against the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution.

But Katz said it was permissible under existing military law that applies to Palestinians in the West Bank.

"There was recent discussion and the attorney general said it is a possibility. I think that the security establishment should aim for this," he said, adding that he would push for this in cabinet meetings.

The Knesset has several times rejected legislation that would apply the death penalty to Palestinian terrorists.

On Friday evening, 19-year-old Omar al-Abed, from a nearby village, burst in to the Salomon family's house at the Halamish settlement armed with a large knife and stabbed to death Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, and son Elad Salomon, 36. Yosef's wife Tova, 68, was seriously hurt.

A neighbor, who serves in an elite IDF unit, heard the cries and rushed over, shooting and wounding the terrorist through the window of the house. On Saturday afternoon Abed was released from hospital and handed over to the security services for questioning.

The army said it appeared Abed had posted a Facebook post detailing his intention as he walked toward the community. Before crossing the fence, he apparently performed some type of purification ritual, anticipating he would be killed. Empty water bottles and a Quran were found at the site.

In initial questioning, Abed said he bought the knife 2 days ago, wanting to commit a terror attack because of events surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Upgraded Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount were introduced after 3 Arab Israelis shot dead 2 Israeli police officers on duty there on July 14, using guns they had smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Meanwhile IDF forces early Saturday morning raided the home of Abed and arrested his brother.

Troops were searching the village of Kaubar for weaponry and suspects. They also mapped the Abed's family home in preparation for its likely demolition. An army official told Ynet the 19-year-old terrorist's parents were known to be affiliated with the Hamas terror group. Hamas hailed the attack late Friday as "heroic."

Source: The Times of Israel, July 23, 2017

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Egypt sentences 28 to death for prosecutor’s slaying

Egyptian prison
Hesham Barakat was assassinated in a Cairo car bombing in June 2015

Cairo: An Egyptian court Saturday sentenced 28 people to death by hanging after convicting them of involvement in the murder of the country’s chief prosecutor Hesham Barakat in a bombing more than two years ago.

Fifteen co- defendants were given life sentences and eight others jail terms for 15 years each. The Cairo Criminal Court, which heard the case, also handed 15 other accused 10 years in prison each.

The court dropped the charges against one accused who had died in jail during the trial that started in June last year.

All verdicts can be appealed.

Last month, the court recommended death sentences for 30 defendants in the case. 

The verdicts were later referred to the grand mufti, Egypt’s top religious authority, to approve or reject-- a routine procedure in the mostly Muslim country for death sentences.

Barakat was assassinated on June 29, 2015 when a car bomb went off near his convoy in the Cairo quarter of Heliopolis. He was 64.

He was the highest Egyptian official to be killed in a wave of militant violence that has hit Egypt since the 2013 army’s toppling of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi following massive street protests against his rule.

Egypt blamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian Hamas group of standing behind Barakat’s killing, charges both movements have denied.

Over the past four years, hundreds of the now-outlawed Brotherhood have been detained and jailed in different cases on charges of inciting or involvement in violence in Egypt.

Source: Gulf News, July 22, 2017

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Victims’ families in Ohio need resources, not executions

closure
In 1997, my brother, James Nero, was brutally gunned down in a road-rage incident in Canton. After a minor accident, James insisted that the other driver provide his insurance information. Instead, the driver returned from his car with a gun and shot my brother in the face. Then he shot James again, point-blank as he lay on the pavement.

James was just 20, and a proud father to an 18-month-old son. He was engaged to be married to his son’s mother. Like every 20-year old, he had many plans and dreams. I thank God that I saw James on the last day of his life, because during our last time together, he hugged me and told me that he loved me. At least I have that to remember him by.

When the court case about his murder was over, James was still dead. My family had never experienced the intense trauma of losing a loved one to murder, and we had no idea how to deal with the pain. No state or city agency ever provided our family with any information about resources available to help us deal with the situation. We had only ourselves and our church community. We were on our own, as far as the state of Ohio was concerned.

Most cases in which the death penalty could be imposed do not end in a death sentence or an execution. There have been thousands of murders in Ohio since our capital punishment law was enacted in 1981, but only 53 executions. How can it be true that executions are for victims’ families when we use them so infrequently? What do politicians say to the vast majority of us, for whom the so-called “justice” of an execution is never even possible? The silence is deafening.

In any case, I know that an execution wouldn’t have helped my family heal. Among other issues, Ohio does a disservice to families when the killer is sentenced to death, because the family has to put its healing process on hold for decades through the capital punishment appeals process. We have 27 prisoners currently scheduled for execution. Eight of them will have been on death row longer than 30 years by the time of their scheduled execution. Twelve will have been there longer than 20 years. All those years are years the family is holding its breath and suffering through court date after court date, newspaper article after newspaper article.

"We don’t want the state using our pain to justify another family losing a loved one"


Without a death sentence in our case, we began our healing process as soon as the trial was over. If there had been a death sentence, we would probably still be waiting.

Terry Freeman put two bullets in my brother’s head. But killing Terry Freeman won’t bring my brother James back. We don’t want the state using our pain to justify another family losing a loved one — even if he is guilty. There is no such thing as “closure” because there will always be that empty seat at the table when family members of a murder victim gather.

With Ohio about to embark on executions again after three and a half years without them, I will no longer sit by quietly while elected officials tell us that we must have executions so that murder victims’ families can have “closure” in their case. We must reject the myth that executions always help victims’ families.

Instead of wasting resources trying to execute a handful of killers, Ohio can do better for all victims’ families. My family could have used counseling and other kinds of support instead, which I believe would have helped our recovery and grief. Ohio does provide some support to victims’ families, but it varies greatly among Ohio’s 88 counties. Fix that. Trained, certified, qualified mental health professionals must be available to any family experiencing homicide. They should be available to all, without disparity of access based on race, economics, geography, or prior unrelated encounters with law enforcement. Fix that too.

Gov. John Kasich has an opportunity to be merciful here — to all families affected by homicide in Ohio. Stop wasting resources on executions, and do better for all murder victims’ families.

Source: Toledo Blade, LaShawn Ajamu, July 22, 2017. LaShawn Ajamu co-chairs the Murder Victims Families Support Project of Ohioans to Stop Executions. She lives in Richfield, Ohio.

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Iran: 7 executed on drug, murder charges

Medieval punishments: Watching a public hanging in Iran
Medieval punishments: Watching a public hanging in Iran
Iran Human Rights (JULY 22 2017): A prisoner was reportedly hanged at Zabol Central Prison, and three prisoners were reportedly hanged at Zahedan Central Prison. Two of the prisoners were reportedly Afghan citizens.

According to a report by the human rights news agency, HRANA, the prisoner at Zabol Central Prison was hanged on the morning of Saturday July 22 on drug related charges. 

The report identifies the prisoner as Salman Mirshahi, sentenced to death on the charge of one kilogram and 900 grams of crack, father of two children.

According to a report by the Baluch Activists Campaign, two prisoners at Zahedan Central Prison were also hanged on the morning of July 22. 

The report identifies the prisoners as Kheir Mohammad Saadat, 46 years of age, and Bashir Rasouli, 37 years of age. Both of these prisoners are Afghan citizens and were held in prison for more than eight years before they were executed. 

Another prisoner was hanged at this prison on Wednesday July 19 on murder charges. The prisoner has been identified as Mahmoud Damani.

Two prisoners were reportedly hanged at Bandar Abbas Central Prison on drug related charges, and a prisoner was reportedly hanged at Rajai Shahr Prison on murder charges.

According to close sources, the prisoner at Rajai Shar Prison was executed on the morning of Monday July 17. Close sources have identified the prisoner as Mansour Mohammadi, and he was transferred to solitary confinement on Saturday July 15 in preparation for his execution. It is not usual for prisoners at Rajai Shahr Prison to be executed on a Monday, executions at this prison are typically carried out on Wednesdays.

Close sources say the two prisoners at Bandar Abbas Central Prison were executed on Sunday July 16. 

The prisoners have been identified as Nasser Khosravi, 45 years of age, and Hashem Ghanbarloo, 41 years of age. These two prisoners were convicted in the same file on the charge of six kilograms and 800 grams of crystal meth.

"Hashem and Nasser would purchase and sell cigarettes, and they were arrested in their cars in 2011," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights.

The execution of prisoners with drug charges continues in Iran while the Iranian Parliament has approved a general plan to amend the law for combating drugs. The Parliament is scheduled to vote on the bill again following a two-week holiday. In the event of the final approval of the plan, the death sentences for many prisoners will be commuted to a prison sentence.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and state-run media, have not announced these executions.

Source: Iran Human Rights, July 22, 2017

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Iraq: Four German women could face death penalty for joining ISIS

Mosul, Iraq
Mosul, Iraq
BERLIN – Four German women, including a 16-year-old girl, who joined Islamic State in recent years are being held in an Iraqi prison and receiving consular assistance, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday.

It said diplomats had visited the four in a prison at the airport in Baghdad on Thursday and they were doing well given the circumstances. 

They could face the death penalty in Iraq for belonging to the militant group, the magazine added.

It said Iraqi authorities had given Germany a list with the women’s names at the beginning of the week, identifying the teenager only as Linda W. from the small town of Pulsnitz near the eastern city of Dresden.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

German prosecutors said on Tuesday they were checking reports that a 16-year-old under investigation for supporting Islamic State was among five women arrested in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Iraqi forces declared victory over Islamic State earlier this month.

Der Spiegel said one of the Germans had Moroccan roots and another seemed to come from Chechnya but had a German passport.

The BfV domestic intelligence Agency estimates that 930 people have left Germany in recent years to join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. About 20 percent of them are women. 

Minors account for about 5 percent of the total number, of which half are female, it reckons.

Source: Reuters, July 22, 2017


German girl arrested in Mosul is missing Linda Wenzel, say authorities


A German girl who was believed to have been fighting for Islamic State in Mosul when she was arrested last week is the missing 16-year-old Linda Wenzel, German authorities have confirmed.

Wenzel’s parents had been searching for their daughter since she disappeared from her home in the village of Pulsnitz, near Dresden, in July last year. She is thought to have converted to Islam after being groomed on social media.

Wenzel, whom German authorities named only as Linda W, is receiving consular assistance from the German embassy in Iraq. Lorenz Haase, a prosecutor in Dresden, would not confirm reports that the teenager had been fighting for Isis.

“Our information ends with the girl’s arrival in Istanbul about a year ago,” he said.

Iraqi officials this week said they had arrested a foreign woman they believed was German, who had been recruited by an Arab Isis member through social media. They did not identify the woman as Wenzel.

Arrested by Iraqi forces, she was part of a group of 20 female Isis supporters from Russia, Turkey, Canada, Libya and Syria who had barricaded themselves with guns and explosives in a tunnel underneath the ruins of Mosul’s old city.

Video released last weekend showed images of a disheveled and dust-covered girl who appeared to match Wenzel’s description. However, there were contradicting reports about the her identity as some said it was Wenzel, while others identified her as either a Chechen Isis fighter or a Yazidi girl.

Wenzel had been missing since 1 July last year when she failed to return home after telling her parents she was spending the weekend at a friend’s house. Hidden under the mattress in her room, police later found receipts for two plane tickets, from Dresden to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Istanbul.

Earlier in the year, she had told her parents of her growing interest in Islam, but hid the fact that she had converted to the religion. During Ramadan, she told the family she was on a diet. “We didn’t think anything of it, and even bought her a copy of the Qur’an,” said her mother, Katharina.

Investigators discovered a prayer rug, a tablet with hundreds of photographs and the login for a Facebook account that Linda had used.

Hundreds of Germans, including several girls and young women, have in recent years left the country to join Isis in Syria and Iraq. Some have been killed in battle and suicide bombings, and others have returned to Germany, but there are many who remain unaccounted for, according to security officials.

Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that another four German women who joined Isis in recent years were being held in an Iraqi prison and had been visited by diplomats. They could face the death penalty in Iraq for belonging to the militant group,it said.

Germany’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the report. 

Der Spiegel said one of the Germans had Moroccan roots and another apparently came from Chechnya but had a German passport.

Source: The Guardian, Nicola Slawson and agencies, July 22, 2017

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Indonesia's President Joko Widodo issues order to shoot drug traffickers

President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and President Joko Widodo, Jakarta, 2016
President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and President Joko Widodo, Jakarta, 2016
JAKARTA: President Joko Widodo has issued a shoot-to-kill order against foreign dealers and traffickers, as he called for tougher action in Indonesia's war on drugs.

"The police and TNI (military) have been firm, especially when dealing with foreign drug traffickers entering the country," said the President, popularly known as Jokowi. "If they resist arrest, just gun them down, show no mercy."

Joko, who was speaking at an event in Jakarta on Friday night, also warned that the drug situation has put the country in a national emergency.

But his comments have drawn comparisons to his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte, who has been criticised for his drug war killings, which have left thousands dead.

Indonesia has one of the world's toughest drugs laws, and remains one of 33 countries that still use capital punishment for drug-related offences.

Since the country lifted a four-year moratorium on the death penalty in 2013, 18 people - all drug traffickers - have been sent to the firing squad.

Among the 15 foreigners executed were Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, both of whom were part of the Bali Nine, a name given to a group of nine Australians convicted for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kg of heroin in April 2005.

Indonesia has struggled to contain the drug problem, with officials estimating that there are at least 1.2 million drug-abusers in the country.

Ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth, are the drugs of choice for substance abusers in Indonesia, similar to those preferred by drug users in many other countries in the region.

On July 13, a suspected drug trafficker from Taiwan was shot dead by Indonesian police as he tried to escape.

Lin Ming Hui was one of four Taiwanese men found in Banten, a city near the capital Jakarta,with one tonne of crystal meth, better known by its Indonesian street-name 'Shabu-shabu'.

Indonesian National Police chief Tito Karnavian said following the incident that he had ordered his officers not to hesitate when having to use their firearms against drug dealers who resist arrest.

Indonesian National Police chief Tito Karnavian
Indonesian National Police chief Tito Karnavian
General Tito, citing the example of the Philippines, said he believes the death penalty was an effective way to combat drug dealers, despite the controversies surrounding capital punishment.

"From the practice in the field, we see that when we shoot at drug dealers they go away," he added, referring to President Duterte's shoot-to-kill order to the Philippine National Police. "So if such a policy were implemented in Indonesia, we believe that the number of drug traffickers and users in our beloved country would drop drastically."

His remarks, however, drew a strong response from some observers such as Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia, Phelim Kine.

Kine said General Tito should "denounce the Philippines' war on drugs for what it truly is - a brutal, unlawful assault on the rule of law, human rights, and basic decency that has targeted some of the country's poorest, most marginalised citizens".

He also called on Joko to send a clear message to the police that efforts to address the complex problems of drugs and criminality require the security forces to respect everyone's basic rights, not demolish them.

He added: "Duterte's drug war is not about 'capital punishment' - a judicially imposed sentence after a criminal trial - but a police-led summary killing campaign that that has killed more than 7,000 Filipinos since Duterte took office."

Source: The Star, The Straits Times/Asia News Network, July 22, 2017


Jokowi orders police to gun down foreign drug traffickers


President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has instructed law enforcement officers to impose the sternest sanctions on drug dealers operating in Indonesia, including gunning them down if necessary.

“I have told you, just be firm, especially with foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist [upon arrest]. Gun them down. Give no mercy,” he said in a speech on the United Development Party (PPP) national working meeting (Mukernas) in Jakarta on Friday.

The statement came following the largest seizure of crystal methamphetamine, locally known as shabu-shabu, weighing one ton from Taiwan last week. The police arrested four Taiwanese men who allegedly attempted to distribute the drugs in Greater Jakarta and shot dead one for resisting arrest.

"We are indeed in an emergency situation in dealing with drug trafficking," Jokowi added.

National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said a lot of drug dealers thought that Indonesia was a potential market because they considered its drug laws weaker than those of Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“On this occasion, we want to emphasize that the police would act firmly and toughly, especially against the foreign [drug dealers]. I even told [officers] to act by ‘custom,' which means if they resist [arrest], shoot. In this case, one Taiwanese was shot dead,” Tito said earlier.

Tito alleged that the suspects had used a cruise ship, called the Wanderlust, to smuggle one ton of crystal meth from Taiwan to Indonesia. After dropping the drugs off, the Wanderlust travelled to the Java Sea, Karimata Strait and Batam. 

Source: The Jakarta Post, Haeril Halim, July 22, 2017


Indonesia to Implement Duterte's Drug War Approach


Indonesian police seized a ton of crystal methamphetamine
Indonesian police seized a ton of crystal methamphetamine
worth $112 million in Serang, Banten, on July 13, 2017.
Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered law enforcers to shoot drug traffickers to deal with what he called a narcotics emergency facing the country.

"No mercy for them [foreign drug traffickers]. We are currently in an emergency in terms of drug abuse," Jokowi said in Jakarta on Friday (21/07), as quoted by state-run news agency Antara.

The president spoke after police seized a ton of crystal methamphetamine worth Rp 1.5 trillion ($112 million) in Serang, Banten, on July 13. The narcotic, locally known as shabu-shabu, was smuggled from China and constitutes the Indonesia's largest seizure to date.

Police arrested four Taiwanese men who allegedly attempted to distribute the drugs in the greater Jakarta area. One of them was shot dead while resisting arrest.

Jokowi said the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) are working together to act decisively against drug traffickers.

"Now, the police and the TNI are really firm, particularly against international drug dealers who enter Indonesia. Just shoot them if they even show a little resistance," he added.

National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian was quoted by Antara on Thursday as saying that drug smugglers are targeting Indonesia because they deem the country's law enforcement efforts weak, unlike Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"They [drug traffickers] have noticed that, apart from the potential market, we [law enforcement officers] may be weak to act. Our laws are considered weak; that causes them to become rampant in Indonesia," Tito said in Jakarta.

He said international drug traffickers have been given a stern warning not to consider Indonesia as one of their main destinations for the illegal drug trade.

"I have ordered the police to crack down and act tough, especially against foreign drug dealers. I have also told [officers] to act in accordance with their standard operational procedure, which also means shooting them if they resist arrest," Tito said.

Indonesia is not the only Southeast Asian country under threat from the widespread distribution of illicit drugs. The Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte declared war on drug pushers last year.

Warning From Rights Activists


Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines have drawn condemnation from the international community and human rights groups.

Usman Hamid, country director for the United Kingdom-based rights group Amnesty International in Indonesia, said the statements by Jokowi and Tito may result in law enforcement officials on the ground committing unlawful actions, such as extrajudicial killings or summary executions, which constitute gross human rights violations.

"Duterte's war on drugs is the wrong kind of approach for a democratic country. Indonesia must look for a better approach or best practices from other countries," Usman told the Jakarta Globe.

He added that Duterte declared war on drugs after the state imposed martial law with the parliament's approval. The implementation of Duterte's shoot-on-sight policy violates the country's constitutional law and other regulations.

Usman said Jokowi and Tito's remarks could be regarded as a move to implement martial law in Indonesia. He added that their statements show a lack of understanding of basic norms of human rights and the rule of law.

Source: Jakarta Globe, July 22, 2017

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Capital punishment an effective way to combat drug dealers: Indonesia's police chief

National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian
National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian
National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said on Thursday that the example of the Philippines illustrated that capital punishment was an effective way to combat drug dealers.

He said capital punishment delivered a deterrent effect, despite controversies surrounding its implementation.

"From practice in the field, we see that when we shoot at drug dealers they go away," Tito said, referring to the drug war initiated by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Civil societies that focus on human rights have long lambasted the Indonesian government for persistently implementing the death penalty. 

These groups often highlight the country’s judicial system, which is still marred by rampant corruption.

Tito earlier expressed appreciation for the work of his subordinates who succeeded in foiling a plan by four Taiwanese citizens to smuggle one ton of crystal methamphetamine into Greater Jakarta last week.


Tito said he had told police officers “not to hesitate shooting drug dealers who resist arrest.”

Source: The Jakarta Post, July 21, 2017

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Malaysia: Bangladeshi human rights activist briefly detained, deported

Adilur Rahman Khan
Adilur Rahman Khan
KUALA LUMPUR: Bangladeshi human rights activist Adilur Rahman Khan was deported on Thursday night.

In a statement, the Immigration Department confirmed that Adilur had been sent back to Bangladesh via flight MH112 at 8.05pm.

Adilur, the secretary of human rights group Odhikar, was detained at about 4am on Thursday upon arriving at the KL International Airport.

The activist’s name was found to be in the “Not To Land” list, the Department said.

“Another check in the MyImms system found that Adilur’s name had to be referred to an enforcement agency.

“The said enforcement agency then recommended his deportation,” it said.

The Department added that Adilur was treated well by authorities and the airline in charge of his flight.

“The said airline was fully responsible for handling his deportation and his welfare,” it said.

Adilur was scheduled to attend the National Conference on the Death Penalty organised by Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan). 

The conference is being held at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) on Friday and Saturday.

Source: The Star, July 21, 2017


Malaysian authorities detain Adilur Rahman Khan, the Secretary of a leading Bangladeshi human rights organization


The Malaysian authorities at Kuala Lumpur airport detained Adilur Rahman Khan, the Secretary of Odhikar, a leading Bangladeshi human rights organization, this morning as he arrived in the country to speak at a conference on the death penalty.

“There is no justification for detaining him whatsoever. It is an outrage that a human rights activist cannot even travel freely to speak on a key human rights issue,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“We are concerned that this arrest and detention is the latest target in a growing trend to impose travel bans on human rights defenders entering Malaysia.”

Adilur Rahman Khan’s detention is the latest in a series of cases where peaceful activists have been barred from entering the country, including Hong Kong political activist Joshua Wong, Indonesian human rights defender Mugiyanto Sipin and Singaporean political activist Han Hui Hui.

Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, the organizers of the conference, said that Adilur Rahman Khan was the only foreign participant not allowed into the country. Human rights campaigners from Amnesty International are among those in attendance.

Source: Amnesty International, July 20, 2017

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Pakistan: HC halts execution of petitioner who claims hanging "un-Islamic, painful and against human values"

scaffold
PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday suspended execution of death sentence awarded to a prisoner till July 26 and issued notice to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa advocate general in the prisoner’s writ petition seeking directives from the court to the government to introduce a less painful mode of execution instead of hanging to death.

The bench comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor ordered that till next date of hearing, July 26, the death sentence awarded to the prisoner, Jan Bahadur, shall not be implemented.

The bench ordered that the advocate general should appear and argue on the points raised by the petitioner, Jan Bahadur.

The petitioner, imprisoned at Haripur Central Prison, has requested the high court to declare the mode of hanging to death as un-Islamic and unconstitutional as it was painful and against human values.

The petitioner states that section 368 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provides: “When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead.”

He has requested the court to issue directives for ending the execution of death row prisoners through hanging as it is cruel, painful, un-Islamic and inhuman.

He added that the court may issue directive that such mode of execution should be adopted which is not painful.

The petitioner was arrested in connection with a murder case registered at Takhtbhai police station, Mardan, on Oct 22, 1993. He was sentenced to death by an additional district and sessions judge on Apr 7, 2000, at Takhtbhai.

The said judgment was upheld by the high court on Mar 12, 2002, and subsequently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had also upheld the verdict. His review petition and clemency petition were also rejected.

The respondents in the petition are: provincial home secretary, superintendent of Haripur Central Prison, provincial law secretary, secretary to Council of Islamic Ideology, and district and sessions judge, Mardan.

The petitioner’s counsel, Mohammad Khursheed Khan, stated that there are nine modes of carrying out death penalties, which includes: death by hanging; through firing squad; shooting in the head; through lethal injection; beheading; stoning to death; gas chamber; through electric chair; and pushing from height.

He stated that in past in all the states of USA the mode of execution was through hanging. Subsequently, he states, the use of electric chair was devised, which was considered less painful. However, he added that in 1921 the State of Nevada introduced gas chamber for carrying out death penalty.

He contended that in over 30 states in the USA, the mode of execution was now through lethal injection, which is considered more humane and less painful. He stated that through that mode three injections were administered to a death row prisoner- the first injection turns a prisoner unconscious; the second makes his body paralysed and the third one stops his heart function.

He claims that in 28 countries prisoners are executed through firing squad, whereas in 22 countries prisoners are killed by shooting in the head.

He stated that the colonial rulers had introduced death by hanging through the CrPC in 1898 and after creation of Pakistan the same mode was adopted.

Source: Dawn, July 21, 2017


Man hanged to death in Attock jail


ATTOCK:- A death row convict was executed in Central Jail Attock in the early hours of Thursday morning. M Lateef had stabbed to death his relative Abdul Waheed over monetary dispute on March 25, 2004. 

Police have registered a case against the accused over the complaint of the deceased’s uncle Faizur Rehman. 

The court found the accused guilty and had sentenced him death penalty on July 1st, 2004.

Later, the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench and the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court, and his mercy appeals were also rejected.

Source: The Nation, July 21, 2017

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