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

Monday, January 16, 2017

As Shariah Experiment Becomes a Model, Indonesia’s Secular Face Slips

Religious officers lead a youth onstage before a public whipping in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in August 2016
Religious officers lead a youth onstage before a public whipping in Banda Aceh.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Things were hopping at Redinesh Coffee Roastery in this seaside city one recent evening. Electronic dance music blared from the cafe’s speakers as patrons, some in ripped jeans and fashionable spectacles, sat outside drinking locally sourced coffee and smoking cigarettes.

But then the Muslim call to prayer sounded, and a waitress hurriedly ushered everyone back into the cafe. She turned down the music, closed the doors and covered the windows. It was the Maghrib — the second to last of the five daily calls to prayer — and outdoor socializing had to cease.

Aceh Province, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, stands alone in having formally established Shariah law in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country with a relatively secular Constitution. In Aceh, women are required to dress modestly, alcohol is prohibited, and numerous offenses — from adultery to homosexuality to selling alcohol — are punishable by public whipping.

Aceh (pronounced AH-chay) began its experiment with Shariah in 2001, after receiving special authorization from Indonesia’s central government, which was intent on calming separatist sentiment in the deeply conservative region. Now, Shariah police officers roam the province, raiding everything from hotel rooms to beaches in a hunt for immoral activity.

In the decade and a half since, Indonesia as a whole has drifted in a conservative direction, and Aceh, once an outlier, has become a model for other regions of the country seeking to impose their own Shariah-based ordinances, alarming those who worry about the nation’s drift from secularism.

“Whenever Aceh issues a law, saying it’s the highest order of Shariah, it provokes others to do the same thing,” said Andy Yentriani, a former commissioner on Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women, who wants the national government to repeal certain Shariah-based regulations as violations of the Indonesian Constitution.

A recent study found that more than 442 Shariah-based ordinances have been passed throughout the nation since 1999, when Jakarta gave provinces and districts substantial powers to make their own laws. These include regulations concerning female attire, the mixing of the sexes and alcohol.

But for local officials, the spread of Shariah from Aceh is a point of pride, and delegations from areas with a history of embracing conservative Islam regularly visit to see how it has been carried out here.

“They look at how we facilitate an atmosphere of religiosity,” said Syahrizal Abbas, the head of Aceh’s Department of Shariah, who said he gives visiting delegations advice on how to incorporate Shariah teachings into law. Mr. Syahrizal, who is considered a moderate, said that Aceh’s version of Shariah was softer than that of the oft-maligned form in Saudi Arabia, because it welcomed alternative schools of Islamic thought and accepted the role of female leaders.

Indeed, Banda Aceh, the province’s capital, is currently led by Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, the city’s first female mayor. Many activists for women’s rights say they supported her candidacy in hopes that she would be a progressive leader. Instead she has proved to be a zealous, hands-on enforcer of Aceh’s conservative moral code, issuing a nighttime curfew for women and personally dispersing events deemed to contradict Shariah.

Last February, Ms. Illiza, wearing a black head scarf, strode into the hall where Indonesian Model Hunt, a beauty competition, was underway, interrogating cowering models about the event as news cameras rolled.

“Why aren’t you wearing a jilbab?” she asked one, referring to what Indonesians call a head scarf. The Shariah police loaded the competition’s trophies into a bag and escorted models out of the building.

“Shariah right now is about what someone’s wearing,” said Ratna Sari, the head of the Aceh branch of Solidaritas Perempuan, a women’s rights organization, who said she longed for a version of Shariah that tackled political corruption and promoted good public services. “Where are all the Islamic hospitals?”

Shariah was imposed here in 2001 toward the end of Aceh’s decades-long struggle for independence from Jakarta. Scars remain from the war, as well as the aftereffect of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people here in 2004. Today Aceh is one of Indonesia’s poorest provinces, with nearly one in five people believed to be living in poverty.

In February, the Acehnese will go to the polls to select new leaders, but none of the candidates for mayor or governor are willing to challenge the primacy of Shariah law.

Irwan Johan, a vice speaker for the Acehnese Provincial Legislature, said any real debate over Shariah was impossible, even though “a silent majority” thinks the government has gone too far.

Public whipping in Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Public whipping in Banda Aceh, Indonesia
“They’re not brave enough to say anything,” he said about critics of Shariah. “Talk about issues of religion and you could be expelled, or be considered a person who isn’t really Acehnese. Everybody became a hypocrite.”

Debate over the province’s Islamic identity erupted in December when Indonesia unveiled new currency notes featuring a portrait of a female anticolonial fighter from Aceh. A provincial lawmaker protested that the woman, Cut Meutia, was not depicted wearing a head scarf, even though local historians say that Acehnese women of that era did not generally wear them.

“Many say that according to Shariah she must wear a jilbab, but it’s a historical fact that she didn’t wear one,” Mr. Irwan said.

Mr. Irwan remembers a different era in Acehnese history — the 1990s, in his youth, before Aceh gained its special autonomy and instituted Shariah law. “When I was still in high school there were so many discothèques here,” he said. “The discothèques would close at 3 a.m. But at 3 a.m. if we weren’t satisfied yet, we’d go to the beach, and from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. we’d play disco music with no problem.”

Now, he noted, there are no more discothèques in Banda Aceh, and men and women are told to sit apart during concerts.

“Now Aceh is at its most Islamic,” he said. “It used to not be like this.”

Islamist leaders from outside the province are hoping to push things further here. In late December, Rizieq Shihab, a firebrand preacher who leads the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, a national organization that led the campaign to have Jakarta’s Christian governor prosecuted on blasphemy charges, gave a fiery speech before a crowd in Banda Aceh.

“When Islam first came to Indonesia it entered through Aceh, correct?” he asked the crowd. “Correct!” the crowd thundered back.

“Aceh is a model for the entire Indonesian nation,” the preacher continued. “It must become the locomotive for the movement to apply Shariah law throughout Indonesia. Agreed?” he asked the crowd.

“Agreed!” the crowd shouted back.

Source: The New York Times, Jon Emont, January 12, 20127

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Veloso family visits Mary Jane in Indonesian jail on her birthday

Mary Jane Veloso’s family. Photo by Migrante International
Mary Jane Veloso’s family. Photo by Migrante International
With high hopes that their loved one would be freed soon and spared from execution, the family of Filipino drug convict Mary Jane Veloso paid a visit to her last week at the Wirongunan Lembaga prison in Jogjakarta, Indonesia to celebrate her 32nd birthday.

In a statement, Migrante International said Veloso’s parents Cesar and Celia and her two children, Mark Daniel and Mark Darren, flew to Indonesia last Thursday for a four-day visit coordinated by the group, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Philippine Embassy officials. Mark Daniel was only one year old while Mark Darren was three months old when Mary Jane was arrested in 2010.

“It was a happy reunion for Mary Jane and her family who last saw each other in January 2016. The children clung to their mother making up for all the time that they were separated from their mother not wanting the moment to end,” Migrante said.

“Mary Jane cheerfully shared her experiences and skills she learned in prison and will use these in the future to help her family. She professed her innocence from the charges against her, and that in her heart, she has already forgiven her recruiters but fervently wished that the recruiters will admit what they did to her…. She became emotional as the end of the visiting hours came nearer. The visit, cum birthday celebration, was capped by a simple lunch,” it added.

Migrante said Mark Darren rendered a song for her mother, and Mary Jane also delivered a translated version of “Hatiku Perkaya” or “My Heart Believes” and the Philippine National Anthem. The visit ended at around 11:30 a.m. with a closing prayer.

“She (Mary Jane) was asked to read the gospel taken from John 15: 4-7, and gave a brief reflection. She said the message of the gospel reading gave her hope and inspiration. She also led in reciting the Lord ’s Prayer and the Rosary. While she still can converse in Filipino, she is now much fluent in Bahasa,” the group said.

“As she bade goodbye to her family, she wished that she can soon enjoy their company outside the prison walls and without prison guards hovering around them. She longingly told her expectant children that she is praying hard for her to come home by December to celebrate Christmas with them,” Migrante added.

Veloso was spared the firing squad in April 2015 after her alleged trafficker surfaced back home and admitted duping her into smuggling drugs.

In September last year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said President Rodrigo Duterte gave the “go ahead” for Veloso’s execution, during the Philippine leader’s working visit to Jakarta. Duterte said he told Widodo that “we will respect the judgment of your courts,” but added that “it would have been a bad taste in the mouth to be talking about having a strong posture against drugs, and here you are begging for something.”

Source: inquirer.net, Yuji Vincent Gonzales, January 15, 2017

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Nebraska inmate files appeal over state's use of judges to weigh death sentence

John Lotter has joined a fellow death row inmate in lodging a challenge to Nebraska's 3-judge method for determining whether a killer should receive a death sentence.

And a veteran death penalty attorney expects the other eight members of Nebraska's death row to follow suit.

A 3-judge panel made the decision to send Lotter to death row in 1996 for his role in a 1993 triple murder near Humboldt that inspired the film "Boys Don't Cry." The now-45-year-old targeted Teena Brandon for being transgender and reporting a rape to police.

Lotter's attorneys argue that Lotter had a right to have jurors, not judges, weigh his ultimate fate, following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared Florida's scheme unconstitutional.

Lotter argues that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling "renders the Nebraska capital sentencing scheme unconstitutional and void."

The Nebraska Attorney General's Office disagrees - and has filed motions resisting a similar attempt in another death row inmate's appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Florida's capital punishment scheme, noting that defendants didn't have the right to have jurors be the finder of every fact necessary for the death penalty.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's sentencing scheme, Delaware's high court followed suit and threw out that state's scheme.

Attorney Jerry Soucie, who has represented several death row inmates, said Friday that Nebraska's death penalty scheme has been ripe for challenge.

Soucie's reason: Nebraska has jurors weigh only aggravating factors that lead to death and not mitigating circumstances that might weigh in a defendant's favor. And a defendant doesn't have the right to have jurors, rather than judges, make the ultimate determination of death or life.

"It is really a big deal," Soucie said. "This issue has been floating around a long time."

Omaha attorney Alan Stoler filed a similar appeal on behalf of Jeffrey Hessler, convicted in the rape and murder of 15-year-old newspaper carrier Heather Guerrero.

State officials have argued that Nebraska's sentencing scheme allows jury participation and is not identical to the one struck down in Florida.

In Nebraska, a 2nd trial takes place after a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case. The same jury that decided guilt also decides whether aggravating factors exist to justify the defendant's execution.

If the jury finds that aggravating factors were present in the murder, a 3-judge panel is convened to determine whether they outweigh any mitigating factors in the defendant's favor. The 3 judges also must determine if the death sentence is warranted and, if so, whether it is proportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

After making the necessary determinations, the judges impose the sentence.

"The State of Nebraska denies that Nebraska's capital sentencing statutes violated the defendant's ... right to a jury," Assistant Attorney General Doug Warner wrote in a recent filing in the Hessler case.

Lotter's attorneys, Rebecca Woodman and Tim Noerrlinger, wrote that Nebraska's sentencing setup doesn't go far enough in requiring jury determinations.

"Nebraska (law) unconstitutionally permits a judge, rather than a jury, to find facts necessary to impose a sentence of death," they wrote.

Both challenges currently are at the district court level; it could be months before they reach the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Source: Omaha World-Herald, January 14, 2017

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Texas: DNA evidence to be analyzed again in death penalty case appeal

A lawyer for Steven Thomas, who faces the death penalty after being convicted of capital murder in Williamson County, says some of the DNA evidence presented at the trial was false, according to court documents. A district judge approved payments this month for the lawyer to hire a DNA analyst and a fingerprint analyst to review the evidence in Thomas' case, court orders showed.

Thomas was convicted Oct. 31, 2014, in the death of 73-year-old Mildred McKinney, who was beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled at her Williamson County home in 1980. He was 56 when he was convicted. He was arrested in 2012 after DNA he was required to provide for a federal drug charge matched DNA found at the crime scene.

A DNA analyst from the Texas Department of Public Safety testified at Thomas' trial that his sperm was found on a ribbon wrapped around one of McKinney's thumbs. Thomas' fingerprint also was found on a clock at McKinney's home, according to another DPS analyst.

Thomas, who worked for a pesticide service that had been to McKinney's house, appealed his case in January 2015 to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, where it is pending.

As part of the appeal, 1 of Thomas' attorneys, Joanne Heisey, filed requests with Williamson County's 26th District Court in November requesting money to hire a DNA analyst and a latent print examiner. Latent fingerprints - such as the one prosecutors said Thomas left on the clock - aren't visible to the eye but are left behind by oils or perspiration on a finger.

"Mr. Thomas's trial counsel did not seek expert assistance to independently review any of the forensic evidence the State used to convict him," the requests said. "A preliminary review of the DNA evidence presented at Mr. Thomas' trial indicates that at least some of that evidence was false."

Recent research, the requests said, "has called into question the reliability of various forensic methods, including latent fingerprint analysis." The research shows that latent fingerprint analysis has a false positive rate that could be "as high as 1 error in 18 cases," the requests said.

A lawyer who works with Heisey said their office had no comment about the case. Lytza Rojas, a former prosecutor involved in Thomas' trial, didn't return requests for comment last week. Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said Thursday he couldn't comment on pending litigation.

State District Judge Donna King on Jan. 3 approved Heisey's requests to hire a DNA analyst for $5,500 and a fingerprint analyst for $3,000, according to court orders. Under state law, Williamson County will be repaid by the state for the expenses, according to the requests filed by Thomas' lawyer.

Another one of Thomas' lawyers, Ariel Payan, said in his appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals in August that the evidence presented at the trial showed McKinney was killed by more than one person. No evidence at the trial showed Thomas had killed McKinney or helped commit any other crime against her, Payan said.

Evidence at the trial showed that a throat swab taken from McKinney's autopsy showed male DNA that didn't belong to Thomas and also ruled out other suspects in the case, including serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and his partner Ottis Toole. The ribbon wrapped around one of McKinney's thumbs not only had DNA on it from Thomas but also from an unknown man, according to a DNA analyst who testified at the trial.

Source: Austin American-Statesman, January 15, 2017

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Ohio seeks drug reversing lethal injection process if needed

Flumazenil
Ohio's prisons agency is trying to obtain a drug that could reverse the lethal injection process if needed by stopping the effects of another drug previously used in problematic executions.

The request to use the drug would come if executioners weren't confident the 1st of 3 lethal drugs would render a prisoner unconscious, Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in federal court testimony Jan. 6.

Mohr said he would inform Republican Gov. John Kasich and ask for a reprieve at that point.

"Governor, I am not confident that we, in fact, can achieve a successful execution. I want to reverse the effects of this," Mohr testified, describing the language he would use in such a circumstance.

Mohr testified that Ohio planned to order the drug, flumazenil, but didn't currently have it.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith declined to comment Thursday on Mohr's testimony, a copy of which was reviewed by The Associated Press.

Flumazenil is used to reverse the effects of a sedative called midazolam when that drug causes bad reactions in patients.

Midazolam is the 1st drug in Ohio's new three-drug execution method. Magistrate Judge Michael Merz is weighing a challenge to this method's constitutionality, following a weeklong hearing.

Ohio plans to put child killer Ronald Phillips to death next month with midazolam and 2 other drugs.

On Friday, the state acknowledged it has enough drugs for a fourth execution this year, in May, while staying tight-lipped about its supply beyond that.

On Monday, the AP reported that documents show Ohio has obtained enough lethal drugs to carry out dozens of executions. Merz then ordered the state to provide "a statement of its intentions" when it came to drugs used in future executions.

State attorneys said in a Friday court filing that the news report of multiple executions didn't take into account expiration dates of the drugs, which the state wouldn't previously disclose.

The AP requested those expiration dates Friday.

The state also said without explanation that the prison system's "contingency planning" needed to be taken into consideration when looking at execution numbers.

On Oct. 3, state lawyers told Merz that Ohio planned to execute Phillips and death row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte this year.

"The state regrets if this response left the Court with the impression that such efforts had only resulted in a supply of drugs sufficient to proceed with the executions of Inmates Phillips, Tibbetts, and Otte," state attorneys said Friday.

Messages were left with attorneys representing Phillips.

Ohio appears to be the 1st state using midazolam as a lethal drug to seek a reversal drug for it, according to experts at the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, Berkeley Law School's Death Penalty Clinic and Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization that tracks capital punishment issues.

Florida and Oklahoma have used midazolam as the 1st in a 3-drug protocol. Alabama and Virginia have proposed it as part of a 3-drug protocol.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution since the state resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.

The state used a 2-drug method with McGuire, starting with midazolam, its 1st use for executions in the country.

Attorneys challenging the method say midazolam is unlikely to relieve an inmate's pain. The drug, which is meant to sedate inmates, also was used in a problematic 2014 execution in Arizona. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in an Oklahoma case.

The state says the 3-drug method is similar to its past execution process, which survived court challenges. State attorneys also say the Supreme Court ruling last year makes clear the use of midazolam is allowable.

Columbus surgeon Jonathan Groner, a lethal injection expert, said past problems with Ohio executions have come about because executioners didn't properly connect the IVs.

"A reversal drug will not help with that problem and could make it worse - if the IV is not in the vein, giving more drugs may cause more pain," Groner said.

Source: Associated Press, January 15, 2017

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Pakistani Senate group to debate how to prevent misuse of blasphemy laws

The Quran
'The committee would debate whether life imprisonment is an adequate
punishment instead of the mandatory death penalty.'
A Pakistani Senate committee is set to debate how to prevent the country's blasphemy laws being applied unfairly, despite opposition from religious conservatives who support legislation that carries a mandatory death penalty for insulting Islam. 

Senator Farhatullah Babar told Reuters that the Senate Committee on Human Rights, of which he is a member, will start discussions on blasphemy laws as early as next week, based on recommendations from a 24-year-old report. He said it would be the 1st time in decades that any parliamentary body had considered a formal proposal to stop the abuse of the blasphemy laws.

According to Babar, the committee would consider a proposal making it binding to investigate complaints before registering a case, to ensure "genuine blasphemy" had been committed and the law was not being used to settle scores, as critics say it is. He also said the committee would debate whether life imprisonment was an adequate punishment [Are you serious? - DPN], instead of the mandatory death penalty.

Many conservatives in Pakistan consider even criticizing the laws as blasphemy, and in 2011 Governor Salman Taseer of Punjab Province, was assassinated by his bodyguard after calling for reform of the laws. His killer, Mumtaz Qadri ,was hailed as a hero by religious hardliners, and tens of thousands of supporters attended his funeral after he was executed last year. A shrine has been built over his grave.

A Christian woman, Asia Bibi, is in jail for 7 years on charges of blasphemy. She was sentenced to hang in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with Muslim women which began over a cup of water. She denies the charge. 

Pakistan's Supreme Court adjourned her death row appeal on October 13 last year, after 1 of the 3 judges recused himself from the case.

Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Muslim politician Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province, were both assassinated in 2011 for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws. 

Hundreds of Pakistanis are on death row for blasphemy convictions, and at least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from the Center for Research and Security Studies based in the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan's religious and political elites almost universally steer clear of speaking against blasphemy laws, but a small group of lawmakers has been looking for ways to reduce abuses. However, powerful religious conservatives who have millions of followers strongly support the laws. 

Last week, Pakistani police arrested 150 hardline activists rallying in support of the blasphemy laws on the anniversary of the assassination of Taseer. Police have also resisted a demand by hardliners to register a blasphemy case against Shaan Taseer, the slain governor's son, over a Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under the "inhumane" legislation.

Source: Vatican Radio, January 15, 2017

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India: President converts 4 tribals' death sentences to life terms

President Pranab Mukherjee
President Pranab Mukherjee
President Pranab Mukherjee has disposed of all mercy petitions of death penalties pending before him till date.

The latest was the case of Bara massacre accused of Gaya district, where 32 Bhumihar Brahmins were killed by the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), a banned outfit.

In 2001, Krishna Mochi along with 3 others, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Sing, alias Dharu Sing, were awarded capital punishments by a sessions court in connection with the massacre.

They were tried under the provisions of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty by a majority of 2:1 in a 3-judge Bench. Justice M B Shah differed from the view of the majority. He acquitted Sing and commuted the death sentences of the 3 others to life.

All the 4 convicts have been lodged at Bhagalpur Central Jail. Their mercy petitions were dispatched from the jail on March 2, 2003. Since then, it was pending with the Union Home Ministry. Only in the month of August last year, the Home Ministry sent the mercy petition to President Mukherjee for his consideration.

The President sought legal opinion on the matter because of a recent landmark judgment of the Apex Court which overturned an earlier judgment and drew a distinction between murders related to terrorism and other kinds of murders.

After considering the merit of the case carefully, the President endorsed the view of the dissenting judge except for the acquittal of the accused. In the month of January this year, the President reduced the death sentences of those convicts to life imprisonment. This was the last mercy petition pending before him. During his tenure, President Mukherjee has accepted 4 mercy petitions and rejected 28.

Among them were high profile cases including dreaded Pakistan terrorists Ajmal Kasab, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and Afzal Guru of Jammu and Kashmir which drew international interest and was debated widely.

Source: milleniumpost.in, January 15, 2017

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China to formulate judicial exclusionary rule of illegal evidence

Nie Shubin
Nie Shubin
China will formulate and issue a judicial interpretation on the throwing out of illegally-obtained evidence.

At a meeting attended by the heads of higher people's courts nationwide on Saturday, courts were asked to implement policies regarding the death penalty.

They were told to learn from the case of Nie Shubin, an innocent man who was wrongfully executed over 20 years ago.

Stricter punishments will be given to crimes of murder, robbery, kidnapping, women trafficking and telecom fraud, according to the meeting.

Violations in the securities market will also be handled according to law, and more should be done to educate minors involved in school bullying, it was stressed at the meeting.

The courts were also called to intensify the analysis and study of the root causes of corruption and loopholes in the supervision system to improve anti-corruption systems.

Chinese courts at all levels received over 23 million cases in 2016 and concluded the trial or enforcement of about 19.8 million cases, statistics revealed at the meeting showed.

Source: ecns.cn, January 15, 2017

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Iran: 26 hanged, among them 2 women

Iran: A medieval theocracy, barbaric punishments
Iran: A medieval theocracy, barbaric punishments
Iran Human Rights (JAN 15 2017): In the last few days, at least 26 people, including two women, were reportedly executed in various Iranian prisons.

14 PRISONERS EXECUTED


According to close sources, at least 14 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Karaj Central Prison on Saturday January 14 on drug related charges. Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of ten of these prisoners: Mohammad Soleimani, Ali Ebadi, Ali Reza Moradi, Majid Badarloo, Omid Garshasebi, Ali Yousefi, Seyed Ali Sorouri, Ebrahim Jafari, Ali Mohammad Lorestani, and Mohsen Jelokhani.

12 of these prisoners were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement on the morning of Sunday January 8 in preparation for their executions. In a recent joint statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on Iranian authorities to halt these executions. Iran Human Rights had also released a statement calling on the Iranian authorities to halt these executions.

According to a family member of one of the executed prisoners, two women were among these prisoners. They were reportedly transferred from Gharchak Prison to Karaj Central Prison for execution. The names of the two women are not known at this time.

AT LEAST 5 PRISONERS EXECUTED


At least five prisoners were reportedly executed at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison on Saturday January 14. According to close sources, these prisoners were sentenced to death on murder and Moharebeh (enmity against God) charges. Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of four of these prisoners: Siamak Shafiee, Abouzar Alijani, Saeed Teymouri, and Reza Naghizadeh.

ONE PRISONER EXECUTED


On Thursday January 12, a prisoner was reportedly hanged at Hamedan Central Prison on drug related charges. Iran Human Rights has identified the prisoner as 37-year-old Babak Asghari.

"Babak was arrested in July 2011 and was sentenced to death in May 2013 for possession and trafficking of four kilograms of crystal meth and three kilograms of hash," a confirmed source tells Iran Human Rights.

AT LEAST THREE PRISONERS EXECUTED


According to the human rights news agency, HRANA, at least three prisoners were hanged at Qazvin's central prison on Thursday January 12. HRANA has identified one of the prisoners as Akbar Kabiri, sentenced to death on drug related charges. The names and charges of the two other prisoners are not known at this time.

TWO PRISONERS EXECUTED


According to a report by Iranian state-run media, IRIB, two prisoners were hanged at Rasht's central prison on Saturday January 14 on drug related charges. The report does not identify the names of the prisoners, but mentions other details about them. One of the prisoners was identified as 31 years old, charged with trafficking two kilograms of crystal meth. The other prisoner was reportedly charged with trafficking one kilogram and 766 grams of crystal meth.

ONE PRISONER EXECUTED


According to the Iranian state-run media, Rokna, a prisoner was hanged at a prison in the city of Sari on Wednesday January 12 on murder charges. The report does not identify the name of the prisoner, but cites the age of the prisoner as 21 years.

Source: Iran Human Rights, January 15, 2017

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Three executed in Bahrain

Three men were executed by firing squad in Bahrain this morning (15th) according to the Attorney General.

The three men executed were Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42).

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of international human rights group Reprieve, said:

"It is nothing short of an outrage - and a disgraceful breach of international law - that Bahrain has gone ahead with these executions. The death sentences handed to Ali, Sami and Abbas were based on 'confessions' extracted through torture, and the trial an utter sham.

"It would be shameful if the UK continued to support Bahrain's security apparatus and Ministry of Interior in the face of such terrible abuses. The British Government must urgently review its close relations with the Kingdom, and make clear that it condemns these appalling crimes."

"The execution of these torture victims was made possible by various actors in Bahrain's criminal justice system, and the UK is providing assistance to all of them. In the last four years, the UK government has paid more than 5 million pounds to train Bahraini police officers, prosecutors, judges, prison guards in the death row prison where these men were held, and a supposedly 'independent' torture watchdog which declared one of these men was lying about his torture allegations without ever conducting a medical examination.”

The three men are the first people executed in Bahrain since 2010, and the first Bahrainis executed since 1996.

The execution came less than a week after Bahrain's highest court upheld their death sentence on Monday 9 January 2017.

There are now concerns about two other men on Bahrain's death row who are also at imminent risk of execution, Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa. Both say they were tortured into providing false confessions at the same police station as the three men who were executed today.

Torture


The executions went ahead despite serious concerns that their convictions were based on evidence obtained under torture.

A UN Special Rapporteur, Dr Agnes Callamard, has called them “extrajudicial killings”.

During his police interrogation, Mr Mushaima was beaten, electrocuted and sexually assaulted. Although he was illiterate, he was forced to sign a document that he could not read.

Mr al-Samea, a school teacher, was also tortured during his interrogation, including electric shocks to his genitals and suspending him from the ceiling. He was sentenced to death even though his school provided an alibi letter.

The third man, Ali al-Singace, was just a teenager when he was convicted in absentia. His mother says he was also tortured into making a false confession after police arrested him.

Their families were summoned to Bahrain's Jau prison on Saturday for their final visit, although jail authorities refused to tell them that this was what was happening. They describe being surrounded by over 50 police officers and heightened security procedures at Jau.

UK complicity


The UK Foreign Office has spent over £5 million in aid money on reforming Bahrain's human rights record since protests swept the Gulf kingdom in 2011.

However, Reprieve has evidence that this aid program failed to protect the three men from torture and execution, and actually contributed to their abuse.

Documents obtained by Reprieve, and reported in the Observer today, reveal that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons helped plan inspections of custody facilities in Bahrain, including the CID station where all three men were tortured (both before and after the inspection.) The six-page inspection report failed to mention their allegations of torture.

Bahrain's police has received repeated training from the UK's College of Policing, which refuses to publish full details about its work.

Hundreds of prison guards at the death row jail where the executed men were detained have been trained by a Stormont-owned body, Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO).

NI-CO also trained two oversight institutions in Bahrain, an Ombudsman and a Special Investigations Unit, which rejected Mr al-Samea's torture complaint without conducting a proper investigation.

➤ Reprieve’s research into UK support for Bahrain is available here, while further detail about the cases is available on request.

➤ A pre-recorded video interview of Ali al-Singace's mother is available on request

Source: Reprieve, January 15, 2017


Boris Johnson's Bahrain response 'woefully inadequate' - Reprieve


International human rights organization Reprieve has criticised the response of the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to Bahrain's execution this morning of three men . 

The three men, Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42), were executed by firing squad after being convicted on the basis of forced 'confessions'. 

A statement from the Foreign Secretary did not confirm whether the Government took steps to prevent the executions. The statement also did not address concerns, raised by Reprieve, over the risk of UK complicity in the executions and other abuses such as torture. 

Mr Johnson said: "The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty, and it is our longstanding position to oppose capital sentences in all circumstances. The Bahraini authorities are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini Government."

The UK Foreign Office has spent over £5 million in aid money on reforming Bahrain's human rights record since protests swept the Gulf kingdom in 2011. Reprieve has gathered information that suggests the assistance programme failed to protect the three men from torture.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of international human rights group Reprieve, said:

"The UK is one of Bahrain's biggest backers - last year Boris Johnson's Department oversaw £2m of support to the Kingdom's prisons and wider criminal justice system. Unfortunately, the Bahraini bodies trained by the UK repeatedly failed to properly investigate appalling torture allegations lodged by the men who were executed today. Given this fact - and the grave miscarriages of justice that have taken place today - the Foreign Secretary's statement is woefully inadequate. It fails even to confirm whether HMG had opposed the imminent executions during recent high level meetings with Bahraini officials.

"The Government should immediately suspend its involvement with Bahrain's criminal justice system and Ministry of Interior, and make clear to the Kingdom's leaders that the UK unequivocally condemns its actions."

Source: Reprieve, January 15, 2017


Bahrain executes three Shia men in first death sentences since 2010


(Left to right) Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace and Abbas al-Samea were killed by firing squad
(Left to right) Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace and Abbas al-Samea
UK urged to loosen ties with Gulf nation as protesters claim confession was extracted under torture and men’s trial was sham

Britain is facing calls to loosen its ties with Bahrain after three Shia Muslim men convicted of killing an Emirati police officer and two Bahraini police officers in a 2014 bomb attack were executed.

The death sentences on Sunday were the first to be carried out in Bahrain since 2010, and protesters claimed that confessions were extracted under torture.

There were street protests in Bahrain following the executions, the first of Bahrainis since 1996, and it remains to be seen how the UK Foreign Office reacts. Britain opposes the death penalty and says it has been working to improve Bahrain’s human rights record.

Maya Foa, the director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “It is nothing short of an outrage and a disgraceful breach of international law that Bahrain has gone ahead with these executions. The confessions were extracted through torture and the trial was an utter sham.

The executions came less than a week after the country’s highest court confirmed the punishment against Abbas al-Samea, 27, Sami Mushaima, 42, and Ali al-Singace, 21. The court found there was “no evidence of coercion in the case documents”.

The three men had been charged with “organising, running and financing a terrorist group [al-Ashtar Brigade] with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks”. They were also accused of “possession and planting of explosives with the intention to kill”.

Mushaima is said to be largely illiterate, while Samea was arrested three hours after the bombing incident. It is also claimed by their supporters that Samea was subjected to beatings, electric shocks, and deprivation of food and water.

State news agency BNA said the men were executed by firing squad in the presence of a judge, a doctor and a Muslim cleric. When their families went to see the men for the last time, they were subjected to police intimidation, it is claimed.

The Arab spring demonstrations led by Bahrain’s Shia majority were crushed by the Sunni-ruled government with help from its Gulf Arab neighbours in February 2011.

In the past year, Bahrain has instituted a crackdown on Shias – imprisoning the most senior rights campaigner, closing the main opposition group, al-Wefaq, and revoking the citizenship of the community’s spiritual leader.

Over the past four years, the UK has spent millions training Bahraini police and helping with the independent police ombudsman. The UK insists it is working to improve the judicial and police system, but critics say the money has turned largely into a front so Britain can expand a naval base in Bahrain largely funded by Manama.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, issued a statement on Sunday, which said: “The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty and it is our longstanding position to oppose capital sentences in all circumstances. The Bahraini authorities are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini government.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy called on Britain to institute a complete arms ban until human rights changes have been implemented. He said Bahrain was becoming a security threat to the region.

Source: The Guardian, Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor, January 15, 2017

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bahrainis protest over fears for three convicts on death row

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the Bahraini capital Manama on Saturday over reports on social media that the authorities may be preparing to execute three Shi'ite men convicted of a deadly 2014 bomb attack.

Executions are rare in Bahrain, a Western allied kingdom tucked between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The authorities have been cracking down on dissent mainly by the Shi'ite majority complaining of discrimination by the island's Sunni rulers. The last execution was carried out in 2008.

Calls for the protests were issued on social media after the families of the three young men - Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Singace - said they had been summoned to visit their loved ones at Jau prison.

The men, who were convicted in 2015 of a bomb attack that killed three police officers - two Bahrainis and an Emirati - had maintained their innocence and rights groups have said confessions were obtained under torture. Bahrain denies using torture.

Prison authorities did not explain the reason for the summons to the families but gave them a telephone number to collect their sons' personal belongings, according to social media reports.

News of the possible impending executions prompted calls on social media for protests, drawing hundreds of people onto the streets. Bahraini security forces were seen deploying around areas of tension, including Duraz village, where the spiritual leader of Bahrain's Shi'ites has been confined since authorities revoked his citizenship last year.

Footage on social media showed hundreds of men and women marching with placards denouncing the death sentences imposed on the three men.

"No, No to Executions," one poster carried by demonstrators in Duraz read, above pictures of the three men.

There were no reports of clashes between demonstrators and security forces, who were deployed in armored vehicles outside the village, according to social media.

Social media messages said similar protests took place in other Shi'ite villages across Bahrain.

Bahrain launched a crackdown on dissidents in June last year, closing down the main Shi'ite Muslim group, al-Wefaq. It has also more than doubled a prison sentence imposed on the head of al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, revoked the citizenship of the Shi'ite majority's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Isa Qassim, and arrested prominent activist Nabeel Rajab.

Bahrain denies any discrimination against Shi'ites and accuses Iran of fanning unrest in the kingdom, a charge Tehran says is not true.

Source: Reuters, Sami Aboudi, January 14, 2017

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Urgent Action: 4th Death Sentence Issued in Belarus Before New Year

 Kiryl Kazachok
Kiryl Kazachok
Kiryl Kazachok was sentenced to death by the Gomel Regional Court, in southeast Belarus, on 28 December 2016. His was the 4th death sentence to be issued in Belarus in 2016.

Kiryl Kazachok was sentenced to death by the Gomel Regional Court, in southeast Belarus, on 28 December. He was found guilty of killing his two children on 31 January 2016. He called the police following the incident, before trying to kill himself.

His lawyer will appeal the death sentence. If the sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court, Kiryl Kazachok will appeal directly to the President for clemency. It is highly probable that the sentence will be upheld and his clemency denied, leaving him at risk of execution shortly afterwards.

No warning is given of the date or time of execution and no final meeting with relatives is granted. Death row inmates are executed with a shot to the back of the head. In accordance with Belarusian law, their bodies are not returned to their families for burial, nor is the location of the burial site disclosed.

Belarus is the only country in Europe and Central Asia which continues to use the death penalty.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. It violates the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

TAKE ACTION


Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

-- Urging President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to commute the death sentence of Kiryl Kazachok and all those on death row in Belarus;

-- Calling on the President to establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

-- Stress that whilst we are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime, research shows that the death penalty does not deter crime more than other forms of imprisonment and is the ultimate denial of human rights.

Contact these 2 officials by 24 February, 2017:

President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Vul. Karla Marksa 38
220016 Minsk, Belarus
Fax: +375 17 226 06 10
+375 17 222 38 72
Email: contact@president.gov.by
Salutation: Dear President Lukashenka

Chargé d'Affaires
Mr. Pavel Shidlovsky
Embassy of Belarus
1619 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington DC 20009
Fax: 1 202 986 1805
Phone: 1 202 986 1606 -OR- 1 202 986 9420
Email: usa@mfa.gov.by
Salutation: Dear Mr. Shidlovsky

Source: Amnesty International USA, January 14, 2017


Belarus: Yet Another Death Sentence


“Yet, another death sentence was handed down this week in Belarus, to Mr Kiryl Kazachok. This sentence, which follows the execution of four persons earlier this year, goes against the commitments made by Belarusian authorities to consider the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty”, – says spokesperson statement on the European External Action Service (EEAS), reacting on the sentencing of Kazachok, convicted for murder of his own children Kira (9) and Vlad (17). After committing the crime, Kazachok went to his former spouse and confessed to her. According to the prosecution the double murder was meant as a revenge to the mother of the children, who intended to divorce Kazachok.

“The European Union opposes capital punishment in all cases. It fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity. We call on Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition” – continues the text of the EEAS statement.

“Steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights, including on the death penalty, will remain key for the shaping of the EU’s future policy towards”.

Today Belarus remains the only European country with the capital punishment. During the last 20 years around 400 convicts were executed, and only one of them received the clemency of the President. According to Belarus authorities the number of citizens favorable to abolish death penalty has increased, however they are far from being a majority.

Source: Brussels Diplomatic, December 29, 2917


E.U. reacts to new death sentence in Belarus


Statement by the Spokesperson on a death sentence in Belarus

Yet another death sentence was handed down this week in Belarus, to Mr Kiryl Kazachok.

This sentence, which follows the execution of four persons earlier this year, goes against the commitments made by Belarusian authorities to consider the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty.

The European Union opposes capital punishment in all cases. It fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity. We call on Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition.

Steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights, including on the death penalty, will remain key for the shaping of the EU's future policy towards Belarus.

Source: European Union, External Action, December 29, 2016

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