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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Yemeni authorities 'ignored pleas' to save Ahmed Saleh Abdullah al-Ma'ouri from execution

Yemeni policemen prepare Yahia al-Raghwa,
22,  for his execution outside the central
prison in Sanaa on July 6, 2009.
Yemeni authorities 'ignored pleas' to save prisoner from execution; Death sentences in Yemen are often passed after proceedings that fall short of fair trial standards

Authorities in Yemen "played deaf" to last-ditch calls to save a prisoner who was executed on Wednesday, Amnesty International has said.

Ahmed Saleh Abdullah al-Ma'ouri was shot despite repeated appeals by Amnesty International and after being pardoned by members of the victims' family - normally grounds for a reprieve under Yemeni law.

"We are dismayed that Yemeni authorities went ahead with this execution despite appeals to prevent it happening," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Until Ahmed's last moments, we were appealing for the execution to at least be delayed, but the authorities played deaf to pleas to save his life."

Amnesty International called for the execution to be halted on Monday, before learning on Wednesday from Ahmed's fellow prisoners that it was still due to go ahead.

In response to renewed calls for a reprieve, the head of the General Prison in al-Baydha told Amnesty International that a request had been submitted to the public prosecution for a postponement but that it had not responded.

An emotional Ahmed called Amnesty International on his way to the prison yard in what may have been his last phone call.

On being told Amnesty International had not been able to reach the public prosecution about his case this morning, he said officials had told him they would not consider appeals without receiving orders from the authorities.

A representative from the public prosecution was present, but refused to speak to Amnesty International when Ahmed tried to hand him the phone.

Ahmed, who had served around 10 years in prison, was executed by shooting at around midday Yemeni time (09:00 GMT).

"It appears that the authorities ignored all pleas to save Ahmed from execution, for reasons which are unclear," said Philip Luther.

"His case now becomes another statistic exposing Yemen's use of this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. We once again appeal to the Yemeni authorities to impose a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."

Ahmed Saleh Abdullah al-Ma'ouri was 1st sentenced to death for the murder of his wife and son in 2003.

Some family members pardoned him and he was subsequently granted a pardon by then President Ali Abdullah Saleh in January 2006, but he was tried and sentenced to death again in September 2006 after other relatives of the victims lodged a fresh complaint.

Ahmed was pardoned for a 2nd time by the then President in 2010 on the basis that a pardon had been granted by the victims' family, but the presidential pardon was later withdrawn for reasons not known to Amnesty International.

Amnesty International has long-standing concerns about the use of the death penalty in Yemen, particularly as death sentences are often passed after proceedings which fall short of fair trial standards.

In 2012, dozens were executed. In 2011, at least 41 people were executed and in 2010, at least 62. Hundreds of people are believed to be under sentence of death.

Source: Amnesty International, February 13, 2013

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