Friday, August 29, 2014

Japan: Two Death Row Inmates Hanged; 10th and 11th Executions Since Abe Took Office

Death Chamber at Tokyo's Detention Center
TOKYO — Japan executed a mobster and a killer arsonist on Friday, bringing to 11 the total number of death sentences carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012.

The executions came days before Abe is expected to reshuffle his cabinet amid speculation that he will appoint a new justice minister, whose approval is needed for any sentence to be carried out.

“I ordered the executions after careful consideration,” Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters.

The executed men were both multiple killers.

Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, a gang boss in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza grouping, was convicted of shooting three people dead between 2001 and 2005, the justice ministry said.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, a 56-year-old former taxi driver, was convicted of killing five people and seriously injuring four others in 2001 by setting fire to a consumer loan office, in Aomori, northern Japan.

Surveys have shown the death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

The government did not execute anyone in 2011, the first full year in nearly two decades without an execution amid muted debate on the rights and wrongs of the practice.

But in March 2012 it abruptly resumed its use of capital punishment, dispatching three multiple murderers.

International advocacy groups say Japan’s system is cruel because inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.

There have been a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice exposed in recent years, including the case of Iwao Hakamada, who was released from jail in March, aged 78, after decades on death row for a multiple murder he did not commit.

Hakamada, who was believed to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate, was the victim of a flawed investigation in which evidence was fabricated.

Japan now has 125 inmates on death row, according to local media.

Source: Agence France-Presse, August 29, 2014

Egypt: 2 Morsi supporters get death penalty, 43 others life in jail

Sentences from Minya court relate to violence that broke out last August, as part of nationwide unrest after Mohamed Morsi's ouster

An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced two supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to death and 43 others - including a minor - to jail terms from 1 year to life, in several cases relating to violence after Morsi's removal last summer, state-run news agency MENA said.

The Minya court - in Upper Egypt - also acquitted 28 others.

The sessions included a retrial for 23 defendants who were tried in absentia and sentenced to death and life in jail. Defendants in the case in Matay, Minya governorate, faced charges of attacking policemen and torching a police station.

The court also issued verdicts in 6 other cases, all in connection to retribution violence that broke out after the forceful dispersal of two main sit-ins held by Morsi supporters in Cairo and which left hundreds dead.

The same court previously sentenced 529 to death - later upholding the penalty for 37 defendants - and sentenced 492 others to life in prison. One month later, it sentenced 683 defendants to death, later confirming 183 of them.

Since Morsi's ouster, a security crackdown on his supporters has left hundreds killed and tens of thousands detained or facing trials, including the Muslim Brotherhood's top leadership.

The mass trials were criticised by local and international rights groups for hasty procedures.

Source: Ahram Online, August 29, 2014

Bali Nine clemency bids still 'in process'

The Bali Nine
Indonesia's president will not intervene in the case of two Australian men on death row, and his office says improved relations between Canberra and Jakarta will have no bearing on their fate.

A decision on Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, members of the so-called Bali Nine, has been in the hands of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for about two years.

There are hopes the president, who has given special focus to Indonesia's relationship with Australia, might grant clemency before he leaves office on October 20.

The signing of a new intelligence pact with Australia, which took place in Bali on Thursday, was seen as Dr Yudhoyono ensuring ties with Australia are in good shape before he departs.

But his spokesman on foreign affairs, Teuku Faizasyah, says the bilateral relationship is separate from the cases of the condemned Australians.

"It has nothing to do with bilateral relations," he told AAP on Friday.

"We respect the rule of law, and the executive cannot intervene in the judicial process, as similar to what happens in Australia."

Earlier in August, the governor of Kerobokan jail, where Chan and Sukumaran are incarcerated, revealed he had recommended all Bali Nine members have their sentences amended.

He said Chan and Sukumaran should serve life in prison, rather than receive the death penalty, and the others serving life should have lesser sentences.

The governor's advice will be handed to ministers who advise the president, but it's not known if Dr Yudhoyono will make a decision before he leaves office or whether it will fall to his successor, Joko Widodo.

An Amnesty International campaign for the woman, who is accused of killing her employer, has significant support within Indonesia.

Mr Faizasyah says the president understands why countries would seek clemency for citizens abroad.

"I remind you that the issue of drug smuggling, engaging in drugs, is a serious crime in Indonesia," he said.

"There are many factors that he must consider ... I cannot prejudge the outcome.

"But he fully understands that any government would try to seek clemency for their citizens."

The nine are serving their time in different jails in Bali and Java.

Renae Lawrence received the lightest sentence, 20 years, for her part in the foiled 2005 heroin-smuggling plot, and has won several reductions for good behaviour.

Source: AAP, August 29, 2014

Iran: Man hanged in public in Sarab; man pardoned in 1996 due for execution again

A man, identified only with his first name Daryoush, was hanged in prison in the western city of Sarab (East Azarbaijan province) on Wednesday, 27 August 2014.

The death sentence was implemented after head of the Judiciary, representing the Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, authorised it. 

The prisoner was accused of being the main culprit in killing a young man in a fight. His brother, Akbar, was convicted as his accomplice, but his sentence was not reported.

Source: Agencies, August 29, 2014

Iran: Man pardoned in 1996 due for execution again

A man identified only with his first name Niaz-Ali is facing the death penalty. He has been detained three weeks ago and sentenced to death for the second time. 

After being convicted for killing his business partner in 1992, he was sentenced to death and hanged in March 1996. The medics confirmed his death after 20 minutes of hanging, but he was found to be alive on the way to the Coroner's Office. 

The victim's parents withdrew their complaint after receiving financial compensation known as 'blood money,' and he was released from prison. 

The victim's son, who was two years old at the time, recently filed a new complaint and demanded a large amount of money (approximately US$120,000) as blood money. 

The execution is imminent upon the head of the Judiciary's authorisation. 

Source: Agencies, August 29, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amnesty International calls on Yudhoyono to save Indonesian national from death row

Global rights organization Amnesty International (AI) is urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to postpone the execution of Siti Zainab binti Duhri Rupa, an Indonesian migrant worker on death row.

AI said it had sent a letter to Yudhoyono to convey its response to information that Siti Zainab would be executed. Siti Zainab was sentenced to death for allegedly killing her employer in Saudi Arabia in 1999.

The organization said in its statement that it did not aim to ask for clemency for Siti Zainab’s alleged crime. “However, we also want to convey that we oppose death punishment regardless of the situation,” it said as quoted by

In its letter to President Yudhoyono, AI said it was the right and responsibility of a government in a country to bring an alleged criminal perpetrator to justice.

AI further said, however, that it opposed the death penalty, which it considered the most extreme form of torture. The death sentence also violated the right to live, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, two international conventions that Indonesia had ratified, AI said.

“We hope that Mr President can call on the Saudi Arabian Kingdom authorities to change the sentence that has been imposed on her,” said the letter.

Siti Zainal is a migrant worker from Jl. Pasarean KH.M.Cholil in Martajasah village, Bangkalan, Madura, East Java. She departed for Saudi Arabia in 1997.

Source: The Jakarta Post, August 27, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oklahoma: Lawsuit Filed To Allow Media To Witness Entire Executions

Oklahoma Corrections officials are being sued for violating the constitution in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

2 newspapers, the Oklahoma Observer and The Guardian U.S., filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court today, naming the DOC Director Robert Patton and the warden of the state penitentiary, Anita Trammell, as defendants.

The suit alleges, in the execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014, the plaintiffs - and the news media as a whole - were prevented from witnessing the entire process, as is provided for in both the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.

Specifically, the suit points to the fact that the shade between the viewing room and the execution chamber was not opened until 6:23 p.m., more than an hour after Lockett had been brought into the chamber. According to the post-incident report provided by the Department of Corrections, it was during that period that a phlebotomist struggled to insert the IV that would deliver the lethal drugs to Lockett.

"By preventing witnesses from gaining access to the lethal injection proceeding until after the condemned has been fully prepared for the provision of lethal drugs," the plaintiffs stated in the filing, "Defendants obstructed Plaintiffs' access to the execution and prohibited them from meaningfully reporting on the entire execution."

Further, the lawsuit notes that the shade was then drawn at 6:39, minutes after Lockett began showing signs of distress, without any public explanation. It was only later, at a news briefing, that DOC officials announced that Lockett had died at 7:06.

"[T]he state foreclosed access at the most critical juncture of the execution proceeding," attorneys stated in the lawsuit, "when it became apparent that the lethal injection proceeding diverged from the standard protocol."

An official with the ACLU of Oklahoma, which filed the lawsuit, says this violation goes to the heart of our belief that government is by the people and for the people.

"Regardless of where Oklahomans stand on the death penalty," said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of ACLU Oklahoma, "I think we can all agree when the government is exercising its ultimate power - which is the intentional taking of a life - that that should not be done in secret."

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration requiring the state make it clear in its execution protocol that the shade is to be opened as soon as the condemned is brought into the execution chamber, and not closed until there is either a declaration of death, or the execution is stayed.

And they want to get this before the next execution, which is scheduled for November 13.

The state has 20 days to respond.

Source:, August 26, 2014

Iran: 5 hanged including a citizen of Pakistan

5 men were hanged on Tuesday (August 26) in the main prison in city of Bandar-Abbas, southern Iran. 

1 of the prisoners is a Pakistani citizen who had been arrested in Iran for drug related offence.

On Monday, the authorities in Bandar Abbas prison had transferred the 5 men to solitary confinement to await their execution.

The prisoners were identified as: Edris Hassan Zadeh,35, Sajad Rezapour, 25, Mansour Hetdari, 33, Mohammad Balouch, 55, and Mehdi Hashemi.

Since Hassan Rouhani has assumed office as the president of the Iranian regime, there has been a rise in human rights violations in Iran. Some 800 have been executed in Iran during the past year in Iran, including many in public.

Source: NCR-Iran, August 27, 2014

Japanese Lawmaker On Trial In China For Drug Trafficking, Faces Death Penalty

Takuma Sakuragi, a 70-year-old Japanese politician, today went on trial for trafficking 3.3 kg of the drug methamphetamine. Sakuragi was arrested last year in the city of Guangzhou en route to Shanghai when local authorities found 28 bags of the narcotic in his luggage.

At the time of his October arrest, Sukuragi, said to be a city councilor in Aichi, Japan, told police the luggage in question came from a Nigerian business associate he met while in China. According to the arrest report, the African had given the Japanese lawmaker the suitcase where the drugs were concealed inside women's platform boots.

Local outlets report Sakuragi is standing trial with 2 other defendants, also from Africa. They were named as Aly Yattabare and Mohamed Soumah. Drug trafficking carries the death penalty per Chinese law. 4 Japanese citizens were executed in 2010 for possessing drugs, and China has recently instigated a harsh and well-publicized crackdown in its entertainment community for drug possession and usage.

Curiously, Sakuragi's Chinese lawyer, does not seem to be helping his client's case, or indeed, even be positive about it.

"[We are] attempting the impossible," Chen Weixiong is reported as saying. "The biggest challenge now is the fact that he did carry 3,200 grams of [drugs] in his bag.

"We are going to argue he was not aware of the existence of drugs," he continued. "We will try our best. The best outcome would be [an acquittal]."

Chen said defending the elderly politician made him feel like "Don Quixote", the eponymous protagonist of created by Spaniard novelist Miguel de Cervantes given to fantastical stories and tall tales.

Sakuragi does not have a sympathetic public in the Middle Kingdom. He is well-known as one of the most ardent supporters of Japan's claim to a set of small islets also that China considers part of its territory that has sent relations between Asia's biggest economies into a tailspin.

The trial is on-going.

Source:, August 27, 2014

3 Mexicans Facing Death Penalty Prepare for Last Appeal in Malaysia

3 Mexican brothers sentenced to death in Malaysia are preparing to file their last appeal before the Federal Court in Malaysia, which could hold the hearing before the end of the year, the defense said.

"The hearing will most probably take place before the end of the year, the Federal Court judges have to review a lot of documents pertaining to the case," Kitson Foong, the lawyer of Mexicans Luis Alfonso, Simon and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, told Efe.

According to Foong, the brothers are being held in jail in the state of Pahang, some 185 km northwest of Kuala Lumpur.

The Mexicans were arrested on March 4, 2008 in a police raid in the southern city of Johor along with a Malaysian and a Singaporean citizen who have also been given the death penalty.

All 5 were found in the vicinity of a ship where police agents seized 29 kilograms of methamphetamine valued at $15 million, 1/3 of which disappeared in police custody.

The Gonzalez Villarreal brothers, natives of the state of Sinaloa, claim that they were only employed to clean the place and that they were not aware of the consignment.

The Malaysian prosecutor, however, says that traces of drugs were found on their clothes and their hands.

In May 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court sentenced the Mexicans to death by hanging, a ruling that was upheld by the Court of Appeal a year later.

The Federal Court is the only court where those convicted can appeal.

Although Sinaloa is known to be home to one of the largest drug cartels, the Gonzalez Villarreal brothers have no criminal records and belong to a humble family of 7 siblings, the youngest of whom died in a robbery.

Mexico's government, which opposes the death penalty, has said that "it will use all the means at its disposal" to revoke the death sentence handed to the 3 Mexicans.

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nebraska 'too busy' to focus on death penalty

Corrections department has been busy with other issues, including questions over the early release of some inmates

Nebraska's attorney general says the state's corrections department has been too busy dealing with other problems to focus on resolving drug shortages that have halted executions in the state, which hasn't carried out the death penalty in 17 years.

Attorney General Jon Bruning told The Associated Press he's confident Nebraska will resume executions but it could be years before officials can work out a new approach using different drugs or a new supplier.

He notes the corrections department has been busy with other issues, including questions over the early release of some inmates.

Nebraska lost its only approved method to carry out executions when its supply of one drug used in the process expired in December.

Source: Associated Press, August 25, 2014

Oklahoma: An Execution, Censored

Oklahoma Death Chamber
On April 29, 2014, Clayton Lockett was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the hands of the State of Oklahoma. Under a state law that requires public witnesses to all executions, 12 journalists gathered to observe his death.

They never saw it.

Before the scheduled execution, the reporters were ushered into a media room where a glass partition, covered by a "viewing blind," separated them from the execution chamber. When the blind opened, Clayton Lockett lay before them strapped to a gurney. He had already been in there for almost an hour, getting poked with needles until a member of the execution team - of unknown training and background - finally set an IV line in Lockett's femoral vein, near his groin. Preliminary findings suggest this femoral IV played a role in Lockett's prolonged and torturous execution. Since there were no witnesses, we have only the state's account of how properly these IV procedures were carried out.

But that's certainly not all that journalists were barred from seeing. Right after the blind was raised, the warden announced that the injection process was to begin: First came the drug intended to render Lockett unconscious. 7 minutes later, at 6:30 p.m., a doctor in the room checked Lockett for consciousness; he was awake. At 6:33 p.m., he checked again; the state's account claims the "offender was unconscious." So Oklahoma began the process of injecting Lockett with the 2nd drug (a paralytic), and the 3rd drug, intended to induce cardiac arrest.

But Lockett most certainly didn't remain unconscious while the execution team administered these drugs. Multiple media reports document that Lockett began to moan and writhe on the gurney in clear distress. And how did state officials respond? They lowered the blind. At 6:42 p.m., at the very most critical moment of the execution proceeding, the state opted for secrecy. Once there was unavoidable evidence - visual and audible - that the lethal injection was cruel and unusual, the media was locked out. The journalists were left staring at a blank blind, able to hear - but not verify - sounds of struggle and suffering coming from inside the death chamber.

They never saw anything else.

We now know that Lockett died at 7:06 p.m., long after the media's access was shut down by the state. As to what happened in those fateful 25 minutes, we have only the words of state officials, and those words themselves beg some questions. The governor said the state "lawfully carried out the sentence of death," while the head of the state Department of Corrections - who runs executions in the state - said the execution was formally called off 10 minutes before Lockett was "pronounced...deceased." Once the state is no longer "executing" someone, their duty shifts to one of providing medical care, but there are certainly no reports that they attempted to resuscitate Lockett. Assuming they didn't, the process was, and remained, an attempt to kill him. A process the press had every right to witness.

Because the press and public were literally and figuratively shut out of witnessing the process, we may never get a reliable answer. But here's where there's no question: For over 20 minutes, Clayton Lockett lay there dying in the dark. The assembled reporters were deprived of the right to observe a critical government proceeding, and by extension the public was denied the right to receive a full account of how Oklahoma administers capital punishment, warts and all.

Both death penalty supporters and opponents should be able to agree that the most extreme use of state power should absolutely not occur in the shadows. As the Supreme Court has said, "The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people."

As citizens, we can't complete that duty if the government only offers us selective information, editing out all the ugly parts. That why we brought a lawsuit today asking the court to stop the state of Oklahoma from using the execution shade like a Photoshop tool.

It isn't transparency when the government shines a light only on the things it wants us to see.

Source: ACLU, August 25, 2014

ACLU Sues Over Closed Blinds in Botched Clayton Lockett Execution

The ACLU and 2 news organizations filed a federal lawsuit Monday to force Oklahoma prison officials to let witnesses watch executions from beginning to end. The litigation is a response to the botched April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, in which the execution team closed the blinds when the inmate began appeared to regain consciousness and struggle 20 minutes after the drugs were administered. The suit asks the court to order that all witnesses, including the media, be able to view the proceedings from the moment the prisoner enters the execution chamber until he or she is taken out.

"The state of Oklahoma violated the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of the press to witness executions so the public can be informed about the government's actions and hold it accountable," Lee Rowland, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "The death penalty represents the most powerful exercise of government authority. The need for public oversight is as critical at the execution stage as it is during trial."

Lockett, a rapist and murderer, died of an apparent heart attack after the execution was halted. Oklahoma has put lethal injections on hold while it investigates the bungled procedure, which prompted the White House to order a federal review of state execution protocols.

Source: NBC news, August 25, 2014

Gaza crisis: Hamas executes 4 suspected Israeli spies

Public execution of 'collaborators' in
Gaza. (File photo)
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, continued with its executions of "collaborators", killing 4 more Palestinians suspected of spying for Israel.

Masked Hamas militants fatally shot the Palestinians in the courtyard of a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp on charges of spying for the enemy yesterday. Hamas-affiliated Al-Majd website quoted security sources as saying that the 4 were executed in a "revolutionary" way after "legal measures were completed".

The website has warned that future collaborators would be dealt with in the field to create deterrence. The Islamist faction declined to release the names or pictures of the executed for the sake of social stability, fearing backlash against their families. The executions raise the total number of Palestinian "suspects" paraded to their deaths to 25; 18 of them were executed on Friday and 3 on Thursday.

Hamas has warned that Israel will "pay the price" for killing 3 top leaders of its military wing - the Qassam Brigades. Earlier, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, denounced the executions of alleged collaborators, calling them "extrajudicial".

The PA President's office condemned Hamas for failing to abide by existing legal procedures for dealing with the cases. Although collaboration with Israel is punishable by death in the Palestinian legal code, President Mahmoud Abbas has maintained a moratorium on the death penalty since 2005.

Amnesty International called on Hamas to halt the campaign of summary executions of suspected collaborators. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has now reached 2,102, including about 500 children, with more than 10,550 injured during the 47-day conflict. In Israel, 68 people have died.

UN agencies have said that 70 % of those killed in Gaza are civilians, including women and children.

Source:, August 25, 2014

Iran: Man hanged in public in the city of Borazjan

Public hanging in Borazjan, Iran
August 24, 2014
A man was hanged in public in the southern city of Borazjan (Bushehr province) on Sunday, 24 August 2014, for reportedly killing two women, kidnapping and theft. 

The city's Islamic Revolution Court had issued the death sentence and Branch 11 of the Supreme Court upheld it. 

The death sentence was implemented, as is customary, after head of the Judiciary authorised it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Iran: Man hanged in public in the city of Sari

A man identified only as Soheil R., who reportedly killed his brother and cousin last winter and later his wife during a conjugal visit, was hanged in public in Sari, provincial capital of Mazandaran in northern Iran, on Sunday morning, 24 August 2014. The authorities did not provide details of his trial.

Source: League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI), August 25, 2014

Photos of the execution:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Iran - Human Rights: Prisoner's four fingers amputated in public

Islamic court-ordered amputation in Iran (file photo)
NCRI - An Iranian man's four fingers were amputated in public in city of Abarkooh in southern Iran, a commander police in the southern province of Yazd has declared, state-run Tabnak website reported on Friday.

Colonel Ahmad Gholamzadeh said the four fingers of the right hand of a prisoner were amputated at the presence of State Security Forces and judicial authorities in the city.

He said: "The prisoner, M.N. (identified by his initials), had been sentenced to amputation of four fingers in public, one year imprisonment and payment of fines for illegitimately obtaining property."

He added: "The amputation of the prisoner's right hand four fingers were carried out outside the city's detention center in public using a 'guillotine' machine."

During the first year of Hassan Rouhani's presidency over 800 have been executed and hundreds more have been subjected to degrading and inhumane punishments such as amputation, flogging in public and being paraded in streets.

On August 6, a 27-year-old prisoner was hanged in public but before hanging the victim, the henchmen flogged him 100 times as the crowd watched in shock.

At least 200 people were flogged last month in the Iranian province of Qazvin allegedly for eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan.

Qazvin official Ismail Sadeghi-Niaraki acknowledged the scale of medieval punishments now being carried out within the regime under the rule of so-called 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani.

He said: "Exceptional measures were taken by the judiciary in Qasvin province." Over a month period " 400 people were arrested and some were given warnings. Another 200 had their cases reviewed by the judiciary and the flogging sentence was carried out within 24 hours of their arrest."

The Iranian Resistance has repeatedly condemned the carrying out of medieval punishments by the clerical regime in Iran and has called for referral of the regime's violations of human rights record to the United Nation Security Council.

Source: NCRI, August, 22, 2014

The Witness

'The Walls' Unit, Huntsville, Texas
For more than a decade, it was Michelle Lyons's job to observe the final moment of death row inmates -- but watching 278 executions didin't come without a cost.

Early one morning in April, Michelle Lyons pulled up outside her daughter’s elementary school in Huntsville, seventy miles north of Houston. Set deep in the Piney Woods, Huntsville—which is home to no fewer than five prisons—is a company town whose primary industry is confinement. Many parents who were dropping their children off at school that day worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Huntsville’s largest employer. Michelle, who sat behind the wheel of her blue Chevy sedan nursing a travel mug of coffee, had worked for TDCJ herself for more than a decade. She had been the public face of the agency, a disarmingly friendly, upbeat spokesperson for the biggest prison system in the nation. Though she had left the position two years earlier, she was still well-known around town, and several mothers waved as her car idled in the drop-off line. “Have a beautiful day,” she murmured when her nine-year-old leaned in to kiss her goodbye.

When Michelle first went to work for TDCJ, in 2001, she had begun each weekday morning by driving into town, past the picturesque courthouse square and toward the Walls Unit, the 165-year-old penitentiary that is Huntsville’s most iconic landmark. The prison, whose ramparts measure more than thirty feet high, is a colossal, foreboding structure crowned by razor wire—a two-block-long, red-brick fortress that houses the most active death chamber in the country. Michelle’s office occupied a corner of an administrative building directly across the street from the Walls, and one of the requirements of her job as a public information officer had been to attend every execution the state carried out. She had also attended executions for her previous job, as a reporter covering prisons for the hometown newspaper, the Huntsville Item. Michelle spent many evenings—hundreds, in fact—standing shoulder-to-shoulder with witnesses in a cramped room that afforded a view of the death chamber, where she watched as men, and two women, were injected with a three-drug cocktail that stopped their hearts. All told, she had seen 278 inmates put to death.

As Michelle pulled away from the school, she headed out of Huntsville, toward Interstate 45 and her new job more than an hour’s drive away, in downtown Houston. She cracked her window, grateful for the cool air on her face. Mornings, when her commute offered time to think back on everything she had seen at the Walls, were the hardest. She was flooded with memories from her time inside the Death House: of the conversations she had shared with particular inmates in the hours before they were strapped to the gurney; of the mothers, dressed in their Sunday best, who had turned out to attend their sons’ executions; of the victims’ families, their faces hardened with grief; of the sudden stillness that came over the prisoners soon after the lethal drugs entered their bloodstreams. She could still see some of these men—their chests expanding, their chins stiffening as they took their last breaths.

Source: Texas Monthly, Pamela Colloff, September 2014 Issue.

China executes 8 militants from Xinjiang for Tiananmen attack

China has executed eight militants from the restive Xinjiang province for "terrorist attacks," including three who masterminded a suicide attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 2013, killing three people and wounding 39 others.

The executions took place after Supreme People's Court upheld their death sentence.

The crimes involved five cases including the terrorist attack at the iconic Forbidden City in the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, seizing of guns from police in Aksu, illegal manufacturing of explosives and murder of civilian in Kashgar,and the establishment of terrorist organisation, murder of government officials and incineration of checkpoint in Hotan.

The news of the executions were released by the official media late last night and television showed all of them facing trial.

Xinjiang, where the native Uygur Muslims were restive over the increasing settlements of Hans from other provinces facedincreasing attacks stated to have been organised by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an al-Qaeda backed organisation, which gained traction in the province bordering Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Afghanistan.

Last year the attacks spilled out of Xinjiang and grew most violent with militants targeting crowded areas like railway stations where waiting passengers were hacked with cleavers and daggers.

The eight executed persons included Huseyin Guxur, Yusup Wherniyas and Yusup Ehmet, who masterminded the last year's terrorist attack in the Square.

Source:, August 24, 2014

ISIS: "Jihadi John" reportedly identified

British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 have identified the man suspected of the horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley, according to UK media reports.

The hooded man with an English accent is believed to be 23-year-old Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, known to fellow Islamic State militants as Jihadi John.

The former rapper left his family home in an affluent west London suburb last year to fight in the civil war in Syria.

Source: Agencies, August 24, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mom’s killer beheaded in Saudi

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
A Saudi man who was convicted of murdering his mother was beheaded in the Gulf kingdom on Thursday, newspapers reported on Friday, quoting the interior ministry.

Yehya bin Saad Al Shahrani was found guilty of shooting his mother Aisha many times with a machine gun at her home in the southern town of Khamis Mushait.

A ministry statement said the killer was executed after he confessed in court to committing the crime against his mother.

Source: Emirates 24/7, August 22, 2014

Saudi Arabia executes 19 in one half of August in 'disturbing surge of beheadings'

Saudi Arabia has beheaded at least 19 people since the beginning of August in a surge of executions, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

The deaths relate to the period from 4 to 20 August and are included in the 34 deaths ordered since the beginning of January.

According to HRW, international standards require that capital punishment should only be reserved for the “most serious crimes” in countries that still use it.

Offences that resulted in the Saudi Arabian death penalties in August ranged from drug smuggling and sorcery.

Four smugglers were executed on 18 August for smuggling a “large quantity of hashish” into the country amid an effort by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the government to tackle the social ill of narcotics and warned that anyone else doing the same would also be punished “according to Sharia”, the Saudi Press Agency said. 

The men were all part of the same family and their deaths were condemned by Amnesty as being part of the “disturbing” surge in executions. Reuters reported that their confessions may have been obtained through torture.

Mohammed bin Bakr al-Alawi was beheaded on 5 August for allegedly practicing black magic sorcery, the Saudi Gazette reports, while according to Amnesty, a mentally ill man, Hajras al-Qurey, has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking “after an unfair trial” and will be killed on 25 August.

Al-Qurey’s son had reportedly confessed to drug smuggling and said that his father was unaware that the contraband was in the car.

The elder claims to have been beaten into confessing, despite repeatedly exclaiming that he was innocent and that he suffered a mental disability. He was held criminally liable despite an examination finding symptoms of mental illness including auditory hallucinations.

His son was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

“Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW.

“There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes.

“The current surge in executions in Saudi Arabia is yet another dark stain on the kingdom’s human rights record.”

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Source: The Independent, August 22, 2014

Two Public Hangings in Iran

(file photo)
Iran Human Rights, August 21, 2014: One man was hanged in public in the city of Qazvin today. The prisoner who was identified as “A.N.” was convicted of murdering his 9 year old stepchild, reported the state run Iranian news agency Mehr.

Another prisoner was hanged in the Motaheri Square of Khoi (Northwestern Iran) reported the news website Uromnews. The prisoner who was identified by name what charged with rape, said the report. The execution was carried out on Tuesday August 19.

57 prisoners have been executed since August 3 (in less than 3 weeks) in Iran. 13 of the executions have been carried out in public.

Source: Iran Human Rights, August 21, 2014