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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Young Prisoner Hanged in Public in Northern Iran

A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged to death in public in Meyami, Semnan.
A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged in public in Meyami, Semnan.
A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged to death in public in Meyami, Semnan. 

Iranian state-run media Javan News has identified the prisoner by the initials A.M. and stated his age as "about 30 years old." 

Iranian officials have not released any more information about the case, making it unclear whether the prisoner was over the age of 18 at the time of his arrest.

Commenting on the execution, Abbas Ali Akbari, the head of Meyami's Judiciary, says: "The offender was arrested for committing several counts of rape and was sentenced to lashings and death."

Source: Iran Human Rights, November 26, 2015

Call to save death row prisoner aged 15 at time of alleged crime

The Iranian Resistance calls for measures to save the life of Mr. Salar Shadi Zadi, a young prisoner on death row who was merely 15 at the time of his alleged crime, and asks all international human rights dignitaries and organizations to protest this barbarity and medieval viciousness, and to take effective action to prevent the execution of this young man.

Salar Shadi Zadi is scheduled to be executed on November 28 after already enduring 9 years behind bars. At least 72 prisoners under the age of 18 have been executed under the mullahs' rule during the past decade, Amnesty International reported.

The religious fascism ruling Iran, dubbed by the people as the "Godfather of ISIS," has in the past 5 days alone executed at least 17 prisoners. This follows the recent United Nations resolution condemning vicious human rights violations in Iran and a UN call to stop executions in Iran. 6 of those executed had only 20 to 25 years of age.

A 20-year-old man in the town of Mayamey in Semnan Province was hanged on Wednesday, November 25. Despite calls made by international organizations a day earlier, Alireza Shahi, aged 25, was executed along with 4 other individuals.

From the age of 18 he had been behind bars for 7 years.

3 prisoners hanged on November 21 in Zahedan Central Prison were all young men. Mojtaba Lak-Zehi, 22, was aged 17 at the time of his alleged crime. He and Hassan Dori Moghadam, 20, were both from Iran's Baluchi minority community. Nazir Ahmad Rigi, 24, was an Afghan national.

Also on November 21, Mehdi Budineh was executed in Zabol Central Prison at the age of 25.

The mullahs' regime is resorting to the execution of youths in public and in prisons across the country in an attempt to cement a climate of fear across the society and prevent massive uprising by the disgruntled population described by regime officials as the "army of the hungry." The Iranian Resistance calls on all Iranian people, especially the youth, to rise up and protest these crimes.

Source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, November 26, 2015

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Meditation Helped Me Survive Death Row and 19 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

Damien Echols
Damien Echols
My name is Damien Echols, and in 1993 I was arrested for three counts of capital murder in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas. Nine months later I was sentenced to death, and spent almost 19 years on death row before being released in 2011 when new evidence came to light.

Prison is a dark and stagnant place. It's filled with the most cold, horrendous energy you can imagine. It feels like a kind of psychic filth that penetrates into your very soul.

In 1993, when three eight year old boys were found murdered in my small town, attention immediately turned to me. Why? Because I was the town weirdo. I dressed in all black, had long hair, and listened to heavy metal music. As if this wasn't enough to make me suspect in a small, hardcore fundamentalist town in the midst of the era of Satanic panic, I also practiced magick. Some of the most damning evidence brought against me during the trial was my love of knowledge of Crowley, and the fact that I owned Stephen King novels.

For a huge chunk of my incarceration—nearly nine years—I was in a super maximum security unit prison, where I spent 24 hours a day in solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement is like living in a vacuum in which no comforts exist. You spend every single moment alone, with nothing to distract you from the horror of your situation and no contact with anything or anyone that can possibly provide you with a shred of hope. Time ceases to exist, as there is no way to mark its passage. Noon is the same as midnight. Christmas is the same as the Fourth of July. All you can do is sit with your fears, waiting for the next time the guards decide to hurt you.

It was here that I decided to dedicate every single waking moment of my life to delving deeper and deeper into the realm of magick.

I had several teachers I corresponded with, including the priest of a Japanese zen temple who would travel from Japan to the prison in Arkansas to give me ordination in the Rinzai Zen tradition of Japanese Buddhism, the same tradition that used to train the samurai in older times.

Zen teaches you patience, willpower, and self control. You sit in a position called "seiza,” which basically means on your knees, for long periods of time. This allows you to build up a sort of detachment that enables you to observe your thoughts and emotions as an observer, instead of being carried along by them. You learn to override physical discomfort, mental anxiety, and emotional tar pits. Sitting in seiza, I realized my mind had been running around and around in circles since the day I was born, like a dog chasing its tail.

What I learned from zen seems very simple, but it's far harder than it sounds: I learned to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how difficult or brutal life became.

Source: Mother Jones, Damien Echols, November 25, 2015

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Saudis to sue Twitter user who called poet's death sentence 'ISIS-like'

Ashraf Fayadh
Ashraf Fayadh
Saudi Arabia's justice ministry plans to sue a Twitter user who compared the death sentence handed down on Friday to a Palestinian poet to the punishments meted out by Islamic State, a major government-aligned newspaper reported on Wednesday.

"The justice ministry will sue the person who described ... the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being `ISIS-like'," the newspaper Al-Riyadh quoted a source in the justice ministry as saying.

The source did not identify the Twitter user or the possible penalty.

On Friday, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy - abandoning his Muslim faith - according to trial documents seen by Human Rights Watch.

Fayadh was detained by the country's religious police in 2013 in Abha, in southwest Saudi Arabia, and then rearrested and tried in early 2014.

Saudi Arabia's justice system is based on Islamic Sharia law, and its judges are clerics from the kingdom's ultra- conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam. In the Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia, religious crimes, including blasphemy and apostasy, incur the death penalty.

In January, liberal writer Raif Badawi was flogged 50 times after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for blasphemy last year, prompting an international outcry. Badawi remains in prison, but diplomats say he is unlikely to be flogged again.

In 2014, a Saudi court in Riyadh sentenced three lawyers to up to eight years in jail after they criticized the justice ministry on Twitter.

The charges were dropped in early 2015 after King Salman inherited the throne from his brother.

"Questioning the fairness of the courts is to question the justice of the Kingdom and its judicial system based on Islamic law, which guarantees rights and ensures human dignity", Al-Riyadh quoted the justice ministry source as saying. The ministry would not hesitate to put on trial "any media that slandered the religious judiciary of the Kingdom," it said.

Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry or other officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Source: Reuters, November 25, 2015

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Amnesty International USA Statement on Reggie Clemons

Reggie Clemons
Reggie Clemons
The Missouri Supreme Court yesterday threw out the 1st-degree murder conviction and death sentence of Reggie Clemons, who was sentenced to death in St. Louis as an accomplice to a 1991 murder of 2 young women. 

Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), issued the following statement in response:

"Reggie Clemons' case has long highlighted many of the flaws in the U.S. death penalty system. The decision by the Missouri Supreme Court is an acknowledgement of the deeply flawed process that led to his death sentence.

From the police investigation to the appeals process, his case was dogged by serious problems, allegedly including police brutality, racial bias, a stacked jury and prosecutorial misconduct.

"Clemons says he confessed as the result of a violent police interrogation. The arraigning judge even sent him to the emergency room because of his injured appearance. Clemons later retracted his confession and has maintained his innocence throughout.

"4 federal judges found the conduct of the prosecutor in the case to be 'abusive and boorish,' and Clemons' legal representation was inadequate. His lead attorney was later suspended from practicing law following numerous complaints.

"The question of race overshadowed the investigation and trial as well. Clemons was 1 of 3 black defendants convicted of killing the 2 white victims, and both key witnesses were white. Blacks were disproportionately dismissed during jury selection.

"AIUSA activists have worked for years to draw attention to this case. Yesterday's ruling removes the threat of death that has been hanging over Clemons for the past 2 decades. His future is uncertain, but we will work to ensure that he never again faces the death penalty."

Amnesty International USA opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Last year, executions in the United States were at a 20-year low, and death sentences were at their lowest level since 1976. Nineteen states plus the District of Columbia have banned capital punishment, and seven other states have not carried out an execution in 10 years. Missouri executed 10 prisoners last year, more than any other state and tied with Texas, making it one of just a handful of states that continue to aggressively pursue executions.

Source: Amnesty International USA, November 25, 2015

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Singapore: Belgian accused of killing son to be remanded another week

Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart
Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart
The Belgian man accused of killing his 5-year-old son in their D'Leedon condominium home will be remanded for another week at the Central Police Division to assist in investigations.

Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart, who appeared in court looking calm and relaxed on Wednesday (Nov 25), is being represented by defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary.

District Judge Eddy Tham granted the prosecution's application for Graffart to be taken out of remand to assist in investigations.

The 41-year-old was charged on Oct 7 with the murder of Keryan Gabriel Cedric Graffart. 

He allegedly committed the act at his 32nd-storey home at 3, Leedon Heights.

He was then remanded for 4 weeks at the medical centre in Changi Prison for psychiatric assessment.

Graffart works for the Singapore investment management arm of Nordea, a company that describes itself as the largest financial group in northern Europe.

General manager of Nordea Private Banking in Singapore, Mr Kim Osborg Nielsen, was seen in court together with 3 other company representatives.

The case will be heard in court again on Dec 2.

If convicted of murder, Graffart faces the death penalty.

Source: Straits Times, November 25, 2015

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Iran regime hangs 11 after adoption of UN resolution on rights abuses

Public execution in Iran (file photo)
Public execution in Iran (file photo)
The cycle of suppression, in particular group hangings, continues in Iran after the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted of a resolution condemning rights violation on 19 November.

At least 11 prisoners have been executed in Iran since the resolution has been adopted.

On Tuesday, November 24, the Iranian regime hanged Alireza Shahi, a 25 year old prisoner, along with four other prisoners in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison despite calls by international organizations. He had been in prison for seven years since age 18.

2 prisoners were executed in Tabriz central prison on November 23. Four other prisoners, including a female prisoner by the name of Hajar Safari, were also executed on November 12 in this prison.

On Saturday, November 21, regime's henchmen hanged 3 Baluchi compatriot prisoners in Zahedan central prison. On that day, a 25-year-old prisoner by the name of Mehdi Boudineh was executed in Zabol central prison.

Execution of a prisoner in Miandoab prison and a Pakistani prisoner by the name of Mohammad Younes Jamal-e-dini at Zahedan Central prison were carried out on November 18. These executions, together with the hanging of another 4 prisoners in Karaj Central Prison were among the other crimes perpetrated by the Iranian regime in the past 2 weeks.

During this interval, the transfer of group after group of prisoners on death row to solitary confinements continues, including in Miandoab Prison. Some of the prisoners have been transferred to Gohardasht solitary cells for the 2nd time. Taking prisoners to the gallows to watch the hanging of other prisoners is one of the common tortures practiced in the prisons of this antihuman regime.

These criminal executions, particularly a few days after the adoption of a resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran, bespeaks of the confrontation of the Iranian regime with the international community and it amplifies the need to refer the file of human rights violations in Iran to the UN Security Council. Trade with a regime that transgresses against all international norms and standards must be made contingent upon a cessation of barbaric punishments, especially the capital punishment.

Source: NCRI, November 25, 2015

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Concerns as reports suggest juvenile executions in Saudi may be days away

International human rights NGO Reprieve has raised concerns over Saudi media reports, which suggest that juveniles Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon could be executed in days.

Saudi news outlet Okaz has today reported that 55 people convicted of ‘anti-Government offences’, are to be executed in the coming days. A number of those are apparently from the same region as juveniles Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon, and Ali’s Uncle, the high profile pro-democracy activist Sheik al Nimr. The fears were compounded after the young men were taken for an announced medical examination in the prison, which suggests their execution has been scheduled.

The reports have raised concerns at human rights NGO Reprieve, which is assisting the two juveniles, that their executions could be imminent, as well as that of Abdallah al-Zaher, who was only 15 when he participated in protests. Both Ali and Dawoud were convicted in part on trumped-up anti-Government charges, despite their being youth activists who attended pro-democracy protests.

Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon were both sentenced to death when they were under 18, for attending pro-democracy political protests. Both are understood to have been held in solitary confinement in Riyadh.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has previously called on the Saudi authorities to stop the planned execution of Ali al Nimr, and his government cancelled a bid to provide services to the Saudi prisons because of human rights concerns.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, said: “These reports are extremely concerning – suggesting that the Saudis may be just days away from executing people convicted when they were children, who were demanding political reform in their country. These executions must be stopped, and Saudi’s allies in the UK must once again make representations to prevent them going ahead.”

Source: Reprieve, November 24, 2015

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Iran: Five prisoners hanged in Karaj

Public hanging Iran
NCRI - The Iranian regime’s henchmen in city of Karaj hanged at least five prisoners in Gohardasht Prison on Tuesday. The victims included Alireza Shahi whose death sentence was condemned by Amnesty International on Monday.

Five men were part of a group of at least ten prisoners that their execution had been for 24 November.

The five victims, Said Najafi, Farshad Haqi, Mohammad Baygi, Mohammad Polombeh and Alireza Shahi had been transferred to isolation on Saturday.

There has been no public announcement of these executions by prison officials.

Amnesty International said on Monday that Alireza Shahi did not have a fair trial and “after his arrest he was placed in detention for two weeks where he says he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated to confess. He was also denied access to both a lawyer and his family.”

“It is always cruel and inhumane to take away an individual’s life by hanging but the cruelty is compounded when the execution follows an unfair trial which has relied on coerced confessions, and ignored allegations of torture and other ill-treatment,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The rate of executions in Iran is deplorable which, if they continue at the current rate, could reach more than 1,000 this year. In case after case we hear allegations of torture, fundamentally flawed trials, all in breach of international law and standards,” Amnesty International said.

Source: NCRI, November 24, 2015

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Missouri Supreme Court throws out Reginald Clemons murder conviction

Reginald Clemons
Reginald Clemons
The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out the 1st-degree murder convictions for Reginald Clemons, who had been sentenced to death for a 1991 double-murder on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Clemons had been fighting his conviction and death sentence in the 1991 rape and killing of sisters Julie and Robin Kerry.

In a 4-3 decision written by Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, the Court threw out the convictions and sentences for 1st-degree murder and sent the case back to circuit court.

The state has 60 days to retry Clemons. If it does not, the case will be dismissed, and Clemons will remain in prison on a 15-year sentence in different case.

Reached on the phone, Richard Kerry, father of the victims, said, "I'm not going to express any opinion at this point in time."

Michael Manners, a retired judge appointed as by the state's highest court as "special master" to review Clemons' case, concluded that St. Louis prosecutors wrongly suppressed evidence and that detectives beat Clemons into confessing to the crimes.

The judge said those factors were unlikely to change the verdict but were not harmless mistakes as the state claimed.

The Supreme Court had the power to do anything with Clemons' case, from leaving him on death row to tossing out his conviction.

Clemons was among 4 men convicted of raping and murdering sisters Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19, on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge in April 1991. 

A jury convicted Clemons without physical evidence of rape. He was sentenced to death in 1993.

In testimony during a rare, special hearing on his case more than 2 years ago, Clemons asserted his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself more than 30 times. 

In the past, he has acknowledged being on the bridge the night of the killings but claims police beat a confession out of him and was railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor.

Manners also concluded that Clemons' death sentence "was not disproportionate," considering that Clemons' co-defendant, Marlin Gray, was executed for the crime in 2005, Manners concluded. In Gray's case, the state's high court ruled the death penalty was appropriate punishment.

The Kerry sisters led a visiting cousin, Thomas Cummins, then 19, to the unused bridge span on the night of April 5, 1991, to show him a poem they had scrawled there, but they ended up encountering a group of men. The women were raped, and they and Cummins were forced into the Mississippi River. Only Cummins survived.

Police identified the suspects as Clemons, Gray, Antonio Richardson and Daniel Winfrey. Winfrey testified in exchange for a 30-year term and has been paroled. The others were sentenced to death. Gray was executed; Richardson's penalty was later changed to life without parole.

Clemons was weeks from being executed in June 2009 when the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals blocked it. The Missouri Supreme Court then agreed to consider the case.

Judges Laura Denvir Stith and Richard B. Teitelman concurred with Breckenridge, as did Lisa White Hardwick, a special judge assigned to rule in the Clemons case.

Judges Paul C. Wilson, Zel M. Fischer and Mary R. Russell voted against granting Clemons' petition.

Source: stlouistoday.com, November 24, 2015

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Transplant Chief in China Denies Breaking Vow to Ban Prisoners’ Organs

BEIJING — A top Chinese health official has denied that the country’s new organ transplant system allows organs to be harvested from executed prisoners, saying that earlier comments he made suggesting that a loophole allowed the practice to continue had been misconstrued.

The official, Dr. Huang Jiefu, said his statements that prisoners were also citizens and therefore should be allowed to donate organs under the new rules had been meant “philosophically,” and he denied that the government was allowing it in practice.

“I never said that,” Dr. Huang said in an interview here last week. “It is a lie. It distorts my words. The context, the words are from a philosophical level.”

“As a doctor, we cannot reject the kindness and the conscience of the prisoners,” he added. “However, on a practical level, we cannot do that, to put them into the civilian donation.”

Dr. Huang’s earlier comments, reported in the official Chinese news media and cited in The New York Times, drew outrage from medical ethicists and human rights advocates, who have long criticized China’s practice of harvesting organs from death row inmates. 

They said the comments showed that China never really abandoned the policy, as Mr. Huang had promised it would last December, but instead had simply reclassified prisoners as citizens and continued to take their organs.

Source: The New York Times, Didi Kirsten Tatlow, November 25, 2015

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URGENT ACTION for Ivan Kulesh, sentenced to death in Belarus

Ivan Kulesh
Ivan Kulesh
A 28-year-old man, Ivan Kulesh, was sentenced to death in Belarus on 20 November. He is at least the second person to receive the death sentence in 2015.

On 20 November the Hrodna Regional Court, in western Belarus, sentenced Ivan Kulesh to death for “committing murder with particular cruelty”, theft and robbery under articles 139, 205, 207 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. 

Ivan Kulesh was found guilty of murdering three female sales assistants, two in September 2013 and one in November 2014, and of stealing goods and money from the shops where these women worked. 

He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of the son of a saleswoman, who caught him in the shop in November 2014. Ivan Kulesh had been under the influence of alcohol when committing these crimes.

According to the forensic medical examination Ivan Kulesh was diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder, but was found “sane” (“vmenyaemyi”). Ivan Kulesh was raised in an orphanage
and has a two-year old daughter.

Ivan Kulesh was detained in November 2014 and has been held in the Hrodna regional pre-trial detention facility. He will now be transferred to a pre-trial detention facility in Minsk, where executions take place. He has until 30 November to appeal the decision.

His lawyer asked the court to sentence Ivan Kulesh to 25 years' imprisonment, taking into account that Ivan Kulesh signed a confession and cooperated with the investigation. Ivan Kulesh previously was convicted for theft, robbery and providing misleading information to the investigation.

Belarus is the last country in Europe and Central Asia still applying 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.


On 18 March 2015, Siarhei Ivanou was sentenced to death by the Homel Regional Court for the murder of a 19-year-old woman in August 2013.

Name: Ivan Kulesh
Gender m/f: M
UA: 266/15 Index: EUR 49/2926/2015 Issue Date: 24 November 2015

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact!

Send a short email to uan@aiusa.org with “UA 266/15” in the subject line, and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent,

Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if taking action after the appeals date. If you receive a response from a government official, please forward it to us at


Please write immediately in Belarusian, Russian, English or your own language:
* Urging President Lukashenka to halt any planned executions and immediately commute the death
sentence handed down to Ivan Kulesh and all others sentenced to death in Belarus;
* Calling on him to establish an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view
to abolishing it;
* Stress that whilst we are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime of which Ivan
Kulesh has been convicted, research shows that death penalty does not deter crime whilst it is
also the ultimate denial of human rights.


Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Vul. Karla Marksa 38
Minsk, Belarus
Fax: +375 17 226 06 10
+375 17 222 38 72
Salutation: Dear President Lukashenka

And copies to:
Prosecutor General Alyaksandr Kaniuk
Vul. Internatsianalnaya 22 
220050 Minsk, Belarus 
Fax: +375 17 226 42 52 (Say "fax" clearly if voice answers) 

Also send copies to:
Charge d'Affaires Mr. Pavel Shidlovsky, Embassy of Belarus
1619 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington DC 20009
Fax: 1 202 986 1805 I Phone: 1 202 986 1606 I Email: usa@mfa.gov.by

Please share widely with your networks: http://bit.ly/1T0Plii

We encourage you to share Urgent Actions with your friends and colleagues! When you share with your networks, instead of forwarding the original email, please use the "Forward this email to a friend" link found at the very bottom of this email. Thank you for your activism!

UA Network Office AIUSA │600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington DC 20003
T. 202.509.8193 │ F. 202.509.8193 │E. uan@aiusa.org │amnestyusa.org/urgent

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Execution of disabled Pakistani man delayed for 4th time

A killing spree: Erecting gallows in Pakistan
A killing spree: Erecting gallows in Pakistan
A disabled Pakistani murder convict was given a fourth stay of execution late Tuesday just hours before he was due to be hanged, as rights activists slammed Islamabad for a executions spree on track to see 300 deaths in under a year.

Abdul Basit, a paraplegic who was convicted of murder in 2009, was scheduled to be hung early Wednesday. His execution has already been harrowingly postponed several times after rights groups raised concerns about how a wheelchair-bound man would mount the scaffold.

The presidency issued a statement late Tuesday saying the execution had been delayed for two months while President Mamnoon Hussain ordered an inquiry into Basit's medical condition.

The statement said the president had vowed that "human rights will be upheld".

"We are very happy to hear the TV news that (the) president of Pakistan has stayed the execution," Basit's mother Nusrat Parveen told AFP in response to the last minute delay.

"We also got confirmation from a jail staff," she said, adding that the family hoped the stay would be extended beyond 2 months.

Earlier, Basit's sister Asma Mazhar had issued a plea to the president to spare her brother.

She told AFP she had gone with her mother to see him on Tuesday for what they had believed was the last time, and found him "helpless and quiet".

She said he told them that authorities had come to measure his body and that it was an "awful moment".

Pakistan has executed 299 people since the death penalty was controversially reinstated following a Taliban mass killing at a school in Peshawar last December, according to Amnesty International.

"Pakistan will imminently have executed 300 people since it lifted a moratorium on executions, shamefully sealing its place among the world's worst executioners," it said in a statement.

45 people were executed in October alone, Amnesty said, making it the deadliest month since the moratorium was lifted.

No official figures are available. The rights group Reprieve told AFP Tuesday that by its tally the number of executions has just passed 300, while other local activists said the figure was below 260.

"Pakistan's ongoing zeal for executions is an affront to human rights and the global trend against the death penalty," David Griffiths, Amnesty's South Asia research director, said in a statement.

"Even if the authorities stay the execution of Abdul Basit, a man with paraplegia, Pakistan is still executing people at a rate of almost one a day."

Pakistan ended a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty last year as part of a terror crackdown after Taliban militants gunned down more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in the restive northwest.

The massacre shocked and outraged a country already scarred by nearly a decade of extremist attacks.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.

Supporters argue that executions are the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country.

But critics say the legal system is unjust, with rampant police torture and poor representation for victims during unfair trials, while the majority of those who are hanged are not convicted of terror charges.

There is no evidence the "relentless" executions have done anything to counter extremism in the country, Griffiths said in the Amnesty statement.

Recent research by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies also suggests that death is no deterrent for militants who are "committed to dying for their cause".

The Amnesty figures suggest Pakistan is on track to become one of the world's top executioners in 2015.

In 2014 607 people were put to death in 22 countries, according to Amnesty, though that figure does not include China, where the number of executions is believed to be in the hundreds but is considered by authorities to be a state secret.

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP), November 24, 2015

Pakistan government stays execution of paraplegic man

Abdul Basit
Abdul Basit
The Pakistan government has stayed the exection of Abdul Basit, a paralysed man who had been set to hang at dawn tomorrow morning, according to his lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP)

Concerns had been raised that the exection of someone unable to stand would have been prolonged and inhumane. Over the weekend, it was reported that the Faisalabad prison where he is held had admitted that it had received no instructions on how it was meant to carry out the execution of the wheelchair user.

Basit has been paralysed from the waist down since contracting meningitis while in prison in 2010. The disease was not diagnosed for a month, and left him with severe spinal injuries.

The government is understood to have stayed Basit's execution for two months.

Commenting, Sarah Belal, Basit's lawyer and director of JPP said: "Although a last minute decision, this is a very welcome one. The government should be commended for recognising that to go ahead with it would have been needlessly cruel. Basit has already suffered terribly due to medical neglect while in prison - to hang him would neither serve justice nor make Pakistan any safer."

Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: "This welcome move comes with only hours before a paralysed man was set to face a horrific execution. It has to be hoped that the Pakistan Government will now reconsider its rush to the gallows, which has seen an estimated 300 people hanged since December."

Source: Reprieve, November 24, 2015

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ISIS execute two more gay men in Iraq

Iraq: ISIS militants execute 2 gay men accused of being gay.
Fallujah, Iraq: ISIS militants execute 2 gay men accused of being gay.
Islamic State (ISIS) militants have executed another two gay men accused of being gay in Iraq.

Photos posted on social media Monday (23 November) show two blindfolded men being thrown off a building in Fallujah on charges of ‘sodomy.’

In one of the images, a Sharia judge reads out their sentences to a large crowd of spectators.

One of the men is then thrown head first from the roof of the building by masked jihadis. The last image shows the crumpled bodies of the two men on the ground below.

ISIS has branded LGBTI people ‘the worst of all creatures.’

The jihadist group executed four other gay men in Iraq last month.

Two young men were thrown off the roof of a building in Mosul under the pretext they were a gay couple.

In a separate execution, two ‘gay’ men, who were thrown from a building in Nineveh into a pile of cement blocks.

ISIS also executed nine men and a boy accused of being gay in Syria in September and have claimed responsibility for the killings of at least 30 other gay men.

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Fallujah, Iraq: ISIS militants execute 2 gay men accused of being gay.
Fallujah, Iraq: ISIS militants execute 2 gay men accused of being gay.

Source: Gay Star News, Darren Wee, November 24, 2015

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Monday, November 23, 2015

ISIS fighter jokes about throwing gays off buildings in online Q&A

A gay man is about to be thrown off a building rooftop by ISIS fighters in Iraq in August 2015.
A gay man is about to be thrown off a building rooftop by ISIS fighters
in Iraq in August 2015.
A Dutch-born Islamic State fighter has hosted an online Q&A – in which he joked about executing gay people.

The New York Times picked up that Israfil Yilmaz – who quit the Royal Netherlands Army in 2013 in order to fight for IS – took a number of questions on Tumblr.

Fielding questions on his blog, which has since been suspended, he said of gay people: “Do the whole world a favor and throw them off the highest building you can find :-)”.

He also revealed that the group had banned the use of iPhones and Apple-owned products – and explained that using Tumblr is only ‘haram’ (forbidden) if you use it for “the wrong reasons”.

The fighter also bragged about the group’s atrocities in Paris, citing France’s complicities in wars.

He wrote: “The blood of a Muslim is not cheap, and whoever takes from the blood of a Muslim for no reason should know that one day a Muslim will take revenge for the blood of that same Muslim.

“Just because they carpet bomb innocent Muslims from high in the skies and use proxies on the ground for the dirty work it’s less evil right?”

The group has executed hundreds of men for homosexuality as it expands beyond its strongholds.

The United Nations Security Council recently discussed the group’s tactics in persecuting LGBT people, as well as spreading terror and committing other atrocities.

Source: Pink News, Nick Duffy, November 23, 2015

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Indonesia's turnaround on death penalty means heartbreak for 2 Australian families

There are 2 Australian families facing what's meant to be a happy time of year with heavy hearts.

There are 2 Australian families that lost their sons to the firing squad in Indonesia after 10 years in prison. And there are 2 Australia families who will be sickened by the latest news from Indonesia: they have halted executions.

According to the country's top security minister, the current death row inmates will not be facing the firing squad in the near future.

Luhut Binsar Panjaitan told a news conference the government's priority was to address the economic slowdown, during bilateral meetings aimed at boosting trade with the Australian government.

It's a step to patch up the damaged relationship fractured by the killing of 2 Australian citizens: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in April.

"We haven't thought about executing a death penalty with the economic conditions like this," Mr Panjaitan told reporters in Jakarta.

BBC reports Indonesian correspondents have said no executions are scheduled at this time, a stark contrast from the hurried nature of Chan and Sukumaran's last days.

Indonesia's economic growth dropped below 5% in 2015, and executions cost not only government money, but tourism to the country as Western nations generally oppose their hard line on prisoners.

This year Indonesia executed 14 people by firing squad, including citizens from Brazil, the Netherlands and Nigeria, as well as Australia, damaging relationships and losing ambassadors from the majority.

Currently, there are dozens of people awaiting their fate, although none are Australians.

It remains to be seen whether Chan and Sukumaran would still be alive today if executions were halted, but it's a question that their families will no doubt be thinking about.

Source: startsatsixty.com, November 22, 2015

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France's Jean-Marie Le Pen Calls For Executing Terrorists

Paris, November 2015
The founder of France's far-right National Front (FN) Jean-Marie Le Pen has urged France to reinstate the death penalty and commit convicted terrorists to the guillotine, French weekly news magazine Marianne reports.

Speaking at a press conference held at his palatial home in the west Parisian suburb of Saint Cloud, the controversial politician outlined his proposals to stop Islamist attacks, such as the ones that claimed 130 lives last week in the French capital.

"We must restore the death penalty for terrorists," Le Pen said, before adding "with decapitation." Some of his other proposals included deporting illegal immigrants and creating 100,000 more places in prison to deter further extremist attacks.

According to French weekly news magazine Le Point, Le Pen also called for the removal of dual citizenship and instead "force dual citizens to make a choice," while also making military service of up to six months compulsory.

Jean Marie Le Pen's statement mirrored those of his daughter in the wake of the Islamist attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January.

At that time, Marine Le Pen, who now leads the National Front, vowed to hold a referendum on the death penalty should she be elected president in 2017.

Jean-Marie Lepen
Jean-Marie Le Pen
She has topped several presidential polls since she took leadership of the far-right nationalist party from her father, but the 2 are involved in a bitter dispute at present over Le Pen senior's reference to the Nazi Holocaust as a historical "detail."

Marine Le Pen excluded her father from the party as a result, while he mounted a legal challenge against the decision.

The death penalty has been outlawed in France for years, as the right to execute convicts was abolished by President Francois Mitterrand's government in 1981.

The last execution took place only 4 years earlier and the standard method of delivering it was still the use of a guillotine.

The last man to be executed in France was Tunisian Hamida Djandoubi who was convicted in 1977 of torturing and murdering a 21-year-old woman and was also accused of assaulting and raping a 15-year-old girl, French public radio RFI reports.

It is also currently the policy of the European Union that no states can be accepted into the union without having abolished the death penalty.

Source: Newsweek, November 22, 2015

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Belarusian Man Sentenced To Death On Murder Charges

Belarusian court has sentenced a man to death for 2 fatal robberies, the 2nd death sentence this year to be handed down in the only country in Europe that still uses it.

Judges in the court in the western city of Hrodno found Ivan Kulish guilty on November 20 of killing 3 saleswomen during 2 robberies in 2013 and 2014.

Kulish, 28, refused to testify during the trial and didn't make any remarks after the verdict.

In March, a court in the southeastern city of Homel sentenced a man to death for the murder of a young woman.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in the ex-Soviet republic since the early 1990s.

The European Union on November 20 urged Belarus to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as "a 1st step towards its abolition."

"The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity," the EU said in a statement.

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 22, 2015

Statement by the E.U. Spokesperson on a death sentence in Belarus

"A death sentence was handed down on 20 November to Ivan Kulesh by the Hrodna Regional Court of the Republic of Belarus. The European Union expects that Mr Kulesh's right to appeal will be fully guaranteed.

Mr Kulesh was convicted for serious crimes and we extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victim of these crimes. Nevertheless, the European Union opposes capital punishment in all cases as it cannot be justified under any circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.

The European Union urges 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."

Source: europa.eu, November 22, 2015

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Fate of Sarawakian on death row in limbo after Singapore court reserves judgment

Kho Jabing
Kho Jabing
The Court of Appeal in Singapore today reserved judgment on whether it should review the death sentence meted out on Sarawakian Kho Jabing for murder 8 years ago.

Lawyer Chandra Mohan K. Nair, in his 2-hour submission this evening, told the court that Jabing should be given a lighter sentence given that a lower court had earlier sentenced him to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. Jabing was found guilty of killing a man in a botched robbery in 2007.

"The lawyer today urged the judges to reconsider the death sentence," Kirsten Han, co-founder of Singapore's anti-death penalty group, We Believe in Second Chances, told The Malaysian Insider.

In 2010, the Sarawakian was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Chinese national Cao Ruyin. His case, however, was remitted to the Singapore High Court in 2013 for re-sentencing after the island-state reviewed their mandatory death penalty laws in 2012.

He was then sentenced to life imprisonment with caning.

His family's relief was shortlived when the death penalty was reimposed by the Court of Appeal in a close 3-2 decision.

Today's proceedings ended with the court reserving judgment to a date which has yet to be decided. Until then, Jabing's stay of execution remains.

Han said that it was likely that judgement would only be announced after the court, which would be on vacation at the end of next week, resumed its session in the new year.

Jabing, who is of Iban and Chinese descent, was scheduled for execution at dawn on November 6, but received a surprise stay of execution the day before after the Singapore Court of Appeal granted his lawyer time to file a criminal motion for a review of his case.

Jumai, and their mother Lenduk with the help of civil society groups in Malaysia and Singapore, have since ramped up efforts to appeal for support from Malaysian lawmakers and the public in calling for the Singapore government to grant him clemency.

Jumai, who was in Kuala Lumpur with her mother on November 11 to meet Sarawakian lawmakers and civil society groups, told The Malaysian Insider that her brother was "truly repentent". "He was so naive when he first went to Singapore, he had never worked or lived away from home.

"He was easily influenced, and he knows he is wrong. He just wants a 2nd chance at life, even if it is behind bars," she said.

Source: The Malaysian Insider, November 23, 2015

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Moratorium or not, Indonesia could be abandoning the death penalty

A number of news outlets reported last week that Indonesia had placed a moratorium on the death penalty. Indonesian's co-ordinating security minister, Luhut Panjaitan, was said to announce this by saying:

We haven't thought about executing a death penalty with the economic conditions like this.

However, Panjaitan later denied this meant an end to capital punishment in Indonesia:

No, I told them we will not carry out executions for the time being because we are now focusing on the economy.

What is a moratorium?

A moratorium means the suspension of executions. It may be official and announced, or simply practised.

Therefore, on the face of it, Indonesia has entered a moratorium of an indeterminate period. The dozens on death row in Indonesia may eventually see their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

The last - unofficial - moratorium in Indonesia ran from 2008 to 2013 under the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). SBY is reported to have deeply disliked capital punishment. But his replacement, Joko Widodo, embraced executions as part of a hardline stance against drug offending.

Capital punishment globally

140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 58 retain the death penalty.

Many jurisdictions have abandoned capital punishment in recent years. A moratorium is a well-established step along the path to full abolition.

However, capital punishment remains a global human rights concern. In 2014, at least 22 countries carried out 607 or more executions. At least 2,466 people were sentenced to death around the world.

The 5 countries responsible for the most executions, according to confirmed data, were Iran (289), Saudi Arabia (90), Iraq (61), the US (35) and Sudan (23). These statistics do not include the suspected thousands of executions in China, which does not report statistics.

Are the reasons for a moratorium important?

There are many persuasive arguments against capital punishment. The death penalty violates the right to life, inflicts torture and is especially wrong where it is carried out in discriminatory ways or for crimes that are not really serious.

Further, the death penalty risks the lives of innocent people wrongly convicted. It has no proven special deterrent value.

Where a country introduces a moratorium or abolishes the death penalty, it might seem reasonable to assume that public and political opinion has identified the practice as wrong. However, capital punishment has often been abandoned for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the ethics of the practice.

31 American states retain capital punishment in law but only about 8 states currently practise it. The number of executions has dropped significantly in recent years. Oklahoma introduced a moratorium in 2014, following the botched and torturous execution of Clayton Lockett.

Similar incidents have led doctors to refuse to participate in executions, and pharmaceutical companies to refuse supply of the most-tested lethal injection drugs.

In the US, as in Indonesia, moratoriums have come in response to the high costs of death-penalty prosecutions and executions.

A win for death penalty opponents?

This is not Indonesia's 1st moratorium on capital punishment. And the practice could easily be reinstated. This may depend on whether the current moratorium is purely motivated by the economy, or whether it is also an indirect response to international condemnation of the most recent executions.

The 2 factors are possibly related. Foreign investors are more cautious about Indonesia due to the controversy caused by its recent executions of foreign nationals.

Whether Indonesia's new moratorium is genuine or temporary, this is an advocacy moment for Australia to seize.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs responded to the executions of Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia in April with a call for abolitionist lobbying across Asia and the Pacific. Triggs noted that the death penalty has been abandoned in New Zealand, Cambodia, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Bhutan and Nepal. De facto moratoriums are operating in Fiji, Thailand and Laos.

Philip Ruddock is chairing a federal parliamentary inquiry into Australia's advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty. Asked whether Indonesia's economic justification for the moratorium might be a strategy to mask its desire to respond to international pressure, he said:

My view is that any change is desirable ... There are a very large number of Indonesians on death row in other countries that [the Indonesians] work hard to have released, so they have an interest in seeing a more just outcome in relation to dealing with these issues around the world.

During his recent visit to Indonesia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refrained from raising capital punishment. But in line with the parliamentary inquiry's objectives, Turnbull could capitalise on the moratorium by renewing dialogue with Indonesia on the issue.

Source: The Conversation, Amy Maguire, November 23, 2015. Amy Maguire is a Lecturer in International Law, University of Newcastle

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