Monday, October 20, 2014

Boston Marathon Bombing: Judge rejects Tsarnaev request for dismissal of charges

D. Tsarnaev
A federal judge refused Friday to suppress evidence in the case of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that was uncovered when the FBI searched his computer, Dartmouth dorm room, and his family's Cambridge apartment in the days and months after the bombings.

US District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. also rejected a defense request to dismiss the case, after Tsarnaev's lawyers said the secret grand jury that indicted Tsarnaev was improperly empaneled.

O'Toole refused to hold a hearing on the requests, finding that Tsarnaev's defense "has failed to prove a violation of the fair cross section requirements" of federal law.

The judge's rulings come as lawyers are scheduled to meet Monday for a status hearing in federal court in Boston, to go over evidence in the case.

Tsarnaev, now 21, is slated to stand trial in January on charges that he and his brother set off the bombs at the Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, that killed 3 people and injured more than 260. The brothers also are accused of fatally shooting an MIT police officer.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police.

In his rulings Friday, O'Toole found that Tsarnaev failed to show that his rights were violated by a flawed jury selection process. Tsarnaev's lawyers had argued that the selection system was flawed because not enough African-Americans were represented, because the court allowed people over 70 to excuse themselves, and because the court did not follow its own rules to replace jurors whose summons were returned as "undeliverable."

O'Toole also refused to suppress evidence gathered by federal investigators. Defense lawyers had argued items that were confiscated went beyond what was authorized by search warrants.

The judge ruled that investigators properly obtained the warrants for the searches, but O'Toole said defense lawyers could contest specific pieces of evidence that prosecutors want to introduce to jurors during the trial.

"The defendant has failed to present any specific facts to support a showing that general rummaging occurred," the judge said.

Source: Boston Globe, October 20, 2014

Iran: Four hanged in Rasht

(file photo)
October 19, 2014: four men were executed in the main prison of Rasht, the official IRIB news agency reported.

The head of the judiciary in Gilan province did not identify the prisoners but said they were 32, 46, 44 and 32 years old and had been arrested on drug related charges.

One of the hanged men was previously arrested for heroin possession, while another 46-year old man was arrested and charged for carrying and selling opium. The other two hanged men were hanged upon charges for buying methamphetamine and heroin.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1,000 prisoners have been executed whilst the news on the execution of many prisoners never gets out.

At least 27 women and 12 prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest, together with 20 political prisoners, are amongst those executed with 57 of these executions carried out in public. During this period, a number of prisoners were killed under torture.

Source: NCRI, 0ctober 19, 2014;, October 20, 2014

Death Penalty Fuels Violence in Iraq, Says U.N. Report

Iraq should stop its widespread use of the death penalty, which is unjust, flawed and only fuels the violence it purports to deter, the United Nations said in a report on Sunday.

Sixty people were hanged in Iraq by the end of August this year, and although that is fewer than the 177 who were executed in 2013, 1,724 people remained on death row.

Iraq tends to carry out the sentence in batches because President Jalal Talabani opposes the death penalty so a vice president orders executions when he is out of the country, said the report, published jointly by the U.N. Mission in Iraq and the U.N. Human Rights Office.

Judges often pass death sentences based on evidence from disputed confessions or secret informants, condemning suspects who are unaware of their rights, may have been tortured and have no defense attorney until they arrive in court, the report said.

"Far from providing justice to the victims of acts of violence and terrorism and their families, miscarriages of justice merely compound the effects of the crime by potentially claiming the life of another innocent person and by undermining any real justice that the victims and families might have received," the report said.

Some convicts' relatives said they had been offered a chance to avoid the death penalty by hiring a particular lawyer for $100,000, while many women detainees said they had been detained in place of a male relative, the report said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and U.N. Special Representative forIraq Nickolay Mladenov said Iraq should impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

The report said the Iraqi government's view that the death penalty deterred violence "appears not to be valid given the deteriorating security situation over the past years" and said the executions appeared to be merely a reaction to the violence.

It added that the death penalty would not deter extremists who were prepared to die to achieve their objectives.

The report also rejected the government's claim that its use of the death penalty enjoyed popular support in Iraq.

"Once informed of the facts, including that it has no deterrent effect whatsoever on levels of violence and the risks of serious and irreversible miscarriages of justice, it is unlikely that the death penalty would continue to enjoy the public support that it now allegedly receives," it said.

It also called on the autonomous Kurdistan Region, which has a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, to abolish it permanently.

Source: Reuters, October 20, 2014

Tennessee death row inmate Olen Hutchison dies of natural causes

Olen Hutchison
NASHVILLE, TN (AP) - Tennessee officials say a death row inmate convicted of a 1988 murder in Campbell County has died of natural causes.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa E. Taylor says 61-year-old Olen E. Hutchinson was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. Sunday at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Hutchison was convicted in 1991 in the drowning death of 46-year-old Hugh L. Huddleston of Knoxville.

Huddleston was lured to Norris Lake under the guise of going fishing.

Hutchison's case became the focus of demonstrations and forums on disparities in the state's death sentences.

Hutchinson was one of seven men accused of plotting to kill Huddleston in an insurance fraud scheme. Hutchison was the only person sentenced to death.

The man convicted of pushing Huddleston into the lake received a life sentence.

Source: The Associated Press, October 20, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Plaque in Memory of Last Two Men Executed for Homosexuality in France Officially Unveiled

Unveiling of the plaque (Photo: G. Koskovich)
On the morning of Oct. 18, 2014, the City of Paris formally unveiled a historical plaque in memory of Jean Diot and Bruno Lenoir, arrested for sodomy and burned at the stake in 1750 — the last two victims of an execution for homosexual acts in the history of France.

The plaque is located in the pavement at the corner of the rue Montorgueil and the rue Bachaumont, near the location where the men were seized in flagrante on Jan. 4, 1750. 

Among the speakers at the ceremony: Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris (the first woman and the second Socialist to hold the post) and Jacques Boutault, district mayor for the second arrondissement, where the plaque is located.

Mayor Hidalgo's speech was both very moving in its evocation of the long struggle for respect and equality for LGBT people and in making a strong commitment to public policy measures supporting LGBT public history. 

Notably, the mayor said that she wanted to see Paris establish an institution for documenting and making LGBT history available to all residents of the city — and she specifically cited San Francisco as a model to follow in this regard.

Source: Gerard Koskovich, October 18, 2014

Photo: Têtu

Botswana: Wrongly Repatriated Man Will Not Be Spared Execution

October 17, 2014: Botswana’s defence minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, has insisted that his government will not give South Africa an undertaking that a Botswana citizen wrongly repatriated to face murder charges will be spared the hangman’s noose.

Seretse said that, when Botswana applied for his extradition, the South Africans had asked for an assurance that Botswana would not apply the death penalty if he was found guilty, but this had not been given.

This follows the deportation of the suspect, Edwin Samotse, to Botswana in August, contrary to South African government policy and a ministerial court order.

South Africa’s home affairs spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, told amaBhungane that there was no possibility that Samotse would be returned to South Africa because Botswana had its own sovereign judiciary.

He said the South African authorities were, however, preparing to make representations to the Botswana government asking for an assurance that Samotse will not be hanged.

Tshwete confirmed that three home affairs officials are being investigated in connection with the illegal deportation of Samotse.

Source:, October 17, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan loses her appeal against death penalty

Asia Bibi was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Islam during an argument with neighbours

The Lahore High Court has upheld the death penalty against a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan 4 years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Asia Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Islam during an argument with neighbours.

Ms Bibi consistently denied the allegations against her, saying they stemmed from an argument with a group of women over a pot of water.

Ms Bibi's lawyer, Naeem Shakir, said: "I was expecting the opposite decision. We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days." Gulam Mustafa, the complainant's lawyer, said the court's decision was correct.

"Asia's lawyer tried to prove that the case was registered on a personal enmity but he failed to prove that," he said.

3 witnesses allegedly involved in the incident did not appear in court, he said. A prayer leader did appear, saying he did not witness the original altercation, but that Ms Bibi had confessed.

Ms Bibi's sentence in 2010 sparked condemnation.

2 prominent politicians - Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti - were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Ms Bibi's trial as flawed.

Source: Reuters, October 16, 2014

Pakistani Christian Woman's Appeal of Death Sentence Is Rejected

The Lahore High Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Pakistani Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case and dismissed her appeal for acquittal.

The defendant, Asia Bibi, 47, a farmworker, was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy. She has denied the accusations, which she said stemmed from a dispute with Muslim co-workers.

Ms. Bibi now plans to appeal the decision in the country's Supreme Court, said her lawyer, Naeem Shakir. But given huge backlogs at the court, analysts said it would probably be at least 3 years before the appeal would be taken up.

The ruling was the latest chapter in a long ordeal for Ms. Bibi, whose case has focused international attention on how Pakistan's blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities.

It was also a factor in the 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province who vociferously campaigned for Ms. Bibi's release and for overhaul of the blasphemy codes. Religious conservatives were outraged by Mr. Taseer's advocacy, and he was shot dead by his police security guard in Islamabad. Months later, his son Shahbaz Ali Taseer was kidnapped by Taliban militants and his whereabouts is still unknown.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bibi has languished in prison, and successive governments have been reluctant to touch the issue.

Death sentences have rarely been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers.

The Lahore courtroom was packed with clerics and members of extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the 2-judge panel's decision to dismiss Ms. Bibi's appeal. "Let us celebrate by distributing sweets!" said 1 cleric who was reciting verses from the Quran throughout the almost 2 1/2-hour court proceeding.

"I am very happy," said Qari Salaam, a co-worker of Ms. Bibi's and the main complainant in the case. "The judges have given a verdict on merit, and Asia deserved it."

He and other farmworkers accused Ms. Bibi of shouting insults against the Prophet Muhammad. But she and her family deny that, saying the workers decided to lash out at her because a manager had ordered her to bring water out to the workers, and they refused to drink from bowls she had touched.

Joseph Francis from the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, an group that works for minority rights, called the ruling a bad decision that had been forced by religious extremists.

"The court had already made its mind to dismiss the appeal, and the presence of Muslim extremist groups in the court further undermined justice," Mr. Francis said.

Ms. Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, expressed disappointment after the verdict.

"We were hoping for some relief, but alas," Mr. Masih said as he left the court.

Source: New York Times, October 16, 2014

Upholding blasphemy death sentence against Christian woman 'a grave injustice'

A Pakistani court's decision to uphold the death sentence against a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges is a grave injustice, Amnesty International said.

The Lahore High Court today rejected the appeal against the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

"This is a grave injustice. Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place - still less sentenced to death - and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

"There were serious concerns about the fairness of Asia Bibi's trial, and her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row. She should be released immediately and the conviction should be quashed."

Asia Bibi's lawyer said after today's verdict that he will file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 4 January 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was killed by one of his security guards after campaigning for Asia Bibi and criticizing Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, was killed by the Pakistani Taliban on 2 March 2011.

"The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas - both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims - while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence. Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards," said David Griffiths.

Source: Amnesty International, October 16, 2014

When will the barbarity of beheading end in Saudi Arabia?

Savagery and barbarity still exists in the present era of enlightenment, where the days of ignorance of Arabia and the dark ages of Europe and the Roman era still lurk in the shadows of today. It is when a state sponsored beheading rears its ugly head that we are reminded of the remnants of brutality seen during the dark ages gone by, that we seem to have adopted today.

In 2011, at least 82 executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia; more than triple the figure of at least 27 executions in 2010. In 2012, a similar number of people were executed. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed their concern last month over a surge in executions, which saw 19 people being beheaded between August 4th and 20th alone. The HRW stated that 8 of those executed had been convicted for non-violent offences such as drug trafficking and "sorcery", and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as "particularly egregious". Rape, murder, apostasy, drug smuggling, sorcery, witchcraft, homosexuality, armed robbery are all punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.


(Public beheading in Saudi Arabia captured on video. Warning: Graphic Content)

A prime example of the flawed Saudi criminal justice system is the case of Abdullah Fandi al-Shammari who was found guilty of manslaughter in 1988 for an alleged killing that took place in 1983. He was released after paying compensation to the family but in 1990 the case was sent to court for a retrial by the Supreme Court. He was rearrested and tried for the same crime but on murder charges. He spent 30 years on death row and was executed last year. Shammari had no access to the file or to any legal assistance, and was not able to appeal against the sentence before it was confirmed by the court of cassation.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said "This case has thrown the country's flawed justice system into especially sharp relief, highlighting the serious lack of transparency, patently unfair trials, and fatal results."

Similarly, a Sri Lankan domestic worker, Rizana Nafeek, was beheaded for allegedly killing a baby in her care. She was only 17 at the time of her execution. This is against the jus cogens principle of international law and in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which Saudi Arabia is a party to. The CRC prohibits the execution of those less than 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the alleged offence for which they are convicted. Hence, it would not be an exaggeration to say that there is lack of transparency, and no legal standards of prosecution are met, even for cases involving punishments as severe as death. The convicted may be denied legal assistance and despite spending a large proportion of the sentence in prison, they may still be executed.

Christof Heyns, the UN special reporter on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said, "Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards. The trials are by all accounts grossly unfair. Defendants are often not allowed a lawyer and death sentences were imposed following confessions obtained under torture. The method of execution then aggravates a situation that is already totally unacceptable."

2 days ago, another Pakistani, named Mohammad Yunus Mohammed Shoaib was executed in the Eastern province of Qatif for hiding heroin in his gut and smuggling it into Saudi Arabia.

His decapitation takes the number of people executed by sword in the conservative Gulf nation to 57 this year, compared to 79 people in all of 2013.

Earlier this year, 2 Pakistanis, Abrar Hussein Nizar Hussein and Zahid Khan Barkat, were executed after being convicted for drug smuggling. The former was executed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and the latter in Qatif.

There are approximately 4,000 Pakistanis languishing in Saudi prisons, facing trial. It is highly ignominious that no legal or consular access is provided to the detainees and the incumbent government is taking little responsibility to ensure that its citizens are provided with legal and humanitarian assistance. Regardless of whatever crime they may have committed, each individual has a right to a fair trial and no one can be deprived of the basic, inalienable human right. There are many who would indulge in the unnecessary debate of whether death penalty should be abolished for such crimes or not, while totally ignoring the fact that no matter how guilty a person may be, he or she cannot be deprived of the right to a fair trial and due process of law.

The law, as it stands in Saudi Arabia, is the strictest interpretation of Shariah, and though some may argue that it has effectively controlled crime, one wonders about the fair trial guarantees. As William Blackstone propounds, "The law holds that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape, than that 1 innocent suffer."

This is a globally accepted legal maxim. And therefore, it is the duty of the Pakistani government and the consulate in Saudi Arabia to ensure that the detainees are accorded due protection of law, especially those who are waiting on death row. It must be guaranteed that women and children be detained only as a means of last resort and not in a prison like environment which can be injurious to their mental and physical wellbeing.

The reality of human rights abuses within the Saudi criminal justice system is no secret and hence no stone must be left unturned to ensure protection of fundamental human rights of the detainees and those who are innocent to be freed. The governments of India and Bangladesh have managed to get many detainees free but no serious efforts are being made by the Pakistani government in this regard. The human rights organisations and civil society are also unmoved by the beheadings of their fellow countrymen.

It is about time that this nation wakes from slumber and strives to protect fundamental human rights of the citizens of Pakistan, both within and outside the country. Who knows who may fall prey to this injustice one day, without even being given a fair trial. Hence, it is the duty of not only the government but of every citizen of the country to stand united against this gross, flagrant and mass violation of fundamental human rights.

Source: The Express Tribune, October 16, 2014

Saudi Arabia faces outcry over death sentence for Shia faith leader

Nimr Baqir al-Nimr's conviction for sedition adding to unrest and promoting sectarian hatred, says Human Rights Watch

Saudi Arabia is facing an international outcry and accusations of promoting sectarian hatred after a Shia Muslim religious leader from the country's volatile eastern province was sentenced to death.

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who led protests in Qatif at the height of the Arab spring in 2011, was convicted on Wednesday of sedition and other charges in a case that has been followed closely by Shias in the kingdom and neighbouring Bahrain.

Shia Muslims make up 10%-15% of the population of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which bills itself as playing a lead role in the fight against the jihadis of Islamic State (Isis) in Syria and Iraq. Riyadh has supported Sunni groups fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad but denies backing Isis.

State prosecutors had reportedly asked for Nimr to be crucified. The sentence is thought likely to be commuted on appeal.

Nimr was arrested in 2012 and ill-treated during his 2-year detention, much of it spent in solitary confinement. He was denied surgery for bullet wounds suffered when he was arrested. He was charged with "disobeying the ruler", "inciting sectarian strife", and encouraging and leading demonstrations.

In Iran, Saudi Arabia's chief regional rival and the political centre of the Shia world, the foreign ministry warned on Thursday that execution would have "dire consequences". It called Nimr an ayatollah, giving him the second most senior clerical title in the Shia hierarchy. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, uses capital punishment.

In London the Foreign Office stated that it was aware of the sentencing, adding: "The UK opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle."

The Saudi authorities have portrayed the cleric as an "instigator of discord and rioting". But Nimr's supporters and family have denied that he incited violence.

In a BBC interview, Nimr said he backed "the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons". The arrest of his brother and other relatives after sentencing has fuelled anger that is being ventilated on Twitter and other social media.

"Saudi Arabia's harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to existing sectarian discord and unrest," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Saudi Arabia's path to stability in the eastern province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences."

Amnesty International described Nimr's sentencing as part of a wider Saudi government crackdown on dissent.

Shia and Sunni groups said they were extremely alarmed by the sentence. "Ayatollah al-Nimr is a respected Muslim figure in Saudi Arabia," 10 organisations said in statement. "He is a faith leader, reformist and human rights activist, who has campaigned for an end to discriminatory laws against the Shia minority. The sentencing will further inflame sectarian tensions and provide encouragement to extremist groups such as Isis to continue their persecution of religious minorities."

Toby Matthiesen, a Cambridge expert on Saudi Arabia, said: "In the last 2 years Nimr has become known by Shia across the world. For many Salafis and Sunnis with anti-Shia leanings he has become a real hate figure. In the context of Isis, the Saudi royal family is trying to legitimise itself in the eyes of Sunnis by being tough. Nimr was a revolutionary who called for non-violent protests and the downfall of the Al Saud, but also for Assad to go. He wasn't sectarian."

Yusif al-Khoei, of the London-based Al-Khoei Foundation, said he was "appalled" by the news and with others was considering boycotting a Saudi-organised conference on inter-religious dialogue in Vienna.

Source: The Guardian, October 17, 2014

Iran: Sons of murder victim deny mercy to convicted killer Reyhaneh Jabbari

Reyhaneh Jabbari
The last "peace and reconciliation" meeting in the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, sentenced to death for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, culminated without a resolution on Wednesday October 15.

The Etemad daily reported on Thursday October 16 that Mohammad Shahriyari, the head of the Tehran Criminal Court, said: "The final Peace and Reconciliation meeting took place in the presence of Reyhaneh Jabbari, her mother and the family of the deceased, and the next of kin did not agree to forego the death sentence."

The meeting was attended by Reyhaneh Jabbari, the accused, her family, her lawyer, the son of the deceased and Judge Shariyari of the Peace and Reconciliation Unit. Jabbari was questioned by Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi's son. At the request of both parties, reporters were not allowed in the session.

The son of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, the deceased, has been quoted after a session on Tuesday as saying that the only way for him to forego his right to Qesas and forgive Jabbari is for her "to tell the truth about the incident."

Another son had told Shargh news that Jabbari's mother just cried at the meeting like all other meetings. "We only had one condition to forgive her and that was for her to tell the truth. It is not just us that think Reyhaneh is not telling the truth but even the judges that have handled the case believe that she is hiding something."

Sarbandi's son says that when they asked her to tell the truth, she did not give a convincing answer. "This issue is still unclear to her and she has not felt death," he added.

He went on to say that there will be no more meetings and that his family is waiting for the sentence to be executed.

Reyhaneh Jabbari is a 26-year-old woman who was arrested 7 years ago for the murder of Morteza Abdolal Sarbandi and sentenced to death.

Source: Radio Zamaneh, October 15, 2014

France : Il y a plus de 250 ans, la dernière exécution d’homosexuels à Paris

Anne Hidalgo, maire de Paris, inaugurera demain une plaque en l’honneur de Bruno Lenoir et Jean Diot, les derniers homosexuels brûlés vifs à Paris en raison de leur homosexualité.

Il est presque minuit ce 3 janvier 1750 lorsque Bruno Lenoir, un cordonnier d’une vingtaine d’années, et son partenaire d’un soir, Jean Diot, employé de maison de 40 ans, sont arrêtés, ivres, rue Montorgueil, au coeur de Paris. Selon le procès-verbal de l’époque dressé par le guet, la police chargée des rondes de nuit, les deux hommes ont été vus « en posture indécente et d’une manière répréhensible ».

D’ordinaire, ce type affaire se soldait alors par une simple remontrance, appelée « mercuriale ». Eux n’auront pas cette chance. Après un séjour de six mois dans les geôles malfamées de la prison du Châtelet et un simulacre de procès, ils écopent de la peine maximale : la mort par le feu, en place de Grève, l’actuelle place de l’Hôtel de Ville, qui servait aux exécutions et aux supplices publics sous l’Ancien Régime
La sentence, pourtant conforme à ce que la loi réservait aux « sodomites » au milieu du XVIIIe siècle, « a étonné tout le monde par sa sévérité », explique Thierry Pastorello, historien et auteur d’une thèse sur l’homosexualité masculine à Paris aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles.

« S’agissant d’une simple sodomie, c’est un cas unique au XVIIIe siècle, on a voulu faire un exemple », assure-t-il. A cette période, d’autres homosexuels avaient été brûlés pour ce motif, mais ils s’étaient rendus coupables de pédophilie et de trafic de jeunes enfants.


Du jardin des Tuileries à celui du Luxembourg, en passant par les quais de Seine, « la vie sodomite était très développée à l’époque », poursuit M. Pastorello. « C’était un crime très banal. Les archives montrent que la police savait très bien ce qui se passait dans certains endroits chauds », notamment les guinguettes et cabarets « connus pour leur clientèle sodomite ».

Outre l’acte, les deux hommes, de simple condition, ont eu le tort de ne pas être bien nés. « Ils étaient particulièrement fragiles sur le plan social, c’était plus facile de les condamner », estime M. Pastorello. « Les jeunes nobles surpris dans des parties fines dans les bosquets de Versailles étaient renvoyés dans leurs châteaux de campagne pour se faire oublier », ajoute-t-il.

Ce n’est qu’en 1791 que le code pénal abandonne le crime de sodomie entre adultes consentants. Et il faudra attendre 1982, sous l’impulsion de Robert Badinter, ministre de la Justice de François Mitterrand, pour que l’homosexualité soit totalement dépénalisée.


Samedi, en présence de la maire de Paris Anne Hidalgo, une plaque commémorative sera dévoilée à l’endroit de leur arrestation, à l’angle des rues Montorgueil et Bachaumont. Un vœu avait été présenté en ce sens par le groupe communiste, présidé par Ian Brossat, au Conseil de Paris, qui l’avait voté à l’unanimité en mai 2011.

« C’est un acte important. Enfin, ces victimes-là vont être reconnues », se réjouit Nicolas Rividi, un porte-parole de l’Inter-LGBT (lesbiennes, gays, bi et trans). « Il ne faut pas que la mémoire se perde, mais que le souvenir de ces personnes serve de garde-fous face aux manifestations homophobes », dit-il.

Sources : Têtu, AFP, 17 octobre 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Austin Myers: Judge upholds death penalty sentence

Austin Myers
LEBANON, Ohio – A Warren County judge upheld a jury's decision Thursday to sentence a 19-year-old killer to death. He is now the youngest person on death row in Ohio.

In a previous hearing, the jury recommended Austin Myers be given the death penalty for his role in the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Justin Back.

The jury's decision came after the mother of Austin Myers, 19, pleaded for her son's life.

Myers also asked jurors to spare him on behalf of his family.

"It's only going to cause more pain and suffering for another family," Myers said.

The jury took about six hours to decide he deserved to die and Judge Donald Oda II announced his decision shortly before 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Myers' mother described a change in her son after she and his father split up.

"When I'm looking at all these pictures, I describe it like my boy - I love him with all my heart - he just has a light in him in all of his pictures and then he doesn't," Danielle Copeland said.

"It's just like a different kid."

Later Myers took the stand.

"It won't hurt me. I won't feel anything," he said. "It's going to hurt more innocent people."

"If there's one thing that anyone of you thinks is a positive in Austin Myers' life, then give him life. Spare his life," said Myers' defense attorney, Greg Howard.

"He should not be punished any more than (Timothy) Mosley will be."

Myers and Mosley were convicted of killing Back in January. Mosley pleaded guilty and testified against Myers in order to avoid the death penalty.

The prosecutor said Myers should die.

"This is is the only just consequences for the choices of Austin Myers. The only just sentence for Austin Myers is a sentence of death," said assistant prosecutor Travis Vieux.

Source: WCPO, October 16, 2014

Second sanity exam of accused Colorado cinema gunman completed

James E. Holmes
Reuters - The sealed results of a second sanity examination of accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes, which could determine if the long-delayed trial will begin this year, were submitted on Wednesday, a court document shows.

Holmes underwent a court-ordered psychiatric test last year after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more inside a suburban Denver cinema in July 2012 during a midnight viewing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered further psychological testing in February after ruling the first evaluation was deficient.

Samour said in a notice to prosecutors and defense attorneys on Wednesday that the new 53-page report and videotaped interviews of Holmes were ready for their review.

The report could trigger more litigation, potentially delaying the trial beyond its scheduled December start date, said Colorado defense lawyer and legal analyst Mark Johnson.

"This could provoke a valid motion by either side to seek a continuance for more investigation if it is contrary to the first evaluation," he said. "The sanity determination is the centerpiece of this entire case."

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, and said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

Lawyers for Holmes have acknowledged that the 26-year-old former neuroscience graduate was the lone shooter, but claim he was in the throes of a psychotic episode at the time.

While defense lawyers have challenged nearly every piece of evidence amassed against their client, the case hinges on whether Holmes knew right from wrong when he went on the rampage.

Under Colorado’s insanity defense law, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant was not insane at the time of the crime.

The results of the first evaluation have not been made public, but prosecutors sought a second psychiatric examination, arguing that the first one was incomplete and inadequate.

Samour sided with prosecutors and ordered further testing, over the objections of defense lawyers who unsuccessfully appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Source: Reuters, October 16, 2014

Change of president means unsettling time for Indonesia's death row prisoners

Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukumaran (right)
On October 20, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will step down as President of Indonesia after two five-year terms, and Joko Widodo will be inaugurated. What will be the potential impact of the change of Presidency on those prisoners on death row in Indonesia, which include Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran?

Mr Yudhoyono has a mixed record on the death penalty. Under his 10-year presidency, 14 prisoners were executed for premeditated murder, three for terrorist offences, and four for drug trafficking. However, executions by the state declined notably in his second term with no prisoner executed between 2009 and 2012, in part because of domestic concern over the fate of Indonesian domestic workers sentenced to death abroad.

Around 140 people remain on death row in Indonesia. Thirty to 40 of these prisoners have exhausted all options of appeal. Their fate rests solely with the Attorney-General's Office, which bears the responsibility for carrying out executions, though possibly with the president's tacit consent.

For another forty or so prisoners who have had no luck overturning their death sentences in the courts, the final option to avoid the firing squad is presidential clemency: the power of the president under the Indonesian Constitution and the 2010 Clemency Law to reduce a death sentence to life imprisonment.

Over the last weeks of his presidency, Yudhoyono has faced up to 40 clemency petitions from prisoners on death row, and hundreds or even thousands of petitions from non-death row prisoners seeking to reduce the length of their prison sentences.

Unless they have already been decided on, Chan's and Sukumaran's mercy petitions will be among those sitting on the president's desk. What will happen to these petitions as Mr Yudhoyono leaves office and the Widodo administration steps in?

Source: The Age, Daniel Pascoe, October 16, 2014

Lahore HC upholds Asia Bibi's death penalty for blasphemy

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Christian women convicted of blasphemy four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.

“A two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Asia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry told AFP.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.

Two high-profile politicians – then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti – were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi's trial as flawed.

The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.

She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.

Over a dozen religious clerics — including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi — were present at the court Thursday.

“We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today's verdict, it's a victory of Islam,” Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.

Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently misused to settle personal scores.

Lawyers who defend people accused of blasphemy — and judges seen as lenient — also risk being accused of the crime themselves and regularly face intimidation.

Last month a prison guard at the notorious Adiala jail in Rawalpindi shot and wounded a 70-year-old Scottish man with a history of mental illness who is on death row for blasphemy.

The jail also houses Mumtaz Qadri, the former bodyguard of governor Taseer who gunned him down in an Islamabad market place. He was given a death sentence but heralded by some as a hero for killing Taseer.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty, though Pakistan has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

Source: Agence France-Presse, October 16, 2014

Saudi Arabia court sentences Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced the Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death, his family says.

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr's brother said he was found guilty of seeking "foreign meddling" in the kingdom, "disobeying" its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces.

The cleric was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Province in 2011.

His arrest two years ago, during which he was shot, triggered days of unrest.

Oil-rich Eastern Province is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni royal family.

Protests began there in February 2011 after the start of the pro-democracy uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family.

The Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blame Iran for stirring up discontent.

Sheikh Nimr's brother Mohammed said on Twitter that he had been sentenced to death by Riyadh's Specialised Criminal Court, which tries terrorism cases, on Wednesday morning.

A statement by the cleric's family described the verdict as "discretionary", saying the judge had the option of imposing a lighter sentence, according to the Associated Press. It also warned that the trial had been "political" and had set a "dangerous precedent for decades to come".

When Sheikh Nimr, who holds the rank of ayatollah, went on trial in March 2013 prosecutors called for his execution by "crucifixion", a punishment which in Saudi Arabia involves beheading followed by public display of the decapitated body.

Source: BBC News, October 15, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Afghanistan to review cases of 400 convicts sentenced to death

The Presidential Palace officials have said the government will review the cases of 400 convicts sentenced to death by the courts of the country.

The officials have further added that majority of the cases are pending signature of President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, however, they insisted that the government will seek alternatives for the convicts who are waiting for death penalty.

President Ghani's legal advisor, Abdul Ali Mohammadi has told The Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the execution of over 400 convicts is a major issue for the government of Afghanistan.

Mohammadi further added that President Ghani is committed to ensure justice and his recent visit to Pul-e-Charkhi prison is an example of his commitment to maintain justice in the country.

According to reports, around 100 cases have been approved by the Supreme Court of Afghanistan and is pending the signing of the president, while over 300 others have not been approved by the Supreme Court.

This comes as at least 6 people, including a notorious Mafia leader were recently executed in Kabul after their execution was approved by former President Hamid Karzai and Kabul courts.

The review of prisoners cases was recently instructed by President Ghani and around 7,300 cases have been forwarded to the presidential palace by the Attorney General Office of Afghanistan.

Source: Khaama Press, October 14, 2014

The 21st century death chamber: $100,000 for a civilised execution

Oklahoma new death chamber
A tour of Oklahoma’s state-of-the-art killing room unveils how the state spent thousands on restraints, an electric bed and medical equipment, but also how a theatre of transparency hides actual practices

How much does it cost to revamp a death chamber in a prison that hosted a notorious botched execution into a state-of-the-art, 21st century, humane and civilised killing machine? $106,042.60 – or so says the state of Oklahoma.

This week Oklahoma opened the doors of its maximum-security state penitentiary in McAlester to show off its spanking-new redesigned execution suite. It was a display of conspicuous transparency put on for the benefit of the media, which was paradoxical in the circumstances, as one of the main changes made under the renovation is to slash the number of media witnesses at all future executions by more than half.

As part of the media tour, the prison authorities handed reporters an itemised balance sheet that listed all the expenses that had gone into the upgrade. The 144 entries ranged from the mundane – $516.92 spent on new carpeting, $358.42 for paint stripper, $55.24 on “nuts and bolts” – to the more resonant.

Almost $2,000 were spent on restraints – four brown leather straps, one for each of the offender’s hands and one for each ankle. There was an order for 34 needles, as well as a set of new syringes for administering the lethal drugs.

And then there was the listing for a “surgical table”, commonly known as a gurney, costing a substantial $12,500. In case Oklahoma taxpayers are tempted to complain about such lavish expense, it should be pointed out that the new gurney is likely to see plenty of use: the last one was purchased by the state in the 1950s and was the centrepiece of at least 111 judicial killings.

Scott Crow, the department of corrections administrator of field operations who conducted the tour, waxed lyrical about the capabilities of the new death bed. “This is an electric bed which has the ability to raise or lower to accommodate the needs not only of witnesses in the viewing areas but any needs as far as the offender is concerned,” he said.

He pressed a set of buttons beneath the gurney so that the assembled media representatives could see it rise and fall, rise and fall, with the cheerful smoothness of a carousel horse.

Source: The Guardian, Ed Pilkington, October 10, 2014

Clayton Lockett: Doctor involved in botched execution 'experimented' on inmate, suit claims

Clayton Lockett
Family of Clayton Lockett, who was killed in prolonged execution, names doctor and says he violated rule established at Nuremberg trials

The family of Clayton Lockett, the death row inmate in Oklahoma who suffered a long and apparently traumatic execution in April, is suing a family doctor who they allege actively participated in the botched lethal injection process that killed him.

The legal complaint, lodged with the federal court for the western district of Oklahoma on Tuesday, names Dr Johnny Zellmer as a defendant both in his individual and official capacity. The lawsuit accuses him of engaging “in human medical experimentation in torturing Clayton Lockett to death”, and says that his participation in the execution was against international protocols established at the post-second world war Nuremberg trials of Nazi doctors.

The naming of Dr Zellmer under court privilege is a rare instance of the identity of a physician who allegedly participated in an execution coming to light. Death penalty states, including Oklahoma, go to great lengths to guard the secrecy of their execution teams.

The position of doctors is particularly sensitive as physicians take the Hippocratic Oath to show “utmost respect for human life”. Where doctors have been present in the death chamber, their role has in most cases been tightly limited to assessing whether the prisoner is unconscious and then officially pronouncing death.

However, in the case of Clayton Lockett, the state has admitted that a physician was present who actively took part in killing the prisoner. The report of the internal investigation into the Lockett execution reveals that the physician stepped in to finish the job after the paramedic who had initiated the execution failed to place the IV into Lockett’s veins.

“The IV access was completed by a physician licensed as a medical doctor,” the report said.

The direct participation of the physician in helping guide lethal drugs into Lockett’s body is an apparent violation of the Hippocratic Oath. It is also a breach of the voluntary code laid out by the American Medical Association that states that doctors should not play any role that contributes to the cause of death in a legallyauthorized execution.

Source: The Guardian, Ed Pilkington, October 13, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Could firing squad make a comeback in Utah, elsewhere?

Firing squad chair used in Utah State Prison
SALT LAKE CITY — When Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in 2010 at the Utah State Prison in Draper, more than 59 journalists from news outlets from around the globe descended upon Utah to cover the event.

Reporters from Japan and Great Britain called it “a Wild West way of dispatching people” and referenced John Wayne movies.

But as anti-death penalty pharmaceutical companies in Europe refuse to sell the drugs necessary for lethal injections to prisons in the United States and in the wake of botched lethal injection executions in recent months, the firing squad could be making its return to Utah and other places.

“I’ve had several states actually call (to ask about the firing squad),” Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said. “They asked me not to name them because they don’t want the media circus on it. But they’re in the same boat we are — they can’t get the drugs, either.”

Botched executions involving lethal injections in Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio earlier this year have led Ray to believe that the method could face constitutional challenges as well. For that reason, he is proposing legislation that would bring back the firing squad as the secondary execution method in Utah, should the primary method, lethal injection, be found unconstitutional or unavailable.

“It really won’t do anything,” Ray said. “It’s just the plan B if we need it.”

A law passed in 2004 eliminated death by firing squad in Utah, but those on death row who requested such a death prior to the new law still have the option. Ray said the legislation he is proposing would restore the firing squad as a possible execution method, but eliminate the inmate choice.

“It will be lethal injection, and then, if the drugs are not there, or it is unconstitutional, then it will be firing squad,” Ray explained. “There is no option for the inmates.”

Ray acknowledged that part of the reason the method was eliminated was due to the extra attention that surrounded it. But he said there is always going to be interest around executions, especially among international media. The firing squad may heighten that interest, but Ray doesn't balk at it as an execution method.

“It is actually the most humane,” he said. “The individual is usually dead before they can even hear the gunshot. It’s four bullets to the heart, so it’s not ‘How long did it take for him to die? Could he breathe? Did he feel it?’”

Source: Deseret News, October 14, 2014

Pictures at an execution: The condemned in art

Christie's Images/Corbis
A new exhibition aims to humanise condemned prisoners. From the sword to the electric chair, the death penalty has inspired challenging art, writes Jason Farago.

One man, before dying, said, “I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me.” Another said, “I’m going to a beautiful place.” A third: “I am innocent, innocent, innocent.”

Those were their last words before an executioner took their lives. And for Amy Elkins, a young artist based in Los Angeles, those testaments offered a means to humanise the grim statistics of the death penalty in the United States. Her photography series – which was awarded this year’s Aperture Portfolio Prize and goes on view in New York next month – overlays the mugshots of the condemned with text of their final words, coursing down the image like the current of a river. Another series features letters Elkins exchanged with death row prisoners, including several in solitary confinement, interspersed with photographs the artist took in an effort to simulate their thoughts. A seascape, a forest, an expanse of concrete : these images, mundane in other circumstances, become through Elkins the inner worlds of men whom the state will destroy.

“People write of capital punishment as if they were whispering,” argued Albert Camus, the most implacable of death-penalty opponents, in his 1957 Reflections on the Guillotine . To an extent, we still do. This year several US states, facing a shortage of drugs for lethal injections thanks to a European moratorium, resorted to untested and unreliable combinations that resulted in severe pain and, in one case, a failed execution . Though campaigners condemned the executions as barbaric and inhumane, and though support for capital punishment has declined in the United States, these botched lethal injections spurred little public discussion. Today, although the death penalty is illegal in all but 22 countries , we still write about it in a whisper, preferring not to see the consequences of society’s ultimate sentence. Can art speak more loudly? It certainly has throughout art history; perhaps it can again.

Source: BBC News, October 14, 2014