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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Indonesia: Executions near as Supreme Court rejects petition

Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui
and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, (bottom row) Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami,
Filipina Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, and Nigerian Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise.
Attorney General M. Prasetyo praised the Supreme Court’s (MA) decision to reject a second case review petition filed by Philippines national Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, adding that the decision helps clear the way for the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to carry out a second batch of executions.

Prasetyo said that the AGO would announce the date of the executions after the Supreme Court issued rulings on two other case-review petitions filed by two other drug convicts; Serge Areski Atlaoui of France and Martin Anderson alias Belo of Ghana.

Atlaoui is currently challenging his death penalty verdict, which stems from a November 2005 arrest where he was found in possession of 138.6 kilograms of methamphetamine, 290 kg of ketamine and 316 drums of drug-making ingredients at a factory in Cikande, Tangerang, Banten. Anderson was sentenced to death after being arrested with 50 grams of heroin in Kelapa Gading, Jakarta, in November 2003.

“From the very beginning we were prepared to conduct the executions, but we also must respect the legal process. The executions will be conducted as soon as we hear the result of the legal process of [the two other convicts],” Prasetyo said on Thursday.

Prasetyo added he hoped both appeals would be rejected so the AGO could proceed with the executions.

“I think the Supreme Court has the same spirit as us and we have to appreciate what it has ruled [on Veloso],” Prasetyo added.

Separately, Supreme Court spokesman Suhadi confirmed the rejection of Veloso’s case-review petition, saying the panel of three justices — comprising Timur Manurung, Andi Samsan Nganro and Mohammad Saleh — ruled Wednesday that Veloso’s petition failed to meet the requirements for a case review as stipulated in the Criminal Code (KUHP).

“The arguments [of the bench] are that the petition failed to meet requirements for a case review,” Suhadi said on Thursday.

Veloso was sentenced to death after she was found guilty of attempting to conceal 2.6 kg of heroin at Adisucipto International Airport in April 2010 in Yogyakarta.

Veloso, Anderson and Atlaoui are three of 10 convicts who are set to be executed in the near future on the isolated Nusakambangan prison island near Cilacap, Central Java.

The other drug convicts facing imminent executions are Bali Nine duo Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan of Australia, Rodrigo Gularte of Brazil, Zainal Abidin of Indonesia and Raheem Agbaje Salami of Nigeria. Also slated to be executed are three convicted murderers of Indonesian nationality: Syofial alias Iyen bin Azwar, Harun bin Ajis and Sargawi alias Ali bin Sanusi.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has reportedly declined multiple phone calls from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has very publicly pleaded with Jokowi to spare the lives of Sukumaran and Chan.

Abbott told reporters on March 5 he made such an appeal to Jokowi by phone and had been unsuccessful.

Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema on Thursday brushed off intimations of a kind of snub.

“The President was too busy,” the AP quoted the ambassador as telling reporters in the Australian capital of Canberra.

“Because, as you know, the President’s first priority is his own people, to the provinces. Not only in Java, in Kalimantan or Sumatra, but also in Papua. So he is making a lot of trips,” he said.

“I’ve certainly put in a request because the government and the people of Indonesia need to know that this is important to us,” Abbott said in early March.

Source: The Jakarta Post, March 27, 2015


Failed death row appeal 'good news' for Bali pair: Jakarta

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
The failure of a death row Filipina to win a judicial review of her controversial case is "good news", says an Indonesian official organising her execution and those of two Australians.

Bali Nine members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan await their fate on Nusakambangan island while Jakarta observes the final legal appeals of some of the 10 drug offenders it wishes to put to death at the same time.

To hasten the process, Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo has ordered the Supreme Court to fast-track the cases of those who have applied for last-minute judicial reviews.

Filipina Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso's case has been rejected after a matter of days.

It usually takes three months to consider such applications but Veloso's was distributed to three judges on March 20 and rejected on Wednesday.

The attorney-general's spokesman Tony Spontana said on Friday this was "good news".

"It's in accordance to our hopes and understanding that the judicial review would be rejected," he told reporters.

He was pleased the court had dispensed with her bid quickly and found no evidence to support a review.

"Certainly Mary Jane is finished with her process," he said.

Veloso was considered to have a good chance for a review and it was thought this would delay the executions of all 10 prisoners for some months.

The 30-year-old single mother says she thought she was coming to Indonesia in 2010 for a job as a maid and didn't know there was heroin in her suitcase.

She did not finish high school, speaks only Tagalog and did not have a qualified translator to explain proceedings at her trial.

Supreme Court spokesman Suhadi denies judges have been pressured by Mr Prasetyo's negotiations to ensure the fastest turnaround of the judicial review applications.

Veloso's was handled particularly quickly because the lead judge had a light caseload, he said.

"We know each other's duties and they're not intervening," he told AAP.

"If there's been co-ordination, the manner is more non-judicial."

A further two prisoners - Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Ghanian Martin Anderson - are seeking judicial reviews.

Chan and Sukumaran have an appeal in the administrative court, that if won, would see their lawyers argue the blanket rejection of clemency did not follow due process.

President Joko Widodo is denying clemency to all death row drug offenders, regardless of rehabilitation or other factors, believing it will shock Indonesia out of its drug problem.

An expert witness for Chan and Sukumaran's defence could not attend court on Wednesday and was re-scheduled for Monday.

Source: AAP, March 27, 2015

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Indonesia prepares to transfer Philippines drug convict for execution

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
(Reuters) - Indonesia is preparing to move a Filipina death row inmate for execution after she lost her appeal in the Supreme Court earlier this week, the attorney general's spokesman said on Friday.

The planned executions of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso and nine other mostly foreign drug traffickers has drawn international criticism after repeated pleas for mercy from the United Nations and various governments have gone unheeded by President Joko Widodo.

Veloso will be moved from the city of Yogyakarta to the maximum security prison on Nusakambangan Island in Central Java, where the rest of the group awaits execution by firing squad.

"We can say that (Veloso's) case is done," the attorney general's spokesman Tony Spontana told reporters.

"There will be preparations to move her soon because the plan to execute all (10 convicts) at once hasn't changed."

The attorney general's office has yet to announce a date for the executions.

Four other foreign nationals in the group have also lodged last-minute appeals against their death sentences, forcing the attorney general to hold off on the executions until all legal processes are seen through. 

Two Australian prisoners are among those appealing their sentences. The Australian government has been pursuing an eleventh-hour campaign to save their lives, but Widodo has refused to budge, ramping up diplomatic tensions between the neighbors.

Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap.

Source: Reuters, March 27, 2015

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

U.S. Military: Death penalty rarely used for desertion conviction

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
Army charges Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion

The Army announced Wednesday that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who disappeared from his unit in Afghanistan in 2009, has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, offenses which could send him to prison for life.

What punishment could Bergdahl face?

Military authorities will have to weigh a range of factors, including what Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl did, the effect on his fellow soldiers and what's best for the U.S. military as a whole.

The Department of Defense broke the law when it traded Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for 5 Taliban prisoners in May, the Government Accountability Office said in a legal opinion issued Thursday.

While the death penalty is a possible punishment in cases of desertion or misbehavior before the enemy - the charges leveled Tuesday against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl - that sentence has rarely been imposed.

"On the books, it is an option," said Noel Tipon, an attorney in Hawaii who specializes in defending servicemembers facing Article 32 hearings and courts-martial.

But it would be an "unlikely event" for a case to be referred as capital where a death was not directly involved, he said.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the death penalty may be imposed for either desertion or misbehavior before the enemy - but only during times of declared war.

When the Army announced the charges against Bergdahl, it did not address the issue, saying only that his maximum penalty could be life in prison.

The only U.S. service member to be executed for a purely military offense - desertion - since the Civil War was Edward D. Slovik, who was executed by firing squad in January 1945 in France.

In a letter to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Slovik pleaded for leniency. But the American forces were rife with desertions at that time, and Eisenhower wanted to stem the tide by making the private's execution an example.

Congress issued formal declarations of war on Germany and Japan for World War II, which clearly created a "time of war" in regard to the UCMJ's requirements.

But the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 18, 2001, is a slightly different creature than a "declaration of war."

Tipon said it is "unclear" whether the 2001 authorization rises to the level of a declared war in regard to application of the death penalty.

He said it's the prerogative of the court-martial convening authority to decide whether the charges will be referred as capital.

Desertion could lead to the death of soldiers left behind in certain extraordinary cases.

"I understand that argument," Tipon said. "Sure, if something had gone wrong, then it could have led to the death of other soldiers, other servicemembers."

But without Bergdahl being directly involved in one of those soldiers' deaths, the convening authority would not likely refer it as a capital case, he said.

"The decision to refer something capital, especially in a case where an action didn't lead to the death of another individual as a result of that misconduct, is undertaken very soberly and very deliberately," Tipon said.

Some soldiers who served with Bergdahl say some soldiers died in the search for Bergdahl after he walked off his post in Afghanistan in June 2009. Some of his platoon mates have publicly held him responsible for those deaths.

"That might be a game changer for the powers that be who are making the decision whether or not to refer capital," Tipon said. "But again, that's such a tough call to make because typically a death-penalty-eligible case is for murder. It isn't 2nd- or 3rd-order effects, as they say in the military, of what the misconduct was."

Some in the military law community have questioned whether desertion still meets society's expectation of a capital crime.

Navy attorney Lt. Cmdr. Rich Federico wrote a 2013 paper in the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law calling for Congress to abolish the death penalty for unique military, nonhomicide offenses.

Since the military revamped its death penalty policies in 1984, no servicemember has been tried capitally for a crime that wouldn't carry a death penalty in a civilian court, according to Federico.

The last servicemember to walk away from his unit in a combat zone was Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, who disappeared from a U.S. military base in Iraq in 2004 and who abandoned his Marine unit at Camp Lejeune in 2005. In February, he was found guilty of 2 counts of desertion and sentenced to 735 days in prison, reduction of rank, forfeiture of pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge.

Federico argued that crimes like desertion do not fit "the modern civilian view that the death penalty must be limited to a narrow class of defendants who commit ... the most serious crimes and whose extreme culpability makes them the most deserving of execution."

Source: Stars & Stripes, March 27, 2015

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Michael Portillo inspires Oklahoma to consider execution by nitrogen

As US states look for alternatives to lethal injection Oklahoma is on the verge of becoming the 1st to allow for asphyxiating death row inmates

Oklahoma is moving forward with plans to become the first US state to allow executions using nitrogen gas after being inspired by a BBC documentary in which Michael Portillo suggested it was the most painless way to implement capital punishment.

States where the death penalty is imposed are scrambling for alternative methods as pharmacies that provide drugs for lethal injection increasingly refuse to do so on ethical grounds.

Later this week Oklahoma's Senate will vote on allowing death by "nitrogen hypoxia". The proposal has already been approved by a large majority in its lower house and it would become the state's first back-up option if lethal injection drugs run out.

Mike Christian, the Republican state politician behind the plan, has said his opinion on using nitrogen was "solidified" after he saw a 2008 BBC Horizon documentary called How to Kill a Human Being in which Michael Portillo, the former British Cabinet minister, searched for the most humane execution option.

In the film Mr Portillo, who as an MP voted both for and against the death penalty, said: "After some investigation I think I've come up with a perfect killing device, an entirely humane way of killing a prisoner who is under sentence of death. It's nitrogen, which renders him at first euphoric, and then makes him unconscious pretty quickly and he dies entirely without pain."

Mr Christian said recently: "I believe it's revolutionary. It's probably the best thing we've come up with since the start of executing people by government. You can pick up nitrogen anywhere they use it. Industrially, you can pick it up at a welding supply company."

Condemned prisoners would be asphyxiated by putting a mask on them which would be used to replace oxygen with inert nitrogen. Supporters say the person would experience brief euphoria, lose consciousness after about 10 seconds, and their heart would stop beating within 2 minutes. According to Amnesty International no US state has ever used nitrogen gas to execute an inmate and it had no reports of the method being used in other countries.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, said: "We would be experimenting on the condemned using a process that has been banned in many states for the euthanasia of animals."

In Oklahoma, where three people were scheduled to die next month, executions are already on hold following a botched lethal injection last year. Clayton Lockett, convicted of murder, took 43 minutes to die.

The US Supreme Court is reviewing the state's lethal injection procedures after remaining death row inmates claimed they were inhumane.

Earlier this week Utah approved the firing squad as its back-up method if it runs out of lethal injection drugs.

Source: The Telegraph, March 27, 2015

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Pakistan: Prisoner executed in Faisalabad

A convicted murderer has been executed in the Central Jail Faisalabad on Thursday morning.

Muhammad Afzal, a resident of Sialkot, had been remained on death row for around 2 decades.

He was found guilty of shooting a man, Muhammad Saleem, dead in 1995 over an old rivalry. and awarded the death sentence by district and session courts on May 25, 1995.

The review petitions of the accused were turned down by the higher and superior courts. President of Pakistan had also rejected his mercy appeal.

The last meeting of the condemned prisoner with his family had been arranged on Wednesday.

Some 8,000 condemned prisoners are still in a death row in various jails across the country.

Earlier the ruling PML-N government had lifted the moratorium on the death penalty on Dec 17, 2014, in terrorism related cases only, in the wake of a Taliban attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, which claimed 141 lives, most of them children.

Later, the government completely reinstated capital punishment for all offences that entail the death penalty.

The United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged the government to re-impose the moratorium on the death penalty.

Source: Dawn, March 27, 2015

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Vietnam: Amended law reduces eligibility for death penalty

The proposal to reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty in an amended Penal Code sparked heated debates at a conference held yesterday in southern Hoa Binh City.

The National Assembly's Judicial Committee had proposed the amendment and its deputy head, Duong Ngoc Nguu, said the number of crimes subject to the death penalty in the amended Penal Code would be reduced from 44 to 22, with plans to lower it even further to 15.

Deputy Minister Dinh Trung Tung from the Ministry of Justice said the death penalty will only apply in cases involving crimes of extraordinary brutality and illegal drug dealings.

While agreeing with the government's effort to cut back on the use of the death penalty, Deputy Chief of the Police Department Lt. General Nguyen Phong Hoa argued that further consideration should be given to other crimes, such as drug trafficking.

"The situation is dire on the border front. Some nights, we get reports of up to 60 drug trafficking operations. Traffickers in these cases were armed and ready to open fire on law-enforcement forces," the deputy chief said.

Minors, pregnant women, mothers of children aged under three and elderly people aged 70 or above were not to be subjected to capital punishment, he said.

The amended Penal Code aims to remove the death penalty for an additional 7 types of crime other than corruption.

Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Tat Vien, a member of the Steering Committee for Judicial Reform, said, "In light of rampant corruption across the country, maintaining the death penalty for crimes related to corruption and bribery is necessary."

The Supreme People's Court Deputy Chief Justice Nguyen Son agreed and noted that the move confirmed the Government and the Party's resolute stance in the fight against corruption.

The amended Penal Code also proposed the criminalisation of additional activities, including manipulation of public opinion polling, violations of freedom of speech and freedom of the press and obstruction of the citizens' right to access information and carry out peaceful protests.

Source: news.asiaone.com, March 27, 2015


Vietnam considers scrapping death penalty for 7 crimes

The abolition of the death penalty has been proposed for 7 crimes under the current Penal Code, Deputy Minister of Justice Dinh Trung Tung said in a seminar on Tuesday, citing an amendment to the code.

Meanwhile, another amendment has been proposed to include three new crimes in the code, Tung said.

The deputy minister released the information at a seminar held by the National Assembly Justice Committee in the northern province of Hoa Binh to discuss a number of basic orientations for amending the Penal Code.

One of the major amendments to the Penal Code is to limit the scope of capital punishment, Tung told the seminar.

He said the board drafting amendments to the code has advised that the death penalty be scrapped for seven crimes, including plundering property, destroying important national security works and/or facilities; disobeying orders in the military; surrendering to the enemy which is applicable in the army; undermining peace, provoking aggressive wars; crimes against mankind; and war crimes.

Besides, capital punishment has been recommended to be maintained only for the crime of "illegally trading in narcotics" and be abolished for all the other drug-related charges, Tung said.

He told the seminar that death sentences should be applied to offenders who have committed especially serious crimes that infringe upon human life - such as murder in a cruel manner, murder and robbery, murder and rape, or murder for mean purposes - or pose serious threats to social order and safety and to the development of society, as possibly seen in drug-related cases.

If the amendments are approved, the number of crimes subject to the death penalty in Vietnam will be reduced to 15 from the current 22.

Death should be maintained for corruption convictions

Most of the seminar attendees agreed to these proposed amendments, but emphasized that they should not be extended to corruption-related crimes, which the country is trying to prevent and fight.

Speaking at the event, Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Tat Vien, a standing member of the Central Steering Committee for Justice Reform, said, "There have many opinions saying that the death penalty should be abolished for corruption or embezzlement charges, but I think that such an abolition should not be approved given the current situation."

Nguyen Son, deputy chief judge of the People's Supreme Procuracy, also said that maintaining death sentences for corruption crimes is one of the ways to prove the resolve of the Party and State to combat corruption.

3 new charges proposed

In the spirit of respecting and ensuring full enforcement of human rights as well as citizens' basic rights and obligations specified in the 2013 Constitution, another amendment has been proposed to include three new charges in the Penal Code, Deputy Minister Tung said.

The new charges include infringing upon citizens' voting rights in referendums held by the State; altering referendum results; and infringing upon the right to freedom of speech, the right to freedom of the press, and citizens' rights to demonstration, Tung said.

In addition, heavier penalties have also been suggested for a number of existing crimes mentioned in the code, including infringement upon citizens' places of residence; infringement upon other persons' privacy or the safety of their letters, telephone and/or telegraph; illegally forcing laborers or public employees to leave their jobs; infringement upon citizens' rights to assembly and association, rights to freedom of belief and religion; and infringement upon the rights to complain and/or denounce, the official said.

Lethal injection for death penalty

In terms of execution methods, Vietnam switched from firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011, under Decree 82/2011 by the government.

However, the new execution method took years to implement due to a failure to import the needed drugs from the European Union, which banned the exportation of lethal injection drugs because it considers capital punishment a violation of human rights.

The Vietnamese government then issued Decree 47/2013 to amend Decree 82, allowing domestically produced drugs to be used for executions.

Decree 47 took effect on June 27, 2013 and the 1st execution by lethal injection was carried out in Hanoi on August 6, 2013.

Source: Tuoi Tre News, March 27, 2015 

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Indonesia fast-tracking death row appeals

The legal appeals of some of the death row prisoners Indonesia plans to execute alongside two Australians are being rushed through the courts.

The move comes at the request of Indonesia's Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo, who wants to settle on a date for the firing squad.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan's execution on Nusakambangan island has stalled while Jakarta waits for them and other death row drug offenders to use up their legal avenues.

Of the 10 awaiting the firing squad, four are pursuing cases in the administrative court and three are seeking Supreme Court judicial reviews - a move that has already failed for the Bali Nine pair.

Mr Prasetyo's office on Thursday confirmed the judicial review application of a Filipino woman had been rejected after only days before the Supreme Court.

It usually takes three months to consider such applications but Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso's was distributed to three judges on March 20 and rejected on Wednesday.

Veloso was considered to have a good chance for a review and it was thought this would delay the executions for some months, as Indonesia insists on sending 10 prisoners to the firing squad simultaneously.

Mr Prasetyo says he has negotiated with the Supreme Court to ensure the fastest turnaround.

"I have co-ordinated with the Supreme Court so that judicial review decisions can be issued as soon as possible so the executions later will be fair,' he said, as quoted by Indonesian news website okezone.com

"It means there will be no more legal avenues left."

The other two prisoners seeking judicial reviews are Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Ghanian Martin Anderson.

Chan and Sukumaran have an appeal in the administrative court, that if won, would see their lawyers argue the blanket rejection of clemency did not follow due process.

President Joko Widodo is denying clemency to all death row drug offenders, regardless of rehabilitation or other factors, believing it will shock Indonesia out of its drug problem.

An expert witness for Chan and Sukumaran's defence could not attend court on Wednesday and was scheduled for Monday.

The attorney-general says the case is "unusual".

"The last I heard, the two Bali Nine convicts couldn't bring their expert witness to prove their reasoning," he reportedly said.

"Their challenge of clemency is unusual.

"It's the president's discretion and so there shouldn't be anyone who can prevent it."

Lawyers for Veloso thought she had a good chance for a judicial review because she did not have a qualified translator at her trial.

The 30-year-old single mother was arrested at a central Java airport in 2010, with 2.6kg of heroin in her suitcase.

Her lawyers and family say she's an unwitting victim of an international syndicate.

PRISONERS INDONESIA IS PREPARING TO EXECUTE AND THEIR APPEALS:

Myuran Sukumaran (Australia) and Andrew Chan (Australia)

- appealing the administrative court's decision to reject their challenge of the clemency rejections with hearings to finish on April 1

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso (Philippines)

- judicial review request rejected

Serge Areski Atlaoui (France)

- has applied for a judicial review, adjourned to April 1

Raheem Agbaje Salami (Nigeria) -

his administrative court challenge was thrown out, appeal set for March 31

Silvester Obiekwe (Nigeria)

- his administrative court challenge was also thrown out, no word yet on an appeal

Martin Anderson alias Belo (Ghana)

- application for a judicial review to be finalised on Wednesday

Zainal Abidin (Indonesia)

- judicial review request rejected

Rodrigo Gularte (Brazil)

Okwudili Ayotanze (Nigeria)

Source: AAP, March 27, 2015 (local time)


Bali Nine: Chan And Sukumaran’s Lawyers Present New Evidence To Court

Lawyers for Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have presented new evidence in administrative court. The Australians’ legal team will return to the Jakarta court with an expert witness to help them with their case.

Chan and Sukumaran’s lawyers filed an appeal in the administrative court in February, challenging Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s blanket ban on clemency that affected 64 death row inmates. The Bali Nine duo’s lawyers argued that the president did not review individual cases on their merits as required by law, adding the leader failed to follow the due process by denying all the appeals at once.

The administrative court rejected their application, saying that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The lawyers have then filed an appeal. And on Wednesday, lawyer Leonard Arpan revealed that they have presented new evidence on laws on the president’s prerogative rights to the Jakarta court. They will return to court with an expert witness on Monday.

It is expected that the witness will give evidence relating to the dismissal of the appeal. If not, Rusdihadi Teguh, a lawyer for the state, told reporters that they would object.

Chan and Sukumaran were transferred from the Kerobokan prison to Nusakambangan Island earlier in March in preparation for their execution. However, they may have to wait for months before the grim event. The Supreme Court has decided to review the case of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, a Philippine national set to be executed alongside Chan and Sukumaran, and the entire proceeding may take around three months to complete.

Attorney-General spokesman Tony Spontana said that they would wait for all legal procedures to be over before they would proceed with the execution. Simultaneous executions are believed to be “more efficient and effective.” With Veloso’s case under review, the Bali Nine pair, as well as the other seven death row convicts who would face the firing squad with them, have been given more time. Chan and Sukumaran remain in Nusakambangan Island as they wait for all their legal avenues to be exhausted.

Meanwhile, Mr Widodo is too busy to take Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s call about the Bali Nine pair in death row. The Asian country’s envoy in Australia, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, said on Thursday that the Indonesian leader had not talked to his Australian counterpart ever since their initial phone call.

“The second and the third time – the President was so busy,” Kesoema said in Canberra. He added that the president’s first program is to visit his people in the provinces.

Source: International Business Times, March 27, 2015 (local time)

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India: President Pranab Mukherjee Commutes Death Sentence to Life Imprisonment

March 26, 2015: after rejecting mercy petitions of 22 convicts on death row, President Pranab Mukherjee commuted the death sentence of a convict to life imprisonment.

Man Bahadur Deewan, alias Tote Deewan, was convicted for killing his wife Gauri and two minor sons, Rajib and Kajib, in September 2002 at a village in Dibrugarh district of Assam. 

He later killed another inmate of the house and surrendered before the police.

This is one of the rare cases where Mukherjee has commuted the death sentence after taking over in 2012.

Mukherjee is believed to have relied upon the opinion of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that had advised him to take a lenient view of the case, considering that Deewan is from a poor background and murdered his wife, sons and a neighbour due to abject poverty and unemployment. 

Sources: conomictimes.indiatimes.com, Hands Off Cain, March 26, 2015

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Indonesian court rejects appeal of Filipina on death row

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
In her application for judicial review, Mary Jane Veloso's lawyers argue that she was not provided with a capable translator during her first trial

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected an application by a Filipina on death row for a judicial review of her case, taking her a step closer to being executed along with several other foreign drug convicts.

"We appreciate the Supreme Court for its decision to reject the judicial review of Mary Jane," Tony Spontana, the spokesperson of the Attorney General's Office, told Rappler in a text message.

"This is in line with our expectation and understanding because her clemency request has already been rejected. She should not have any more legal remedies."

As well as the Filipina, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, two high-profile Australian inmates and convicts from France, Brazil, Ghana and Nigeria are set to face the firing squad after they recently had requests for presidential clemency rejected.

In her application for a judicial review, Veloso's lawyers had reportedly argued that she was not provided with a capable translator during her first trial.

But the Supreme Court's website said that judges on Wednesday, March 25, rejected Veloso's application for a review of her sentence. It did not provide details about the ruling and a court spokesman could not immediately be contacted for comment.

Veloso was caught at Yogyakarta airport, on the main island of Java, carrying 2.6 kilograms (5.73 pounds) of heroin on a flight from Malaysia.

Jakarta plans to execute all 10 of the convicts – nine foreigners and one Indonesian – at the same time, but has said it will wait for any outstanding legal appeals to conclude.

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, leaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug-smuggling gang, as well as Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, currently have appeals that are working their way through the courts.

Chan and Sukumaran have lost two previous attempts to get judicial reviews of their cases, but their legal teams have lodged a further, rare appeal.

Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world, and President Joko Widodo has vowed there will be no clemency for traffickers on death row, as the country is facing an "emergency" due to rising narcotics use.

Jakarta put to death six drug convicts, including five foreigners, in January, sparking a diplomatic storm.

Source: Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com, March 26, 2015

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

California AG moves to block ‘shoot the gays’ ballot initiative from going forward

LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday moved to block a proposed ballot initiative that calls for gays to be executed.

Matthew G. McLaughlin, an Orange County, Calif., attorney filed the proposed measure last month, asking voters to criminalize homosexuality in the state and impose a death penalty sentence.

According to McLaughlin’s proposed “Sodomite Suppression Act,” “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

On Wednesday, Harris filed an action for declaratory relief seeking judicial authorization to not issue a title and summary for the initiative.

“As Attorney General of California, it is my sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians. This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society. Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the Court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the “Sodomite Suppression Act.” If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”

Under California law, one a sponsor has paid the required fee, the attorney general must prepare a title and a maximum 100-word summary of the initiative and forward it to the secretary of state for a 90-day period of public signature-gathering.

Source: LGBTQNATION, March 25, 2015

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Texas Prison Agency Replenishes Execution Drug Supply

Texas prison officials have acquired a small supply of pentobarbital to replenish their dwindling inventory of the execution drug so lethal injections set for next month in the nation's most active death penalty state can be carried out, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Wednesday.

Four prisoners already have been put to death this year in Texas. That left enough pentobarbital in the state's inventory to conduct only one more lethal injection, the scheduled April 9 execution of Kent William Sprouse, convicted of the shooting deaths of a North Texas police officer and another man in 2002. Sprouse is the first of four Texas inmates set to die in April.

The agency now has a sufficient amount of the powerful sedative for the other three, spokesman Jason Clark confirmed. At least two more prisoners face punishment in May and June and would require yet another drug acquisition.

Pharmaceutical companies, under pressure from death penalty opponents, have stopped selling U.S. prisons drugs for lethal injections. So Texas and other states have turned to less regulated compounding pharmacies for made-to-order drugs. States also are exploring other methods of execution.

As in the past, Texas prison officials Wednesday refused to identify the provider of the new supply.

Officials have insisted the drug supplier's identity should remain secret to keep the provider from harm and threats of retaliation.

Clark would confirm only that the new drugs were purchased "from a licensed pharmacy that has the ability to compound." He declined to say if it was the same provider the agency has used previously.

"We continue to explore all options including the continued used of pentobarbital or alternate drugs to use in the lethal injection process," he said.

Texas prison officials could change the drug used for executions but Texas lawmakers would have to enact any change of method.

Source: The Associated Press, Michael Graczyk, March 25, 2015

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U.S.: Pharmacists closer to cutting off access to death penalty drugs

March 24, 2015: The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP), the leading trade group for compound pharmacists, is urging its members to stop working with drugs that are used to carry out executions against American prisoners by way of lethal injection, according to a new report. 

It represents the first official stance the IACP has ever taken on death penalty issues. 

The group, which represents about 3,700 pharmacists across the country who compound drugs, is mainly worried about potential legal repercussions in this area. 

Since a handful of drug makers have started taking steps to prohibit their products from being used in executions, compounding pharmacists might be liable if they repackage those drugs for the states that want to execute inmates. 

David Miller, the chief executive for IACP, told the Wall Street Journal that “we have concerns about what may occur” if compound pharmacists continue to manufacture death penalty drugs. In addition to potential legal issues, Miller is worried that pharmacists may face harassment if their identities are disclosed. The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists is an international organization based in Texas. And later this week, in a move that could have further repercussions for capital punishment, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) will meet to discuss a similar policy. 

If the APhA decides to follow in the IACP’s footsteps and discourage its members from dispensing lethal drugs, that decision will affect about 62,000 professionals across the country who work in traditional pharmacists rather than in compounding facilities. 

Most medical groups — including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Board of Anesthesiology, and the American Nurses Association — already prohibit their members from assisting in executions. But there’s nothing in the American Pharmacists Association’s code of ethics that explicitly prevents pharmacists from dispensing death penalty drugs. 

Right now, pharmacists are allowed to dispense lethal medication for use in executions if a “licensed doctor writes a legitimate prescription.” 

It’s an unusual loophole in the medical field that has caught the attention of human rights activists. 

Last spring, several human rights and anti-death penalty groups sent a letter to the APhA pressuring the group to forbid their members from assisting in the execution of inmates. 

“Participation in executions undermines the position of trust that pharmacists enjoy in this nation,” the letter said.

Sources: thinkprogress.org, Hands Off Cain, March 24, 2015

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Utah's authorization of firing squads to carry the death penalty bucks international trend

Firing-squad execution in China
Utah's decision to reintroduce the firing squad as an execution method if lethal injections drugs are unavailable bucks an international trend.

The change in law makes Utah only the 2nd U.S. state to adopt firing squads in executions after Oklahoma, which relies on it only as a method of last resort. The U.S. is the only country in the Americas to allow the use of firing squads in civilian cases besides Cuba.

Many countries that use firing squads usually reserve them for military cases or during war time. An exception is Indonesia which is preparing to execute 10 drug smugglers, 9 of them foreigners, by firing squad after judicial reviews are complete.

China, where thousands of people are believed to be executed each year, traditionally used firing squads. But in recent years China has begun using lethal injections and that is now believed to be the main technique. The exact number of executions in China is a state secret, but it is thought to be the most in the world.

Firing squads remain the preferred method of execution in Somalia and Equatorial Guinea and are known to have been used in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. North Korea is believed to use them.

According to Amnesty International at least 778 executions, excluding China's, were carried out around the globe in 2013 - the last year for which numbers were available - compared to 682 in 2012. The organization did not provide a breakdown of executions methods.

At least 1,927 people were known to have been sentenced to death in 57 countries in 2013, up from 1,722 death sentences in 58 countries in 2012, according to Amnesty.

ASIA

Videos smuggled out of North Korea reportedly show public executions by firing squad. South Korea's spy agency believes North Korea used a firing squad last year to execute several people close to leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was considered the country's second most powerful person before his sudden purge and execution in December 2013.

Vietnam, with nearly 700 people on death row, switched from firing squads to lethal injection on humanitarian grounds in 2011. Since then it has only executed a handful of people because of the difficulty in acquiring the required drugs.

Taiwan's death row total stands at more than 100. The number of executions, carried out by handgun shooting either to the heart or to the brain, declined after 2000 due to public opposition, with none between 2006 and 2009. They resumed in 2010 following a change in president and renewed sentiment in favor of the policy.

Thailand executed prisoners by a machine gun or automatic rifle fired by an executioner until 2002, when the method was changed to lethal injection. There have been no executions since 2009.

MIDEAST

In Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, 3 countries that have some of the highest execution rates in the world, firing squads are rarely used.

In Saudi Arabia, the usual method of execution is beheading by a swordsman. In 2013, a firing squad was used in the execution of 7 men convicted of looting and armed robbery. Press reports at the time suggested it was because a swordsman was not available.

During Iran's 1979 revolution, the Islamic clerical regime that came to power used firing squads to execute some senior military officers from the regime of the ousted shah. But the method is rarely used now, and the vast majority of executions are by hanging.

Hanging is also the method most commonly used in Iraq, although there have been cases where firing squads have been employed.

The United Arab Emirates uses firing squads for all executions, but death penalty sentences are rarely carried out. The most recently reported execution was in January 2014.

EUROPE

Capital punishment has been completely abolished across Europe with the former Soviet nation of Belarus being the sole exception.

Abolition of the death penalty is a pre-condition for entry into the European Union. The EU's Baltic Sea member Latvia was the last country to retain capital punishment for murder, but only during wartime. It was abolished in 2012.

The exact number of people executed in Belarus is believed to be three in 2014, according to human rights' groups, but there is some uncertainty about that figure because of the general lack of transparency there. It is believed to have been below 10 executions in the past decade. Execution is done by shooting in the back of the head, but the death penalty's use is shrouded in secrecy.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Somalia and Sudan routinely execute the most people in this region. In 2013, Somalia executed 34 people while Sudan put 21 to death, according to Amnesty International. Somalia generally uses firing squads to carry out its death sentences; two soldiers were executed by shooting on Tuesday, according to the country's military court.

The death penalty is legal in more than a dozen other countries in the region, although only 5 carried out executions in 2013. In recent years, the only other country in the region to use firing squads was Equatorial Guinea, which shot 4 people last year but then issued a moratorium on future executions, Amnesty said.

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

In general, the death penalty has been abolished across the region, if not by law in each country, then on a de facto basis, according to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The last known execution in the region was in Cuba in 2003 by firing squad.

Source: Associated Press, March 25, 2014

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Pakistan hangs 4 more, takes total number of executions to 59 since December last

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan today hanged four death-row prisoners, taking to 59 the number of executions carried out since the country resumed the death sentence in December.

Abdul Razzaq Chohan and Jalil alias Jalal Morejo were executed in the Sukkur jail in Sindh province.

Chohan killed a seventh grade student at a local seminary and was awarded death sentence in 2003, while Morejo was held guilty for shooting a man in 1997 for an old dispute.

The other two convicts Shahbaz Ali and Ghulam Yaseen were hanged in Central Jail Sahiwal and Central Jail Bahawalpur respectively.

While Shahbaz was convicted for killing a boy in 1998 over a land dispute, Yaseen was awarded death sentence for rape and murder of a woman in 2002.

Pakistan lifted a moratorium on death penalty in all cases where capital punishment has been handed down by a court on March 10, expanding an earlier decision to resume executions in terror-related cases following the Peshawar school massacre in December last year that killed more than 150 people, mostly children.

Despite criticism from the local and international human rights groups, so far nearly 60 condemned prisoners have been hanged which is just a small proportion of over 8,000 prisoners waiting for execution in different jails.

Source: The Economic Times, March 25, 2015

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Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran's court challenge adjourned after witness no-show

Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukumaran (right)
A court challenge by two Australians facing execution in Indonesia has been adjourned until next week after their lawyers could not produce a key witness.

Wednesday's court appearance was scheduled for lawyers representing Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to present evidence for their case.

They are applying to have a full trial go ahead so they can challenge the president's refusal to consider granting them clemency.

But a key expert witness who was to testify for the men was not able to attend court as he was teaching at a university.

Lawyers for the two convicted drug smugglers were also late to court, prompting complaints from the president's lawyers.

The lead judge has given them until Monday to produce the witness, warning them not to be late.

The lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran, however, did submit documents on Wednesday.

"There are 10 evidence letters for the judges consideration, all about the law related to the clemency," lawyer Leonard Arpan said.

Lawyers for president Joko Widodo have argued the court was right to determine it did not have the jurisdiction and instead the supreme court had already ruled that presidential clemency could not be challenged.

Chan and Sukumaran are among a group of 11 drug offenders due to face the firing squad together, and their executions will be delayed until all of those cases have been resolved.

They were transferred to the Nusakambangan island prison off Central Java from their Bali prison early this month in preparation for their executions.

Source: abc.net.au, George Roberts, March 25, 2015


Australians on Death Row Submit Appeal Evidence; French convict's appeal adjourned to next week

Jakarta. Lawyers for two Australian drug smugglers facing execution in Indonesia submitted evidence to a court on Wednesday as part of the men’s latest attempt to avoid the firing squad.

A French death row convict had his appeal adjourned to next week.

Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug trafficking gang, were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Their appeals for presidential clemency, typically a death row convict’s final chance of avoiding the firing squad, were recently rejected by President Joko Widodo.

The men, in their early 30s, are expected to be executed at the same time as eight other drug offenders. In addition to the Frenchman, these include convicts from Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana and the Philippines and one Indonesian.

Jakarta initially said the executions would take place in February and nothing could stop them going ahead. However, authorities backed off following an international outcry and are now letting all pending legal appeals run their course.

The Australians’ legal team, in its latest bid to avoid execution, are arguing against Joko’s decision to reject their pleas for clemency, saying he failed to assess their rehabilitation or give reasons for his decision.

The Jakarta State Administrative Court dismissed the bid last month, saying clemency was the president’s prerogative. The Australians’ lawyers are now appealing that decision.

At at brief hearing on Wednesday, they submitted several documents to the court related to laws on the president’s prerogative, said lawyer Leonard Aritonang without giving further details.

The lawyers will return to court on Monday with an expert witness.

Sukumaran and Chan were transferred earlier this month from jail on Bali to Nusakambangan prison island off Java, where they will be put to death.

Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman on death row since 2007 after being convicted of drugs charges, is also trying to avoid the firing squad by applying for a judicial review of his sentence. But his case at the Tangerang District Court, outside Jakarta, was adjourned on Wednesday until April 1 after he failed to show up for the hearing to sign paperwork that will allow the case to be transferred to the Supreme Court.

Lawyer Nancy Yuliana said there had been a “problem with regard to the funding of transportation” to bring Atlaoui from jail on Nusakambangan to the court.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 25, 2015

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Saudi Arabia beheads Pakistani national, own citizen

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi Arabia has beheaded a Pakistani national and a Saudi man after sentencing them to death for drug trafficking and murder, officials say.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency that the Pakistani man known as Benyameen Ali Ahmed was beheaded in the port city of Jeddah on Tuesday.

Saudi sources said the man was found guilty of smuggling an undisclosed amount of heroin into the country. The drugs were allegedly found in capsules he had swallowed.

In a separate case, Nader bin Mussa al-Harbi, the Saudi national, was executed after a court found him guilty of murdering a compatriot, Bandar bin Muhya al-Harbi, over a dispute. He was beheaded in the northwestern city of Ha’il.

The beheadings bring to 51 the number of people executed across the kingdom so far this year. Last year, Saudi authorities executed 87 people, compared with 78 in 2013.

On March 18, Saudi Arabia beheaded a Syrian national after sentencing him to death on charges related to drug trafficking.

Saudi authorities say the executions reveal the kingdom’s commitment to “maintaining security and realizing justice.”

The country has come under particular criticism from rights groups for the executions carried out for non-fatal crimes.

According to the London-based rights group, Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Muslim clerics have also slammed Riyadh for indicting and then executing suspects without giving them a chance to defend themselves, describing the Saudi authorities as uncivilized.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi rule.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 25, 2015

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Somalia's military court executes soldiers over killings

Three Al Shabaab members were executed by firing squad
on August 3, 2014 near Mogadishu (Photo: AP) Read more
Two Somali government soldiers have been executed on Tuesday after they were found guilty of murdering 3 civilians in Mogadishu.

Somalia's military court Chief Colonel Liban Yarow told journalists in the scene that the court found evidences that both soldiers had committed the crime that they had been accused for.

Dozens of people watched about several soldiers open fire at the 2 soldiers, identified as Abdirahman Issa Ahmed and Abdullahi Ali Abdi Igal, who had been blindfolded and tied to 2 poles.

Somalia uses its military court to punish members of al-Shabaab militant group which wants to overthrow the government and its soldiers who commit heavy crimes. 

But the court has also prosecuted civilians who have been accused of minor cases and later on went to face harsh punishments.

Death penalty is legal in Somalia, a mostly lawless state in East Africa.

Last year, the European Union urged Somali authorities to place a moratorium on the death penalty.

Source: horseedmedia.com, March 24, 2015

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URGENT ACTION: Year's First Death Sentence in Belarus

A 21-year-old man, Siarhei Ivanou, has been sentenced to death in Belarus. He is the first person sentenced to death in the country this year.

View the full Urgent Action, including case information, addresses and sample messages, here.

Siarhei Ivanou, a 21-year-old man, was sentenced to death on 18 March by the Homel Regional Court for the murder of a 19-year-old woman in August 2013. The court had found him guilty of “committing murder with particular cruelty”, “hooliganism with the use of violence”, robbery and theft. According to the Investigative Committee, Siarhei Ivanou had been under the influence of alcohol and psychotropic drugs when he brutally beat and raped the woman, who died from her injuries. Siarhei Ivanou was also found guilty of stealing her belongings.

In a closed trial, Siarhei Ivanou was represented by a state-appointed lawyer. He can appeal the decision.

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

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Death sentences are often imposed in Belarus after unfair trials which include forced confessions; they are implemented in strict secrecy and without giving adequate notice to the condemned prisoners
themselves, their families or legal representatives. The authorities refuse to return the bodies of those executed to their relatives or even tell them where they are buried. Executions are carried out despite requests from the UN Human Rights Committee to the government not to do so until the Committee has considered the cases. The Human Rights Committee and others have found that the application of the death penalty in Belarus violates the human rights of those condemned and their families.

View the full Urgent Action here.

Name: Siarhei Ivanou (m)
Issues: Death penalty, Legal concern
UA: 66/15
Issue Date: 23 March 2015
Country: Belarus

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

EITHER send a short email to uan@aiusa.org with "UA 66/15" in the subject line, and include in the
body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent.

OR fill out this short online form to let us know how you took action.

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

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Please write immediately in Belarussian, Russian or your own language:
* Urging President Lukashenka to halt any planned executions and immediately commute the death sentence handed down to Siarhei Ivanou 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;
* Urging him to ensure that up-to-date information about the use of the death penalty in Belarus is publicly available and that prisoners’ families and lawyers are given full access to them and information about their cases.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 4 MAY 2015 TO:

President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Vul. Karla Marksa 38
220016 Minsk, Belarus
Fax: 011 375 17 226 06 10
011 375 17 222 38 72
Email: contact@president.gov.by Salutation: Dear President Lukashenka

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

And copies to:
Prosecutor General
Alyaksandr Kaniuk
Vul. Internatsianalnaya 22
220050 Minsk, Belarus
Fax: 011 375 17 226 42 52 (Say "fax" clearly if voice answers)
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General

Please share widely with your networks: http://bit.ly/1Huppt3

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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