[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Nov 27 18:11:40 CST 2004
Time to review the Chiong sisters murder case
Amid the glare of publicity, media speculation, public cries for blood and
a judge racing against a deadline, the case was heard - in what now seems
upon review - most irregularly.
Like voicing a refrain, as the defense protested his refusal to
accommodate the witnesses they wanted to present, expert witnesses
included, he would say, "Tell that to the Court of Appeals" or "Bring it
to the Supreme Court."
The judge was the late Cebu Regional Trial Court (Branch 7) Judge Martin
Ocampo, now dead; the trial was the Chiong sisters case, a case that
convulsed Cebu and the nation in 1997 when the crime of illegal detention,
rape and murder occurred.
For the crimes imputed, seven young men have been convicted, 6 of them
meted death sentences, the seventh escaping lethal injection for 2 life
terms because he was 16 when the crime was committed.
The public usually does not want to 2nd-guess the police, the prosecution
and the defense in a trial, except when other elements are included, such
as the prominence of the personalities involved, the debatable issues or
values that led to the crime, the rumors floating around, the extraneous
but very real currents of power and influence that swirl about in a
society less than equal, especially when it comes to the delivery of
justice. In other words, when the case is sensational for these qualities
and the media play them up, the public invariably gets involved. In my
opinion, if it makes for a fairer trial, it is a welcome thing. If it does
not, as now seems the case at hand as the families of the young men
convicted bring the facts of how it was conducted to the public, it is
still a fit subject for consideration. The judiciary is part of society,
the judicial process should reflect what society stands for; therefore,
the public has the right to be involved as observers and commentators. We
all presuma bly want justice: trials are open to the public, public
opinion must count, meaning informed public opinion that relies on facts
One of the young men now waiting on death row for his appeal for
reconsideration pending with the Supreme Court is Francisco Juan "Paco"
Larraaga. He has been made the most prominent of the seven because his
family has a connection to the socially and politically influential Osmea
clan from Cebu, none of whom, to their credit, have intruded into the
Mrs. Larraaga, Pacos mother, is an Osmea on her mothers side. She was born
Margarita Gonzales y Osmea and married Manuel Larraaga, a Basque jai alai
player who came to the Philippines in 1966. She says that while she leads
a comfortable life, she is not rich as others mean it in this country when
they talk about rich. This family does not have private boats or planes,
or charter them, as implied in the court proceedings by the judge when
Paco presented his alibi. It does not send children abroad for schooling
as a rule. Paco was enrolled at a culinary school in Quezon City from June
1997. His family leased a small condominium for him.
He is better off than the majority of Filipinos, but not equal or near the
very rich and powerful among us. But he has been painted as one of them.
The crime was committed on July 16 to early 17, 1997. Paco was in Manila
at school on July 16, morning and afternoon, at a gathering late that
night in Quezon City, back at school the next day until early afternoon.
Then he took the 5 p.m. plane to Cebu, arriving at his house there close
to 9 p.m. after dropping off a friend who was on the plane with him. The
teachers, all 35 classmates at the school, and the friend he dropped off
offered to testify on his behalf. Only a few were accommodated - a teacher
and a few classmates - but their testimonies, from the record of the
judges comments, demeaned and ridiculed. The defense at one point asked
for his recusal on the basis of bias. The classmates and friends
testimonies were crucial, as they backed up Pacos alibi that he was far
from the scene of the crime. But Judge Ocampo held that the alibi had to
show not just reasonable doubt but physical impossibility. When they tried
to show him, he refused to accept defense witnesses from the four airlines
flying the Manila-Cebu route. They had a manifest of July 16 and 17
clearly showing Paco only at the 5 p.m. flight to Cebu, on July 17, long
after the crime. The judge refused to allow the Cebu airport personnel to
state that Paco did not arrive in any chartered craft from Manila on those
days. He maintained that Paco could still be at the scene of the crime. He
said it was physically possible because it is "only one hour from Manila
to Cebu," ignoring the time it takes to travel to the airport from Quezon
City, the airport wait, the arrival process which makes one hour turn into
The most glaring proof of the suppression of defense witnesses was the
denial to Paco to testify in defense of himself despite manifestations in
court by both Paco and his defense counsel that they were requesting to do
Even expert witnesses for the defense were not allowed, like the Pagasa
weather expert who was to testify that on July 16 and 17 there were heavy
rains all over Cebu, thus casting doubt on one fingerprint of Josman
Aznar, one of the accused, in a diskette found with the body said to be
that of Marijoy Chiong at the foot of a ravine. Moreover, this fingerprint
was a rolled-over one, very unusual for a casual contact. One does roll
over fingerprints in public documents or when someone is assisting the
fingerprinting for official purposes. Which brings us to the planting of
evidence, which has been proven in the case of the firearms charges
brought on 2 of the defendants (in order to rationalize their arrests) but
which another court threw out as improbable if not false. In this context
the fingerprint of Josman Aznar at the scene on the diskette after
continuous rains makes it very suspicious. A point to note is that the
ravine involved in Tanawan, Carcar, outside Cebu, is a common dumping
ground for corpses. Incidentally, Aznar has also been tagged as rich and
influential. The Aznars own a large educational institute in Cebu. They
are a large clan of well-off and not-so-well-off. Aznars mother is a widow
and at the periphery; if that makes her rich, it would be a surprise,
especially to herself.
Other expert witnesses were ignored. One was the forensic pathologist, Dr.
Raquel Fortun, whose own report disputed the findings of the medicolegal
technician for being incorrect, based on incomplete tests and the fact
that the body was autopsied after it was embalmed. Prof. Jerome Bailen
also had similar comments casting doubt on whether the body was indeed
that of Marijoy Chiong. No DNA was taken, exhumation was not allowed. In
fact, Judge Ocampo himself had serious doubts about whether the body was
indeed Marijoy Chiongs and demonstrated it by meting out life sentences,
not death sentences.
This uncertainty could be pursued. There being no corpus delicti, where is
the crime? It was the Solicitor Generals Office in its comments to the
plea for reconsideration that insisted that the crime merited death
sentences, to which the Supreme Court acquiesced.
Meanwhile, the witnesses for the prosecution were dubious. The principal
one, Davidson Rusia, was one of the originally accused. He is said to have
confessed because his "conscience was bothering him." In truth, he only
confessed after he was arrested, jailed and - his cellmate says -
tortured. He has admitted torture in the aftermath of the trial from which
he was discharged as an accused, and it is public knowledge that the
Chiongs supported him financially throughout the trial. Rusia is not a
credible witness on the basis of "false in one, false in all" principal of
He has been convicted twice in the United States for crimes of moral
turpitude - burglary, forging and cashing checks. When presented with
proof of one conviction, he admitted it but kept quiet about the second
one which eventually he had to admit upon presentation of proof. A proven
liars testimony cannot have the weight his was given on this case. Other
witnesses who surfaced months after the crime were those of police assets
or people whose memory may have been guided through stories and rumors.
Someone claimed seeing Larraaga at 2:30 a.m. in the dark and rainy night.
The witness said he was buying barbecue at that time in a sleepy
out-of-the-way town where people turn early. The fact is that until
Larraaga was pointed to as one of the culprits, not even the Chiongs in
their first interview with the NBI (who was the 1st agency to handle the
case) mentioned him as a friend, acquaintance, or classmate of their
daughters. Here, it must be pointed out that the NBI agent-in-charge,
Florencio Villarin, an experienced and well-commended career official who
took the primary statements in the case, was not allowed to testify. So
was the National Police dentist who was said to have noted discrepancies
in the dental records of the corpses and Marijoy Chiong's.
In sum, we have shoddy police work, suppression of evidence from defense
witnesses, prosecution witnesses with doubtful credibility, court
procedures that left much to be desired, evident bias on the part of the
judge and much more to complain about - a rush to judgment on a major
We all want the culprits, whoever they are, to be found and tried and
found guilty without reasonable doubt. And with the death penalty in play
which is vindictive, unchristian and irretrievable once carried out, we
have to be clear that there is guilt beyond reasonable doubt. This is not
the case here.
The Supreme Court is the one and last hope to put things in order. A
mistrial may have to be called. Oral arguments may be needed. A serious
look at the plea for reconsideration may have to be done. This is asking
for a lot of work, precious time and a fresh look by the Supreme Court.
But if the principle that it is better for the guilty to go free rather
than for even one innocent person to be punished unjustly, in this case,
put to death, then it is their duty.
It is not just Paco Larraaga that we speak for, but the others condemned
with him: like the Uy brothers, whose family was into selling
encyclopedias and is now so deeply demoralized; the so-called driver and
conductor of the hired van - working-class people, messed up in one
evening and facing death today. It has never been fully explained why,
with two cars at their disposal and one used throughout, the accused still
needed a hired van with a driver and a conductor, strangers who would
become witnesses to the crime.
Justice and how it is meted out in any society must be perceived to be
fair no matter how harsh the penalties. This means the process must be
acceptable in a reasonable and civilized sense. The accused must be
presumed innocent, must be given the chance to testify in their own
defense, present witnesses to demonstrate their innocence. Evidence must
be beyond doubt, not manufactured or planted.
The truth must come out, In this case, it has not. And as the late Judge
Ocampo himself intoned repeatedly (in case of doubts), "Bring it to the
(source: ABS-CBN News)
China school attacker executed
The spate of attacks has prompted public concern about school safety China
has executed a bus driver who stabbed 24 children at a school in Shandong,
state media reports.
Jia Qingyou was sentenced to death earlier this month in the eastern
Chinese province for attempted murder and kidnapping, Xinhua reported.
Mr Qingyou injured the children with a kitchen knife at the local No. 1
Experimental Primary School on 20 September.
The attack was the 3rd on schoolchildren in China in 2 months.
The spate of incidents prompted schools in the capital Beijing and other
regions to provide professional guards to protect students, Xinhua said in
a separate report.
The children hurt in the Shandong attack received mainly injuries to their
arms and faces.
All were reported to be in a stable condition immediately after the
In the same month, a man armed with a knife and homemade explosives
attacked 28 children at a kindergarten in Suzhou, near Shanghai.
No fatalities were reported.
In August, a doorman stabbed 15 children and 3 teachers at a Beijing
nursery. One child was killed.
No motive was given for the attack, but local media speculated the man was
mentally unstable and feared he might be about to lose his job.
(source: BBC News)
China executes five citizens
5 people were executed today for killing a former vice-president of
Hong Kong-based satellite broadcaster Phoenix Television and 4 others
during a robbery in May, the government said.
The bodies of Zhou Yinan, his wife, 5-year-old daughter, housekeeper
and accountant were found on May 26 at the family home in the southern
city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong.
4 men and a woman were sentenced to death in September for the
killings and 2 other people received 2 years in prison for handling
stolen goods from Zhou's home, according to the government.
The executions were carried out after the sentence was upheld by the
highest appeals court of Guangdong province, where Shenzhen is located,
the official Xinhua news agency said.
The report didn't say how the convicts were executed. Chinese courts
have a choice of gunshot to the head or neck or lethal injection.
Xinhua identified the men as Luo Jun, Zhang Shou, Zheng An and Hu Gang,
and the woman as Wu Yuancui.
Luo told police the group tricked the housekeeper into letting them
into the home by pretending to deliver bottled water, according to
After Zhou and the others arrived, the gang killed them and took cash,
credit cards and other belongings, the reports said.
Police said they used Zhou's bank card to withdraw 50,000 yuan
Uzbekistan: Sodik Kodirov/death penalty
Sodik Kodirov is believed to be in imminent danger of execution. His
allegations that he was tortured and raped in pre-trial detention were
reportedly ignored in court.
Sodik Kodirov was sentenced to death on charges including "premeditated,
aggravated murder" by Tashkent city court on 7 December 2003.
Sodik Kodirov's mother told Amnesty International (AI): "During the
investigation my son wasn't only tortured, he was also raped. When I saw
my son in detention on 10 June 2003, he didn't even recognize me. He was
so badly beaten that he couldn't walk unaided". She alleges that
investigators used a sharp object to injure her son: "When I saw him he
had cuts all over his body as a result of the torture." She added: "My son
spoke about the torture in court but the judge simply ignored his words
and said he was trying to escape responsibility."
His mother also reported that the judge told her not to attend the trial:
"If I attend the trial, he said, the relatives of the victims would kill
me and my son right there in court. He told me to think of my other four
children as Sodik would die anyway."
On 12 May 2004 the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee urged the
Uzbek authorities to stay Sodik Kodirov's execution while the Committee
considered allegations that he had been tortured, and suffered other
serious human rights violations. The Uzbek authorities have ignored
similar interventions in at least 14 cases, in violation of the country's
obligations as a party to the first Optional Protocol to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
When his mother visited Sodik Kodirov in prison on 14 October he told her
that prison officials had threatened him: "You will not live longer than
12 November. The stay of your execution requested by the United Nations
runs out that day." There was no way of knowing whether the execution was
indeed scheduled for that day as in Uzbekistan neither death row prisoners
nor their relatives or lawyers are officially informed of the date of the
execution in advance. The (UN) Human Rights Committee is still considering
Sodik Kodirov's case.
In September 2001, President Islam Karimov stated publicly that around 100
people were executed in Uzbekistan each year. As vital information on the
application of the death penalty is treated as a secret, the true figures
are not known, but several local human rights groups there are over 200
Amnesty International regularly receives credible allegations of unfair
trials, and the use of torture and ill-treatment, often to extract
"confessions", from Uzbekistan. Following his visit to Uzbekistan in
November - December 2002, Theo van Boven, the UN Special Rapporteur on
torture, concluded that "torture or similar ill-treatment is systematic"
in Uzbekistan. In his February 2003 report, he noted that "the abolition
of the death penalty would be a positive step towards respect for the
prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment."
Theo van Boven also stated that the "complete secrecy surrounding the date
of execution, the absence of any formal notification prior to and after
the execution and the refusal to hand over the body for burial are
believed to be intentional acts, fully mindful of causing family members
turmoil, fear and anguish over the fate of their loved one(s)." He
described the treatment of family members as "malicious and amounting to
cruel and inhuman treatment".
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Please send appeals to the Uzbek authorities and to diplomatic
representatives of Uzbekistan accredited to your country to arrive as
quickly as possible, in English, Russian, Uzbek or your own language:
urging the President to grant clemency to Sodik Kodirov and all other
death row prisoners;
calling on the authorities to investigate thoroughly and impartially
allegations that Sodik Kodirov was tortured and ill-treated in pre-trial
detention and bring to justice anyone found responsible;
stating that you know of 14 cases in which death row prisoners were
executed even though the (UN) Human Rights Committee had asked the Uzbek
authorities to stay their executions while it considered their cases;
urging the authorities to give you guarantees that nobody will be executed
whose case is under consideration by the (UN) Human Rights Committee;
urging the authorities to promptly introduce a moratorium on death
sentences and executions.
Please note that it may be difficult to send faxes. If a voice answers
during office hours, repeat 'fax' until connected; fax machines may be
switched off outside office hours (GMT+5)
1) Uzbek President
Islam A. KARIMOV;
Prezident Respubliki Uzbekistan;
Ulitsa Uzbekistanskaia 43;
Salutation: Dear President Karimov
2) Uzbek Foreign Affairs Minister
Sodik S. SAFOYEV,
Ministr inostrannykh del;
Ministerstvo inostrannyh del;
Ploshchad Mustakillik 5;
Fax: (+998 71) 139 15 17
Salutation: Dear Minister
Uzbek General Procurator
Rashidjon Kh. KODIROV;
Generalny Prokuror Respubliki Uzbekistan;
Ulitsa Gulyamova 66;
Fax: (+998 71) 133 39 17
Salutation: Dear Procurator General
PLEASE SEND ANY REPLIES FROM THE UZBEK AUTHORITIES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO
THE INTERNATIONAL SECRETARIAT OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL. (South Caucasus
and Central Asia Research and Campaign Team; Amnesty International; 1
Easton Street; London WC1 X ODW; United Kingdom)
URGENT ACTION APPEAL
26 November 2004
UA 323/04 Fear of death sentence/Unfair Trial
Nigerian nationals, aged 20-30:
Abbas Majood Akanni (m)
Murtala Amao Oladele (m)
Abbas Azeez Oladuni (m)
Nurudeen Owoalade (m)
Nurudeen Sani (m)
Mohammed Abdulahi Yussuf (m)
Wahid Elebyte (m)
Ahmed Abbas Alabi (m)
Suliamon Olyfemi (m)
Mafiu Obadina (m)
Samiu Hamud Zuberu (m)
Kasim Afolabi Afolabi (m)
Abdullamim Shobayo (m)
The 13 Nigerian men named above risk being sentenced to death
after an unfair trial.
They were among hundreds detained in Jeddah on 29 September
2002 after a policeman was killed in a fight between local men and
African nationals who were working as car washers. All the others
have been deported: 21 had served sentences of six months to two
years' imprisonment, and flogging.
On 22 November 2004 the 13 Nigerians were brought before three
judges in a closed session, without the assistance of a lawyer, a
consular representative or adequate translation facilities. They
could not fully understand the proceedings, which were conducted
in Arabic, and were not sure whether a trial was taking place or
whether their detention order was being renewed. However, one of
the judges reportedly asked the men, in English, why they had
killed the policeman, which indicated to the 13 that a trial was in
fact taking place. They denied that they had killed him.
It is not known whether the policeman had children. If he did, and
the 13 Nigerians are sentenced to death, they will remain in prison
until these children reach the age of 18, when they can accept or
reject the payment of diya (blood money) in place of the death
penalty. If the policeman had no children, the 13 would be at risk
of imminent execution.
Since their arrest over two years ago, the men have not had access
to a lawyer or consular assistance. Translators were present at only
two of the four occasions they have been brought to court. They
were unable to communicate with the 13 as they could not speak
Yoruba, the men's native language. The men are able to speak
some English, but all trial proceedings and court documents are in
The men were reportedly tortured and ill-treated when they were
arrested. This reportedly included being hung upside down and
beaten. One of the 13 has alleged that he received electric shocks
to his genitals. During interrogation, their fingerprints were
reportedly taken. It is unclear if the fingerprints, which can act as
substitute for a signature, were used to sign confessions or
paperwork relating to their detention.
On 8 July AI wrote to the Saudi Arabian Minister of the Interior
seeking clarification of whether the 13 men had actually been
charged and put on trial, and calling for an investigation into
allegations that they were tortured. The organization has not yet
received a response.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences,
including murder. Court proceedings fall far short of international
standards for fair trial, and take place behind closed doors.
Defendants do not have the right to formal representation by a
lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal
proceedings against them. Defendants may also be convicted solely
on the basis of confessions obtained under duress, torture or
At least 19 people are known to have been executed in Saudi
Arabia so far this year. The true figure may be much higher.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive
as quickly as possible:
- recognizing the right and responsibility of the government of
Saudi Arabia to bring to justice those guilty of recognizably
criminal offences, but urging them to ensure that the 13 Nigerians
are not sentenced to death, on the grounds that the death penalty is
the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,
and a violation of the right to life;
- seeking assurances that the 13 men will be given immediate access
to legal representation and consular assistance, including adequate
- seeking assurances that any proceedings against the 13 will meet
the minimum international standards for fair trial;
- urging the authorities to ensure that the men are protected from
torture and iIl-treatment while they are in custody;
- asking what charges the 13 are facing, and asking for details of
any trial proceedings against them.
Minister of the Interior:
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin 'Abdul 'Aziz
Minister of the Interior, Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road
Riyadh 11134, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 011 966 1 403 1185 (it may be difficult to get through,
please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Royal Highness
Minister of Foreign Affairs:
His Royal Highness Prince Saud al-Faisal bin 'Abdul 'Aziz Al-Saud
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Riyadh 11124, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 011 966 1 403 0159 (it may be difficult to get through,
please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Royal Highness
Minister of Justice:
His Excellency Dr. 'Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh
Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice
Riyadh 11137, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 011 966 1 401 1741
Salutation: Your Excellency
Ambassador Prince Bandar Bin Sultan
Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 3113
Please send appeals immediately. Check with the Colorado
office between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, Mountain Time,
weekdays only, if sending appeals after 7 January 2005.
Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots
movement that promotes and defends human rights.
This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept
intact, including contact information and stop
action date (if applicable). Thank you for your
help with this appeal.
Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
PO Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
Email: uan at aiusa.org
Phone: 303 258 1170
Fax: 303 258 7881
END OF URGENT ACTION APPEAL
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