[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Apr 6 13:16:39 CDT 2005
Iran, a Christian convert to face death penalty for apostasy
Hamid Pourmand, a lay leader in a church and a convert from Islam, will
appear before an Islamic court next week to face charges of apostasy,
Christians in Iran have learned.
If found guilty Pourmand is likely to face the death penalty.
Pourmand is a lay leader in the Assemblies of God church in Bandar-i
Bushehr and converted to Christianity in 1980. At the time of his arrest
he was a Colonel in the Iranian army.
He was arrested September 9, 2004, together with 85 other participants of
the annual general conference of denomination. The other Christians were
released within the next 3 days, but pastor Pourmand was charged with
hiding his conversion from his superiors. According to Iranian law only
Muslims can be officers in the army.
On February 16, 2005, pastor Pourmand was found guilty of this charge,
even though he presented several papers in court which proved his superior
were aware he was a Christian. He was sentenced to three years
imprisonment, discharge from the army, and loss of his entire income,
pension and housing for his family. A few days later his wife and two
children were forced to vacate their house.
Yesterday, Christians learned of the new charges of apostasy from Islam
and proselytising other Muslims.
Apostasy is a capital offence in Iran. In the last 16 years 3 Iranian
church leaders have been charged was apostasy and found guilty. All three
were sentenced to death. Pastor Hussein Soodman was hanged in 1989. Deacon
Maher already had a noose around his neck when he signalled his
willingness to recant and was released after signing a paper to that
effect in 1992. Pastor Mehdi Dibaj was condemned to death in December
1993. He was released 3 weeks later after a strong international outcry;
only to be found murdered 6 months later.
Christians in Iran have expressed great fears for pastor Hamid's life.
Death row convict wins rare retrial
In an extremely rare move, the Nagoya High Court ruled Tuesday that a man
who has been on death row for 33 years should be granted a retrial in the
fatal poisoning of 5 women.
Masaru Okunishi, 79, who initially confessed to the 1961 murders, recanted
before he was indicted and has since maintained his innocence.
Okunishi and his lawyers had filed six previous requests for a retrial but
all were turned down. However, the Nagoya High Court ruled there were
grave doubts about the reliability of Okunishi's confession and said there
was a possibility the crime was committed by someone else.
Okunishi's lawyers released a statement from their client in which
Okunishi thanked the judges and those who had supported him.
"My father and mother died believing in my innocence, so I think they are
now happy," Okunishi said. "I feel like I have been given a new life."
Officials with the Nagoya High Public Prosecutors Office were in the
process of considering whether to object to Tuesday's ruling. If an
objection is filed within 3 days, another judge at the Nagoya High Court
will make a ruling.
If no objection is filed, Okunishi's case will go to trial again.
If a retrial is held, it would be only the fifth postwar case in Japan
involving an individual who had been given the death sentence. In all 4
previous cases, the individuals were found innocent during retrial.
In this instance, the original murder case stems from a neighborhood party
held on March 28, 1961, in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. 5 women died, and 12
others suffered from poisoning symptoms after drinking wine that was later
found to contain pesticide.
Okunishi's lawyers analyzed the pesticide that was mixed into the wine and
argued that it was different from the pesticide Okunishi confessed to
putting into the wine.
The high court agreed that an analysis conducted by chemists indicated
that the toxin mixed into the wine was different from the one Okunishi had
confessed to using.
The court also found that new evidence presented by Okunishi's lawyers
left open the possibility that someone other than Okunishi could have both
acquired the poison and found the time to place the poison into the wine
The court also cast doubt on Okunishi's confession, ruling there were
contradictions with objective facts and a lack of responses that would be
expected from Okunishi if he had actually carried out the crime.
Okunishi initially confessed to placing the poison into the wine, telling
investigators he wanted to end a romantic triangle. Both his wife and
lover died after drinking the wine.
The Tsu District Court ruled in December 1964 that Okunishi was not guilty
of murder. However, prosecutors appealed, and in September 1969, the
Nagoya High Court ruled that Okunishi was guilty and handed him the death
sentence. The Supreme Court upheld the high court ruling in 1972.
After filing 4 requests for a retrial, all of which were rejected,
Okunishi received the backing of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
The federation provided legal support for the three subsequent requests
for a retrial. Federation President Go Kajitani issued a statement Tuesday
calling for a speedy retrial.
Okunishi's son and daughter-in-law as well as his younger sister paid him
visits at the Nagoya Detention House last May. Okunishi's son had said he
believed in his father's innocence, but for a long time did not openly
express his support because of the harsh public censure the family faced
after the crime came to light.
Nobuyoshi Araki, a professor of criminal procedure law at Rikkyo
University, said Tuesday's ruling would have a positive effect on other
requests for retrials submitted at different courts in Japan.
(source: The Ashai Shimbun)
Ida Nudel Appeals to High Court to Save Arab Agents
A former Prisoner of Zion filed a petition with the Supreme Court to
induce Ariel Sharon to come to the aid of fifteen Arabs sentenced to death
by the Palestinian Authority for helping Israel.
A former Prisoner of Zion filed a petition with the Supreme Court this
morning to induce Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to come to the aid of
fifteen Arabs sentenced to death by the Palestinian Authority for helping
Former Prisoner of Zion Ida Nudel, together with Shurat HaDin - the Israel
Law Center, filed the petition on behalf of 15 Arabs on death row in the
PA. The law suit charges that the Israeli government has refused to act to
rescue the condemned prisoners, who were convicted and sentenced to death
on charges of having assisted the IDF and security services in thwarting
terrorist attacks and capturing wanted terrorists.
The petitioners are demanding that Israel undertake an emergency campaign
to pressure the PA to cancel the impending executions of the prisoners, or
alternatively, to conduct a military operation to free the condemned men
The president of the PA military courts, Saeb Al-Kidwa, announced on March
2nd that the 15 prisoners on death row for "collaborating with the Israeli
security services" would be executed in the coming weeks. Kidwa said PA
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was expected to officially approve the
executions soon, after the PA-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh
Ekrimah Sabri endorsed the sentences. Sabri, who also administers the
Islamic wakf that asserts power over the Temple Mount, recently confirmed
that he had been asked by Abbas to review the files of the prisoners and
has made recommendations in several of the cases.
Following the announcement, on March 7th, Ida Nudel and the Shurat HaDin
organization wrote to Prime Minister Sharon demanding that he take
immediate action to rescue the Arab prisoners. The Prime Minister has yet
to respond to the letter.
"There is a moral obligation for the Prime Minister to rescue the
prisoners," the Supreme Court petition contends. "After utilizing the
vital information they provided, at great risk to their own lives, to
safeguard the lives of Israeli citizens and soldiers, he cannot simply
abandon them to their own fates."
Russian-born Ida Nudel became one of the founders of Soviet Jewry's
"refusenik" movement in 1972 after being denied a visa to immigrate to
Israel. During the next 7 years, she established herself as the most
defiant and outspoken of Jewish figures in the Soviet Union and was
frequently arrested by the KGB. On June 21, 1978, Nudel was sentenced to 4
years of exile in Siberia. Finally, in 1987, after years of an
international struggle to secure her freedom, the Soviet government bowed
to world pressure and allowed her to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel).
Nudel has been outspoken in the past on the issue of Israel's refusal to
aid and rescue Arabs arrested by the PA on charges of assisting the IDF in
its war against the PA terrorist groups.
It is believed that approximately 68 Palestinians have been sentenced to
death in show trials before hastily convened PA "military tribunals" since
the PA was established in 1994. In those trials, the accused prisoners
were not given the opportunity to defend themselves or even provided with
a defense attorney to argue on their behalf. Moreover, despite the capital
punishment imposed, the defendants had no right to an appeal.
"Despite the repeated reports that the PA is going to imminently execute
15 prisoners accused of having risked their lives on Israel's behalf, the
Prime Minister is refusing to even lift a finger to rescue these Arab
agents," Shurat HaDin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said this morning.
"We are asking the Supreme Court to compel the government to undertake
every effort available to secure the freedom of these brave individuals
from the PA. It defies belief that the government would be contemplating
releasing another 400 Palestinian terrorists while the PA is planning to
execute 15 of our prisoners. These so called 'collaborators' are Israel's
front line in the war on Palestinian terror; they have assisted the IDF in
thwarting thousands of suicide bombing attempts and must not be merely
thrown to the dogs."
(source: Arutz Sheva)
AG to appeal acquittal of death row duo
The Attorney General's Chambers will appeal the recent acquittal of
Tlhabologang Maauwe and Brown Motswetla by the Francistown High Court.
Deputy Attorney General Leatile Dambe said in a media release that "the
delay in this matter was not at all at the instance of the Attorney
Instead, she said, the 1st 2 years of delay were a result of extended
negotiations between the accused persons, their lawyers and their agents
Ditshwanelo, regarding their choice of a lawyer and payment of pro deo
fees at a higher scale.
Pro deo fees are those paid by government to lawyers representing persons
accused of capital offences.
Dambe said the two major factors that caused the delay were loss of
exhibits and the unpreparedness of the accused persons and their agents,
Ditshwanelo, to accept a lawyer other than Kgafela Kgafela and advocate
She said in some instances, competent lawyers were instructed but were
withdrawn at the request of the accused persons.
"Those lawyers were prepared to defend the accused persons at the existing
pro deo fees," she noted.
Dambe also said that following the recent permanent stay of execution
order for Maauwe and Motswetla by the High Court, the state was appealing
against such a decision.
As a result, Dambe said, there was no dereliction of duty on their part
since "we have always been ready to proceed with the case".
The two men were acquitted after they were initially tried and convicted
of murder in April 1997 and sentenced to death.
Their appeal to the Court of Appeal was heard and dismissed in July 1997,
leaving the death sentence hanging over their heads.
On January 15, 1999 they applied for a stay of execution of the death
sentence, which was granted by the High Court.
Ten months later, the High Court issued an order that the two accused be
retried. This order nullified the conviction and sentence imposed by the
very same court and confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
In March this year, the Francistown High Court acquitted and discharged
the duo, stating that their right to be tried within a reasonable time had
In his ruling, Judge Singh Walia said that even if he was to accept that
the delays, as alleged by the state, were caused by the accused and their
team, there was no escaping from the fact that during the period of that
delay, the state was not in any event ready to proceed with the trial.
Rights Commission Wants Death Penalty Scrapped
The National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday agreed the death penalty
should be abolished and will make a recommendation to the National
Assembly to that effect. The nine-member commission reached the
non-binding decision by a majority of 8.
"The life of a human being is an absolute right and is not the nation's to
take away," one member said. But Kim Ho-jun, the sole dissenter, said, "It
is hard to deny that capital punishment is a deterrent to hideous crimes
to some extent. The death penalty can be an effective punishment for
inhuman crimes like serial killing."
In a survey conducted at the request of the National Human Rights
Commission in 2003, 65.9 % of respondents wanted the death penalty kept
and only 34.1 % said it should be abolished.
The National Assembly's judiciary committee is discussing a special
abolition bill sponsored by 175 ruling and opposition lawmakers, including
ruling Uri Party Rep. Yoo In-tae.
(source: English Chosun)
Beyond the pale
It is not news that the death penalty is a cruel, ineffective and immoral
punishment, as abolitionists have long rightly argued. But it is alarming
to hear that executions have hit their second highest total in 25 years -
even as the overall trend is moving in the right direction. Amnesty
International's latest report finds that at least 3,800 people were
executed in 2004, the highest number since 1996. The vast majority, 3,400,
again took place in China, and this is an estimate that is likely to err
on the side of caution since there are no official figures. For a country
that trumpets its "peaceful rise" and is likely to dominate the latter
part of the 21st century, this is an appalling number. Beijing's official
response - that China is "a country ruled by law" - does not even begin to
address the issue, especially since corruption is one of the crimes that
carries the death penalty.
China also shares with the 2nd-worst offender, Iran, the distinction of
still executing minors, such as the 16-year-old girl hanged for "acts
incompatible with chastity" - even though both countries have ratified the
UN convention on the rights of the child, which prohibits the death
penalty for crimes committed by juveniles. Such agreements are intended to
bind states into a web of universal standards, as the US recognised when
it belatedly abolished capital punishment for minors last month. To ignore
them is to step outside the community of acceptable values.
It is a matter of profound regret that the US, the world's only superpower
and a cultural model to many, is still, with 59 executions, 4th in the
world league, though the number was down from 65 in 2003. (Vietnam, with
64, is 3rd.) Of all the elements of the transatlantic "values gap", this
is the most striking. Outlawing capital punishment has become part of the
acquis accepted by those, including Turkey, hoping to join the European
Union. It is right to encourage countries that use sharia law, such as
Saudi Arabia, to end this practice, by moratorium if not abolition. And it
is time to send this outdated, irrevocable and utterly inhuman penalty to
the dustbin of history.
(source: The Guardian (UK) )
Muted response by Canberra as Australian woman faces death penalty in
In early October last year, Schapelle Corby, a 27-year-old Australian
beauty-school student, was arrested at Balis Denpasar airport after 4.1
kilograms of marijuana were found by Indonesian customs in her body-board
surfing bag. Under Indonesian law, the penalty for marijuana dealing is
the same as for heroin dealing.
Corby was charged with drug trafficking and faces execution by a 12-man
firing squad if the court finds her guilty. If she is convicted on the
lesser charge of importing the marijuana for her own personal use, she
faces a 20-year jail sentence and $150,000 fine. A 3-judge court heard the
final arguments in the defence case last week and is expected to hand down
its verdict in May.
>From the outset, Corby, who has no criminal record or any history of drug
abuse, has denied any knowledge of the drug, arguing that it must have
been planted in the unlocked bag. She had travelled from Australia with
her 17-year-old half-brother and 2 friends and planned to holiday with her
sister Mercedes, who is married with 2 children. Mercedes and her Balinese
husband have been on an extended visit to the popular tourist island.
The Corby case raises a number of basic legal and political questions, not
the least of which is the muted response of the Howard government to the
plight of an Australian citizen. Government assistance to the young woman
has been minimal, with any help provided only after growing public alarm
over Corbys treatment.
Denpasar public prosecutor Wiswantanu has demanded the young womans
execution. He has successfully prosecuted six foreigners for importing
drugs, one of whom received the death penalty. Wiswantanu told the court
that the only way he would accept Corbys innocence was if the defence
could prove that the drugs were not in her body-board bag when it was
checked in at Brisbane airport, or provide visual evidence of someone
placing them there. It is extremely difficult for Corbys lawyers to
provide such evidence.
While both the Indonesian and Australian governments claim to have boosted
security measures in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks
on the US and the October 2002 Bali bombing, the Corby case has exposed
the fact that these measures are largely cosmetic.
X-ray machines at Bali customs do not keep photographs of the bags they
scan, nor is there closed circuit television (CCTV) coverage of the
baggage handling area. In Australia, Qantas staff did not individually
weigh or X-ray Corbys bag at Brisbane airport before placing it on her
flight to Sydney. Her bag was not X-rayed before it was loaded onto the
connecting flight to Bali.
Brisbane airport has CCTV in the check-in area and some of the
baggage-handling areas, as does Sydney. But, while video records should
have been available to provide evidence of the original size of the
body-board bag, the CCTV tapes were erased on November 2.
Qantas officials claim the tapes were destroyed before they received any
request for copies from Corbys lawyers. Defence lawyers have angrily
disputed this, saying that they asked for access to the footage on October
14, a few days after their clients arrest, when a Qantas security official
flew from Sydney to Denpasar to discuss the case. In the last week of
October, after the defence team was informed by Qantas security that the
tapes would be destroyed within a week, another request was made. This was
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, when questioned on ABC
radio, arrogantly declared that he had no control over such issues,
stating: "I'm not the minister for tapes." He also made clear that, apart
from some limited assistance to Corby's lawyers and private talks with
Indonesian foreign affairs officials, there would be no political
intervention by Canberra.
Notwithstanding the lack of important evidence, the most obvious question
the prosecution must answer is: why would Corby, or anyone else for that
matter, smuggle 4.1 kilograms of marijuana from Australia into Bali?
Although the drug is illegal in Indonesia, it can be easily procured and
is far cheaper than in Australia. It is well known that marijuana is
generally smuggled out of Bali.
Even if Corby were trafficking the drug, as claimed by the prosecution,
what would be the point of bringing it to Bali? To purchase more than four
kilograms of marijuana in Australia at the current wholesale price would
cost approximately $36,000. Anyone smuggling this quantity into Bali would
be risking his or her life for a tiny fraction of the purchase price.
Moreover, as family and friends have explained, Corby was a student,
worked long hours to pay for her Bali holiday and had no access to the
sort of money required to purchase four kilograms of marijuana in
No serious attempt was made to hide or disguise the marijuana from
Indonesian customs officials. It had been placed inside a large
transparent plastic bag, about the size of a pillow, in Corbys unlocked
body-board bag and at the front, close to the zipper. Indonesian customs
officials said the drugs had an overpowering smell.
If Corby had been attempting to smuggle the drug, one would assume she
would have, at the very least, locked the bag and made some attempt to
hide it more effectively, including sealing off its pungent odour.
Immediate requests by Corby and her travelling companions for the plastic
bag to be fingerprinted were ignored by Indonesian customs officials and
police, who claimed that it was "too late" because too many people had
touched the bags.
While none of the customs officials wore gloves when they handled the
evidence, Corbys lawyers insisted that only the external plastic bag was
contaminated. The inner bag, which contained the drugs, had not been
removed from the outer bag and only the bottom of it had been handled.
Immediate and repeated requests by Corby and her lawyers for
fingerprinting of the inner bag, however, were ignored and on February 3
it was brought into the court and handled by a range of individuals,
including a testifying customs officer, the prosecutor, and one of the
Corbys lawyers also asked the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to carry out
forensic testing of the marijuana and plastic bags, in a bid to determine
their origins. When official AFP requests for access were rejected by the
Indonesian police, neither the AFP, nor the Howard government, issued a
Because of this extraordinary lack of assistance in compiling basic
evidence, Corbys main defence has rested on attempts to establish that
Australian traffickers planted the marijuana in her bag.
Bruce Griffin, a former New South Wales drug squad detective, has
testified that some local drug traffickers with airport contacts use the
luggage of innocent travelers to move drug shipments between Australian
cities. In Corbys case, the marijuana was somehow not removed in Sydney
and, instead, mistakenly transported to Bali. Within Australia, there are
no inspections of bags or vehicles used by airport personnel with access
to Aviation Security Identification Cards.
Last week, John Foster, an Australian remand prisoner, was allowed to
travel under escort to Bali to testify in Corbys defence. He told the
court that while awaiting trial in Australia he overheard two prisoners
discussing how the marijuana shipment of another criminal had been placed
in Corbys bag but mistakenly not removed when it reached Sydney. Although
Foster named the individual involved, his evidence is hearsay and unlikely
to carry much weight in the Bali court.
Death penalty calls
Together with the problems created by the lack of concrete evidence and
highly irregular methods used by the Indonesian police and customs, the
Indonesian media is attempting to whip up sections of the population
against Corby. There are ongoing calls for her execution, and some of the
local media have taken to referring to her as the "Ganja Queen."
In February this year, members of GRANAT, an anti-narcotics group, burst
into Corbys trial carrying placards and chanting slogans demanding her
execution. One protestor shouted: "There is already one person executed in
Bali for 2kg of marijuana. I don't want to see Corby go free for bringing
Indonesian police have called for the death penalty and told the local
media that they want Corby to be a public example. "It's a drug case and
it must be the toughest so that it will intimidate others who try to copy
her," said police chief Colonel Sugiarto.
While the death penalty has existed in Indonesia since independence was
established in the late 1940s, drug crimes were not punishable with
execution until 1997. Currently there are 54 people on Indonesias death
row, 31 convicted on drugs charges and 20 of these are foreigners.
Agitation for the execution of drug dealers and traffickers has
intensified in the past decade, with Islamic leaders and prominent
politicians in the forefront. In 2002, President Megawati Sukarnoputri
stated: "For those who distribute drugs, life sentences and other prison
sentences are no longer sufficient. No sentence is sufficient other than
the death sentence."
Last year, a presidential election year, three foreign drug offenders - an
Indian and 2 Thais - were put to death by firing squad, the 1st executions
of any kind in Indonesia for 3 years.
In a blatant violation of their democratic rights, the accused were barred
access to interpreters and lawyers during the police investigation that
preceded the trial. The Indian prisoner was denied a final request that
his family be allowed to visit before he was executed and his lawyers were
not informed of his death until after it had taken place.
Another eight people found guilty of drug trafficking face execution.
Megawati Sukarnoputri rejected their clemency appeals last June and July.
Current Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is presently
visiting Australia, made clear during a presidential election debate last
year that, if he were elected, there would be no change in Indonesias
execution policies. The death penalty for drug dealers, he declared, "is
justice which must be enforced." This, he claimed, was necessary "to give
deterrent effects to the perpetrators."
Canberra, with some media support, maintains that it has been assisting
Corby and her lawyers. Justice Minister Chris Ellison declared last
weekend that the government "will go into overdrive" if she were sentenced
The reality is, however, that the Howard government has refused to condemn
the serious irregularities in the police investigation, the show-trial
nature of the court proceedings, or uttered a word of protest against
Indonesias repressive drug laws and death penalty. This is in line with
Prime Minister Howards new-found friendship with Yudhoyono, which is aimed
at further cementing Australian capitalism's economic and strategic
interests in the Indonesian archipelago.
In a brief interview with a Sydney radio station early last month, Howard
said he had "some concerns" about "aspects" of the trial but did not
elaborate. Instead, he declared that his government was "aware of its
obligations and we'll continue to follow the case to the extent that we
can, consistent with the right of Indonesia to run its justice system."
Claims that the Howard government cannot speak out about Indonesias legal
system are bogus and thoroughly hypocritical. Following the Bali bombing,
Washington and Canberra pressed the Indonesian government for the arrest
of Islamic fundamentalist Abu Bakir Bashir, even before a criminal
investigation had begun.
Bashir was eventually charged and found guilty, not over the Bali bombing,
but immigration irregularities and a conspiracy to assassinate President
Megawati Sukarnoputri. After being released, he was rearrested, again on
the urging of the US and Australia, and charged with involvement in the
terror bombing of Bali and the Marriott Hotel. On the basis of flimsy
evidence, he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for conspiracy over the
In that case, the Howard government did not hesitate to voice its
disapproval of the courts verdict. Foreign Minister Downer even directed
the Australian ambassador to tell Indonesian officials that the sentence
was too light. Labor leader Kim Beazley declared that Bashir should spend
the rest of "his miserable life in jail."
When Downer was asked by ABC radio last week whether he was satisfied that
nothing more could be done to assist Corby, he replied: "Well, I am not a
defence lawyer... In a governmental sense I dont think there is anything
more that we can do."
In other words, whatever the trial verdict and sentencing outcome, the
Howard government, while nervous about the outcome of Corbys case, is
determined that nothing should upset its diplomatic manoeuvres with the
(source: World Socialist Web Site)
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