[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Aug 29 15:24:44 UTC 2006
Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty in Libya HIV Case
A Libyan prosecutor demanded the death penalty on Tuesday for 5 Bulgarian
nurses and a Palestinian doctor on trial for the 2nd time on charges that
they infected hundreds of children with the HIV virus.
"The act was cruel, criminal and inhuman. It's a human catastrophe,''
prosecutor Omar Abdulkhaleq told the Tripoli court, adding that 53 of the
430 children infected had subsequently died.
"We demand the death penalty for the accused.''
A previous trial of the 6, who have been detained since 1999, ended with
their conviction on charges they intentionally infected 426 children with
HIV when they worked in a hospital in Benghazi in the late 1990s.
In December 2005, the supreme court overturned the convictions, which had
resulted in sentences of death by firing squad, and sent the case back to
a lower court. The retrial began in May 2006.
The medics, Palestinian doctor Ashraf Alhajouj and Bulgarians Snezhana
Dimitrova, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropolu, Christiana Valcheva and Valia
Cherveniashka denied the charges in both their 1st and 2nd trials and have
repeatedly testified that they were tortured to make them confess.
Abdulkhaleq added that the 6 had also committed offences related to buying
and selling alcohol, having illicit sexual relations and illegally
carrying out hard currency exchange. Sex outside marriage is illegal in
The 6 deny those accusations.
Abdulkhaleq said without elaborating that 20 mothers of the children had
become infected with the virus through breast-feeding their infected
Bulgaria and its allies support the medics' torture claims and global AIDS
experts say the outbreak at the Benghazi hospital where they worked began
before they arrived.
Around 50 of the HIV-infected children have died, fuelling popular anger
Tripoli has suggested the nurses could go free if Bulgaria pays
compensation to the children and their families, who have demanded 4.4
billion euros ($5.5 billion). Bulgaria has refused to pay, but has joined
the United States, the EU and Libya in agreeing to back the creation of an
The retrial was adjourned to Sept 5.
Coordinator of Bulgarian Nurses' Defense: Demand for Upholding Death
Sentences not Surprising
"The demand for upholding the death sentences against the Bulgarian nurses
was expected," Trayan Markovski, coordinator of the Bulgarian nurses'
defense, told FOCUS News Agency. According to him, the demand is not
surprising because it was made by representatives of institutions, which
ruled out the arrest and pressed charges for serious crimes against the
nurses 7 years ago.
"A change in such a position demands a lot of moral and other strength,"
(source: Focus News Agency)
Death row numbers, questions growing / Legal experts raise concerns about
courts' moves to tougher sentencing
The number of inmates on death row in Japan has increased sharply in
recent years, particularly since 2004, with the most up-to-date figures
showing there were 88 awaiting execution as of the end of July.
The sudden rise reflects the fact that finalized death sentences reached
2-digit totals in each of the past 3 years, while the number of executions
has been declining.
Indeed, Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura, speaking at his 1st press
conference after his appointment in October, said he would not sign
execution orders, though he subsequently retracted the statement.
According to the Justice Ministry, between 2 and 7 death sentences a year
were finalized by courts from 1989 through 2003. However, since the late
1990s the number of cases in which prosecutors have demanded death
sentences, and judges have upheld the penalty, has been on the rise.
The change apparently reflects mounting pressure from victims' relatives
for harsher punishment.
In 2004, death sentences for 14 prisoners were finalized by courts, with
11 finalized in 2005 and another 11 during the first seven months of 2006.
In contrast, executions took place at a rate of between 1 and 3 a year
from 2000 to 2005, and so far this year no executions have been reported.
Consequently, the number of convicts on death row has increased to 88 from
about 50 at the end of each year up until 2003.
The Supreme Court currently has 50 appellate cases before it concerning
death sentences imposed by high courts. In addition, there are 2 cases
under appeal by prosecutors seeking the death penalty where a life
sentence was given.
Although there can be no way to predict what the Supreme Court's decisions
will be, the number of death-row inmates likely will exceed the 100 mark
in the near future, considering the existing cases of death-sentence
appeals before the highest court.
The Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that a death penalty be executed
within six months of a sentence being finalized, though the law stops
short of providing specific conditions about the timing of execution.
In practice, a death sentence is usually carried out within five days of a
relevant justice minister signing an execution order, which is prepared by
the Justice Ministry's Criminal Affairs Bureau.
Justice minister holds key
A high-ranking ministry official said, "It's virtually impossible to
follow through on an execution while the Diet is in session."
A retired senior official of the ministry echoed this point, explaining,
"The minister needs a calm atmosphere to judge whether the defendant has
been falsely accused, so as a prerequisite, the Diet should be in recess."
In the past 4 years, executions took place in September of each year,
coinciding with the period during which the Diet was in recess between the
end of its annual ordinary session and the start of an extraordinary
The ministry official added that no execution likely would be carried out
in the period immediately following the appointment of a new justice
minister as he or she would be too busy with the transition process and
would also be receiving intensive briefings on pending issues.
Sources close to the Justice Ministry said one reason it would be
difficult to simply increase the frequency of executions is that for each
execution order, the ministry is obliged to thoroughly reexamine all
records relevant to the case.
If the justice minister did decide to sign an execution order, it could be
carried out at any time from early September to mid-September, given the
fact that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will step down later next
However, it is widely believed within the Justice Ministry that Sugiura
will decline to sign any execution orders right up until the end, despite
having withdrawn his inaugural remark that he would not sign such orders.
Pros and cons
Isao Okamura, a lawyer who heads a national association of relatives of
crime victims, said, "It's illogical that death sentences that are meted
out by courts, as demanded by prosecutors, are not carried out in
accordance with the law."
"It appears as if the Justice Ministry--whose duty is to abide by law--is
actually violating the law," he said.
Shizue Takahashi, 59, who lost her husband in the March 1995 sarin gas
attack by the Aum Supreme Truth cult on the Tokyo subway system, said,
"The death penalty is the only way to completely avenge the victims."
She added, "I urge the justice minister to fulfill his duty to order
Meanwhile, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations asked Sugiura in June
to suspend executions for two main reasons.
One is the possibility of a miscarriage of justice, the federation said,
citing an incident on March 28, 1961, when five people died after being
poisoned in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. Masaru Okunishi was arrested and a
death sentence was finalized in June 1972. However, the Nagoya High Court
decided in April last year to reopen the case.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations also cited prevailing global
opinion on the matter, which has been to abolish the death sentence.
Makoto Teranaka, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan, said
there had emerged a general tendency in Japan toward more severe criminal
His group intends to petition the justice minister to refrain from
No death penalty in 128 nations
According to Amnesty International, a total of 88 countries, including
European Union member countries, Australia and Canada, have abolished the
death penalty altogether.
11 countries, including Argentina and Brazil, only use capital punishment
for acts of terrorism.
When those countries that have not carried out executions for the past
decade are added, the overall list of death penalty-averse countries
swells to 128.
On the other hand, 69 countries, including the United States and China,
have upheld the use of the death penalty, though in the case of the United
States the decision is on a state by state basis. In California and Texas
capital punishment is still in place, while other states including Hawaii
and Michigan have abolished the death penalty.
(source: Daily Yomiuri)
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