[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 22 10:53:41 EST 2006
Death Sentence for Afghan Christian Shows Hollowness of Bush's Democracy
Nothing gets Fox News' dander up like a persecuted Christian, but what
happens when the persecuting is coming from a brand spanking new democracy
that their pet president has enshrined? Fuzzy journalism, that's what
The "Dayside" couple Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick on Tuesday (March 21,
2006) tried to deal with the case of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old Afghani
who faces death because he converted to Christianity. Jerrick correctly
pointed out that capital punishment for rejecting Islam is permitted under
the constitution of the "government we helped put in place" to replace the
The guest on "Dayside" for the segment was Rahul Manchanda, an
international attorney, who did his best to muddy the waters about whose
fault the death sentence is. Manchanda kept repeating that the U.S.-backed
Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, opposes the death sentence for such cases
but his hands are tied because he can't change the judiciary. "You cannot
change the judiciary if they've got these old world beliefs," he said,
comparing it to the inability of an American president to override the
But the case should come as no surprise to Americans. The Constitution
that the Bush administration has been bragging about as a great step
forward for the Middle East is founded on Islamic law. According to Juan
Cole, author of the "Informed Comment" blog, that constitution made Islam
the official religion of Afghanistan. In August 2005, Cole quoted from the
"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
We the people of Afghanistan:
1. With firm faith in God Almighty and relying on His lawful mercy, and
Believing in the Sacred religion of Islam . . .
3. While acknowledging the sacrifices and the historic struggles, rightful
Jehad and just resistance of all people of Afghanistan, and respecting the
high position of the martyrs for the freedom of Afghanistan . . .
"Chapter I The State
"Article 1 [Islamic Republic]
Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible
"Article 2 [Religions]
(1) The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is
the sacred religion of Islam
(2) Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and
perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.
"Article 3 [Law and Religion]
In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of
the sacred religion of Islam . . . "
So while the Bush administration was telling Americans that Afghan was a
democracy, what they weren't saying was that it was a democracy with no
protections for minority rights -- sort of the same kind of democracy they
would like to install here at home, just pure majority rule. where those
with the most votes run rough shod over their opponents.
Sure, article 2 says followers of other religions are free to exercise
their faith, but only "within the limits of the provisions of law." And
"no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred
religion of Islam," according to Article 3, otherwise known as Catch-22.
Bush was so anxious to prove that he had installed a "democracy" in
Afghanistan that he has never paid much attention to the details. When
people have questioned the success of this new democracy, Bush has
resorted to phony claims that his critics don't believe people in the
Middle East are capable of self-government.
The Afghan Constitution is important because it points to one of the great
ironies of the way the Bush administration has handled the situation in
Iraq. The Shiites in Iraq would just as soon install an Islamic republic
since they do not believe the world can be divided into separate civil and
religious spheres. The Sunnis, who were the supporters of Saddam Hussein,
are more secular in their approach to government.
So what does Bush do while supposedly trying to install a democracy in
Iraq? He tosses all the Sunnis out of power, throws his lot in with those
who want a religious regime, and then claims he has been the midwife for
another new democracy.
No wonder Sunnis are furious at Bush. In the name of democrracy, he is
trying to force on them a government that will be based on a religious
sect that fails to safeguard their rights. I wonder if Bush even
understands what he has done.
(source: News Hounds)
Russian official against execution penalty
Chairman of Russian Federation Council, Sergei Mironov, has uttered
support for calls, banning execution in Russia.
The Russian News Agency, Novosti, reported on Mironov as saying that life
sentence without pardon is similar to execution. He added that banning
execution in Russia is a complicated matter, noting that despite the
existence of an international law and a world agreement banning execution,
the Russian community unfortunately think about returning to it. Studies
showed that 70 % in Moscow support the return of execution penalty.
(source: Bahrain News Agency)
Manila's Estrada Strikes Defiant Tone in Court
Deposed Philippine president Joseph Estrada struck a defiant note in his
opening testimony in his plunder trial on Wednesday, dismissing
accusations he amassed $80 million from state coffers and bribes while in
The film star turned politician took the stand for the 1st time in his
five-year-old trial, which is highly politicized as President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo tries to heal divisions from the popular revolt that
ousted him and propelled her to power.
"I was not able to defend myself and was convicted in the street,"
Estrada, known popularly by his nickname "Erap," told the packed courtroom
in the Tagalog language.
Police deployed 1,000 officers around the anti-graft court to contain
possible protests by Estrada supporters.
About 150 people, waving banners that read "Erap not guilty," were being
kept about 500 meters (yards) away from the court building. They had held
an overnight vigil and attended morning Mass at a nearby church.
Estrada, 68, who is kept under house arrest at his country villa, is
expected to deliver emotional testimony claiming the accusations he stole
from state coffers and took bribes are part of persecution by the
The uprising that ousted Estrada in 2001 after 31 months in office was
backed by generals, Catholic bishops and powerful families, paving the way
for Arroyo to rise from vice-president.
If convicted, Estrada could be sentenced to death. But most analysts
expect he would be sent to prison or given a pardon by Arroyo to cool the
WEEKS OF TESTIMONY
Luis "Chavit" Singson, a provincial governor who was the government's key
witness, was in court to hear his former friend and gambling buddy speak.
"We are 100 % sure he will lie," Singson told reporters. "He is an actor,
he can very well fake it."
Singson has claimed he delivered 130 million pesos ($2.5 million) in
tobacco taxes to Estrada's house and has accused him of links to illegal
Those accusations were the beginning of the end for Estrada's political
career but he remains popular with poor voters who swept him to power in
Many of his supporters see Arroyo, who survived an impeachment attempt
last year over allegations of graft and vote-rigging in the 2004 election,
as an illegitimate leader.
Estrada's lawyers have said he will give convincing testimony, but they
conceded the plunder trial was "an extraordinary political case" and they
hoped the 3 judges would not be influenced or pressured by the government.
Estrada is expected to take six to eight weeks to complete his testimony
as the court meets only once a week. It would take another 3 months for
the two sides to wrap up their arguments.
State prosecutors opened their case in October 2001 and presented 76
witnesses and stacks of documents seeking to prove Estrada stole state
funds and collected bribes.
In an editorial, the Philippine Star said on Wednesday that Estrada's case
was the most prominent example of weakness in the country's justice
"Estrada's trial is a showcase of how slowly the wheels of Philippine
justice turn," it said. "His case, which has turned into a national
embarrassment, must be resolved soon."
Former President Takes Stand in Plunder Trial
Ousted Philippine President Joseph Estrada testified in his plunder trial,
hoping for vindication five years after he was toppled in a 2001 "people
power" revolt. If convicted, he could be executed by injection.
"I have mixed feelings. I welcome this opportunity to present my side
because I was denied that right in the impeachment trial when prosecutors
walked out. I was not able to defend myself. I was convicted in the
streets," Estrada, 68, told the court.
Prosecutors allege that Estrada amassed about $77 million in illegal
gambling payoffs, tax kickbacks and commissions stashed in secret bank
(source: The Philippine Enquirer)
Serial Killer Supports Death Penalty
Serial killer Yoo Young-chul, who was sentenced to death for murdering 20
people, said he objects to a recent move to abolish capital punishment,
according to a local television station.
Yoo's claim has come amid controversy about the death penalty, which
reemerged following the Justice Ministry's consideration to replace
capital punishment with a non-commutable life sentence.
The broadcaster SBS said Wednesday that it sent a questionnaire to Yoo to
ask his opinion about the death penalty, and that Yoo supported
Yoo was arrested in July 2004 on charges of killing 20 innocent women and
senior citizens in Seoul and dismembering and burying 11 corpses since
The 35-year-old killer, who had lived in poverty and suffered a failed
marriage, said he killed them out of blind hatred toward women and the
Last June, the Supreme Court handed down the death penalty to Yoo.
In the reply to SBS Yoo said he was opposed to the move to abolish capital
punishment and adopt life imprisonment instead.
"It is the cruelest punishment to isolate hideous criminals, who cannot be
reformed, and make them die old. It is also a waste of state funds," he
said, according to the broadcaster.
He added it would be the right thing to let those who desperately want to
give up their lives die.
"I would be unfair to the world for people like me continue living. I
object to abolishing the death penalty," Yoo said.
Last month, the Justice Ministry announced its long-term reform roadmap to
improve human rights conditions within the nation's penal system and
strengthen an effective criminal justice system.
It plans to review whether capital punishment is effective in preventing
crime and how society will be affected if the penalty is abolished.
Currently, South Korea has 63 convicts on death row, but has not conducted
an execution since 1998.
Civic and human rights groups have called for elimination of death
penalty. The National Human Rights Commission recommended scrapping
capital punishment last April, and Amnesty International launched a
campaign this year to encourage South Korea to abolish the penalty.
But quite a number of people still support the sentence, claiming the
lives and property of society are more important than the rights of
individual criminals. The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court have
supported the penalty in the past.
(source: The Korea Times)
Death could await Christian convert----U.S. lawmaker: Christian-conversion
In the days of the Taliban, those promoting Christianity in Afghanistan
could be arrested and those converting from Islam could be tortured and
That was supposed to change after U.S.-led forces ousted the oppressive,
fundamentalist regime, but the case of 41-year-old Abdul Rahman has many
Western nations wondering if Afghanistan is regressing.
Rahman, a father of two, was arrested last week and is now awaiting trial
for rejecting Islam. He told local police, whom he approached on an
unrelated matter, that he had converted to Christianity. Reports say he
was carrying a Bible at the time.
"They want to sentence me to death, and I accept it," Rahman told
reporters last week, "but I am not a deserter and not an infidel."
The Afghan constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, says
that apostates can receive the death penalty. (Watch how Rahman's case
could cast doubts on Afghanistan's commitment to democracy -- 1:17)
Afghanistan's population is 80 % Sunni Muslim and 19 % Shiite Muslim,
according to the CIA. The other 1 % of the population is classified as
U.S.: Freedom to worship part of democracy
Rahman's case raises thorny issues between Afghanistan and its Western
allies, and U.S. officials this week made certain that Afghan Foreign
Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who is in Washington for talks on the
U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership, understood their qualms.
"We have underscored also to Foreign Minister Abdullah that we believe
that tolerance and freedom of worship are important elements of any
democracy," U.S. State Department spokesman Scott McCormack told reporters
Tuesday. "We urge the Afghan government to conduct any legal proceedings
in a transparent and fair manner."
Abdullah was supposed to talk to reporters Tuesday about talks for the
strategic partnership. Instead, Abdullah was bombarded with questions
about the Rahman case.
"I know that it is a very sensitive issue and we know the concerns of the
American people," Abdullah said, adding that the Afghan Embassy in
Washington had received "hundreds of messages" on the issue.
He further said that the Afghan government had nothing to do with the
"But I hope that through our constitutional process, there will be a
satisfactory result," he said.
Rahman's case illustrates a split over the interpretation of the Afghan
constitution, which calls for religious freedom while stating that Muslims
who reject Islam can be executed.
Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs, said he understands
the complexities of the case and promised the United States would respect
Afghan sovereignty. However, he said, Afghans should be free to choose
their own religion, and he believes the nation's constitution supports
"We hope the Afghan constitution is going to be upheld," Burns said. "If
he has the right of freedom of religion, that ought to be respected."
Rahman's case could force Afghan President Hamid Karzai into the
undesirable position of mediating the matter. Karzai has to placate an
ever-restless populace in turbulent post-war Afghanistan, but at the same
time, he needs Western assistance to stave off the remnants of the Taliban
and al Qaeda.
The U.S. has 23,000 troops in the country; Germany has 2,700. Canada has
2,300 stationed there, and Italy has 1,775, according to Reuters.
All four nations have expressed displeasure over the situation, some even
saying that it is intolerable that soldiers of all faiths die to protect a
country threatening to kill its own for converting to Christianity.
Former Italian President Francesco Cossiga wrote a letter to Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi, urging him to withdraw Italian troops from
Afghanistan unless Kabul guarantees Rahman's safety, Reuters reported.
"It is not acceptable that our soldiers should put themselves at risk or
even sacrifice their lives for a fundamentalist, illiberal regime,"
Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations
Committee, wrote a letter to Karzai asking him to intervene and uphold
"core democratic principles and fundamental human rights."
"In a country where soldiers from all faiths, including Christianity, are
dying in defense of your government, I find it outrageous that Mr. Rahman
is being prosecuted and facing the death penalty for converting to
Christianity," Lantos wrote.
One German official promised to intervene if necessary. Another,
Development Minister Heide Wieczorek-Zeul, said, "We will do everything
possible to save the life of Abdul Rahman," according to Reuters.
Canada echoed that sentiment, saying human rights in Afghanistan was a top
priority and that "Canada will continue to encourage the Afghan government
to adhere to its human rights obligations," foreign ministry spokeswoman
Pamela Greenwell told Reuters.
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