[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 28 23:12:34 CST 2008
S Asians given execution deadline ---- Thousands of Sri Lankans work in
the Middle East
A court in Saudi Arabia has given 3 South Asian workers a week to appeal
against their death sentences for killing an elderly woman.
The 3 - 2 Sri Lankans and an Indian - were sentenced last year for killing
her during an armed burglary.
Another 5 Sri Lankans - including 2 women - have also been sentenced to 5
years in jail and 500 lashes for their part in the burglary and death.
Correspondents say that Saudi Arabia carried out 103 executions last year.
Death sentences are usually carried out by beheading.
Sri Lankan officials say that they have appealed for an extension to the
week-long deadline handed down to the 3 so that they have time to get the
latest ruling translated from Arabic into English.
Newspapers in the Arab kingdom have reported that the son of the murdered
woman has called for the other 5 people convicted in relation to the case
also to be given death sentences.
Correspondents say that under Islamic law, the views of the victim are
important in determining the severity of criminal sentences.
Amnesty International has already criticised the verdict delivered by the
Jeddah High Court in June and accused the Saudi authorities of imposing
death sentences which are "not in accordance with proper judicial
"They have had no legal assistance at any time, even during trial and are
believed to have confessed under duress," an Amnesty statement said.
"Amnesty International's concern is heightened given that appeals are
heard in secret and that these individuals will be at risk of imminent
execution if their sentences are upheld on appeal," the statement said.
The Sri Lankan deputy Foreign Minister, Hussain Bahila, is expected to
discuss the case in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Tuesday.
In February 4 Sri Lankan migrant workers convicted for armed robbery were
beheaded in Saudi Arabia.
(source: BBC News)
Part One: Is Harper sending a message on capital punishment?
2 words have dogged Stephen Harper's political ambitions for years. Fairly
or unfairly, suspicions of a "hidden agenda" may have cost him the
majority he craved in the last election - and could haunt his campaign in
the coming one.
Harper has tried, since taking office, to shake off this charge from his
political opponents who want to regain power. There has been no government
campaign against abortion or official bilingualism; the military has not
been dispatched to Iraq; and gay marriage has not been repealed.
On Oct. 31, however - after 20 months of trying to prove that a secret
plan to impose its moral agenda on the country was a figment of his
critics' imagination - the Harper government suddenly announced Canada
would no longer ask for clemency from execution for its citizens on death
row in the United States.
The news not only reversed Canada's long-standing foreign policy, it also
re-awakened the whispers, the kind of talk that has gnawed at Harper and
his colleagues ever since they arrived on the national stage under the
banner of the Reform party.
"There is no agenda in our caucus on abortion, on bilingualism, or on
capital punishment," Conservative MP John Reynolds explained in the 2004
election campaign, a claim that would be repeated, again and again through
the 2006 contest that finally brought the party to power.
Now, the clemency issue has pushed capital punishment to the fore again,
and the critics have pounced, alleging the decision is proof of plans to
eventually bring back the death penalty to Canada.
"Their actions indicate they want to do domestically, what they are doing
indirectly internationally," says Liberal MP Dan McTeague, the party's
consular affairs critic.
"I don't recall Harper or anyone else campaigning on capital punishment,
and I'm concerned that this is a harbinger of what he plans to do here in
Canada, if given another mandate."
If the Conservative strategy is to raise the death penalty issue - as it
applies to Canadians on death row abroad - will it help or hinder the
party at election time?
Capital punishment is one of those contentious moral issues that usually
only lands politicians in trouble. Canadians have remained divided on the
matter ever since Ottawa removed the death penalty from the Criminal Code
11 years later, a free vote in the House of Commons on a motion to
reinstate the death penalty was defeated, but only by a margin of 21
votes, with 127 MPs in favour, and 148 against.
A federal poll of 4,000 Canadians taken this summer found that only 1 in 5
supported capital punishment, but the mood differed across the country. In
Alberta, about 30 % of respondents supported the death penalty. In
Newfoundland, that number was less than 17 %.
Another poll of 1,000 Canadians in November, showed that 50 % disapproved
of the Conservative decision not to intervene on behalf of Canadian
citizens sentenced to death abroad, while 43 per cent agreed with the
While Canada's small-c conservative movements have openly flirted with
capital punishment for decades, they have been internally divided on the
matter. No mainstream political party since 1976 has officially endorsed
the death penalty.
Although former prime minister Brian Mulroney himself was a staunch
opponent, a majority of his Progressive Conservative MPs - 125 of 208 -
voted to bring back the death penalty in 1987.
2 of the Tories who voted yes are now ministers in Harper's cabinet, but
neither Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, or Labour Minister Jean-Pierre
Blackburn agreed to be interviewed for this story.
The Reform party, under Preston Manning, came closest to advocating a
return to the death penalty; their party platform endorsed a nationwide
referendum on the matter, rather than another Commons vote.
Later, when Stockwell Day took the helm of the Canadian Alliance, the
party had no official position on capital punishment, even though Day
himself was publicly in favour.
The Conservatives, under Stephen Harper, have followed a similar path -
steering clear of a formal policy on capital punishment other than to make
it clear that the debate is not one the party's leader is interested in.
The difficulty for Harper is that he leads a party that counts on a core
group of supporters for whom reinstating the death penalty remains an
Gerry Nicholls, former president of the National Citizens Coalition, a
conservative think-tank, says Harper is deliberately using the issue of
clemency to send a message to this conservative base, without ever
intending to bring the death penalty back to Canada.
"The whole capital punishment issue is a strong appeal to the populist
wing of the Conservative party - mostly old Reformers," says Nicholls.
"The Conservative government has let conservatives down in a lot of areas
and has not acted in true conservative fashion. Many of Harper's policies
seem very Liberal, and this is causing some discontent in party ranks.
"His position on clemency for Canadians on death row is very clever. He
doesn't have to go through the trouble of saying, 'We're going to look at
capital punishment again,' which would be very controversial politically
for his government. But he can send a message - a code to the small-c wing
of the party - 'I'm looking out for your interests too.'"
Nicholls doubts the policy will backfire at election time, even if most
Canadians oppose capital punishment.
Ronald Smith, the Canadian at the heart of the current clemency decision,
is a convicted double murderer. It will be tough for any politician, in a
populist affair like an election campaign, to defend a man like that.
"The Conservatives are strong on law and order issues," says Nicholls. "If
the Liberals want to fight them on that turf, that can only be good for
But Mark Warner, a Toronto lawyer originally nominated to run for the
Conservatives in the next election - but recently dumped as the party's
candidate in Toronto Centre - says no measure of political support for the
death penalty will play well among voters in Canada's big cities.
"In this part of the country, the hidden agenda fears are still real,"
says Warner. "The Conservatives were making some progress on it, but they
never overcame it completely.
"Now, this death penalty thing comes along, and while it may shore up
support from core Conservative voters, it won't appeal to anyone in my
city. "It's whacko stuff."
McTeague says whether Harper is simply sending a message to a wing of his
party, or whether he's actually testing the water for a return of the
death penalty in Canada under a majority Conservative regime, the party's
equivocation on the execution of Canadian citizens is now clear for all to
"The proverbial horse had bolted the barn," he says. "The Conservatives
have now said they accept capital punishment in certain circumstances."
"It casts a very dark shadow on the Conservative party. And it's another
headache Mr. Harper will have to deal with in 2008."
- - -
The politics of life and death
Tomorrow: A long-standing commitment to the death penalty by many U.S.
states is weakening as troubling ethical and legal questions are raised.
Wednesday: Where do Canada's politicians stand on the capital-punishment
Thursday: How do Canadians feel about the change in clemency policy by the
Conservative government, and how do they feel about the death penalty
being used here in Canada?
Fate of Canadians on death row in foreign lands remains murky
Ronald Smith, the only Canadian on death row in the United States, can no
longer expect help from Prime Minister Stephen Harper or the federal
But when, or whether, Canada would push for clemency for other Canadians
facing a death penalty has become a murky matter.
In late October, the federal government said it would no longer be seeking
clemency for Smith from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a reversal of
long-standing Canadian policy to automatically ask foreign countries to
commute the death sentence of any Canadian facing execution.
At the time, the government said it would no longer seek clemency for
Canadians on death row in "democratic" countries, like the U.S., where
there has been a "fair trial."
Harper, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob
Nicholson each said in public statements in early November that showing
mercy toward Smith - a convicted double murderer who once boasted he'd
shot 2 aboriginal men in Montana to see what it feels like to kill - ran
counter to the Conservatives' tough-on-crime agenda.
But as the clemency issue gathered steam in the House of Commons, coming
under opposition attack and drawing criticism from Amnesty International,
the United Nations Human Rights Commission and others, the government's
Nicholson, Harper's spokesperson on the issue, moved away from the
government's earlier blanket refusal to seek clemency for any Canadian on
death row in any democratic country.
Instead, he said, "we will look at each case" and "we examine each case on
In the House of Commons, Nicholson said Canada would no longer
"necessarily" intervene to help Canadians on death row who have been
convicted of "multiple" or "mass" murders.
Then, in late November, citing a Federal Court of Canada lawsuit filed
against the government by Smith and his lawyers, the Conservatives stopped
discussing the clemency question.
And that is where the matter stands.
(source: Montreal Gazette)
'93 bombings: Yaqub death penalty stayed
The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily suspended the death penalty of
Yakub Memon, fugitive underworld don Tiger Memon's accountant brother
condemned to the gallows for his role in the 1993 Mumbai bombings.
A bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan also granted bail to Essa alias
Anjum Abdul Razak Memon, sentenced to life in jail by a Mumbai special
court for his role in the terror attack in which 257 people were killed.
The bench, which also included Justices Tarun Chatterjee and RV
Raveendran, adjourned the hearing on the bail pleas of six other convicts
of the case to February 5.
While Yakub Memon had been awarded death penalty for hatching the
conspiracy, funding the terror attack and supplying weapons for it, Essa
had been given a life term for letting his house be used for meetings and
for storing arms and explosives.
Essa was granted bail as he has already undergone at least 12 years of
imprisonment, and the Central Bureau of Investigation did not oppose his
The 6 others, whose bail pleas will come up next week, included 2 more
Memons, Rubeena Suleman and Yusuf Abdul Razak, as well as Sardar Shahwali
Khan, Muzamil Umar Jkadri, Khalil Ahmed Sazad Ali Najir and Zamir Sagar
Rubeena and Yususf Memon were given life terms for allowing their house to
be used for conspiracy meetings and to store arms and explosives. They had
also given their van to execute the blasts.
Sardar Shahwali Khan had been sentenced to life term and fined Rs 100,000
for hatching the conspiracy for the terror bombing while Muzzamil Umar
Kadri was given life sentence and fined Rs 125,000 for arranging for the
arms landing in Mumbai's Shekhadi area and for taking part in the
Zameer Sayyed Ismail had also been given life sentence and fined Rs
125,000 for being a party to the conspiracy and arranging the arms landing
at Mumbai's coastal area in Dighi.
Khalil Nasir was given 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 125,000
for arms landing in Shekhadi.
(source: Hindustan Times)
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