Sept. 19


Mentally ill death row inmate Imdad Ali to be executed tomorrow

Pakistan must not hang a mentally ill man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, a rights group said, after a court issued a warrant for his execution next week.

Death row prisoner, Imdad Ali, who is around 50 years old, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious teacher in 2002.

"Imdad Ali is mentally ill and has suffered years without proper treatment," a report by local watchdog the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) said, adding he had been diagnosed as a "paranoid schizophrenic".

JPP said it had filed an appeal against a Lahore High Court decision last month which dismissed pleas that Ali could not be executed on the basis of his mental illness.

His medical condition should be looked into, as well as the extenuating circumstances that had aggravated his mental illness during his lengthy time on death row, the organisation argued.

Ali's execution has been scheduled for September 20 (Tuesday), it said.

Prison authorities have sent a letter - seen by AFP - to his relatives asking if they want a final meeting with him the day before his execution in the town of Vehari.

JPP executive director Sarah Belal said Pakistan would violate its international legal commitments if it executed a mentally ill person.

"Executing Imdad will exemplify Pakistan's failure to abide by its international legal commitments that forbid the death penalty for persons suffering from mental disabilities," Belal told AFP.

"Knowing what they do about his condition would make his hanging a most serious crime."

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), which Pakistan ratified in 2011, guarantees the "inherent dignity" of individuals with disabilities, she said.

Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed Peshawar's Army Public School in 2014 and killed more than 150 people - mostly children.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but later extended to all capital offences.

The country has executed over 400 people since resuming hangings in December 2014, according to new research by Reprieve, a British anti-death penalty campaign group.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Imdad Ali's death penalty: a travesty of justice?

The execution of Imdad Ali, which is scheduled for Tuesday, would be a great travesty of justice. Imdad Ali is a 50-year-old death row inmate who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, but his defence for insanity has, unfortunately, been rejected due to a technicality in judicial precedent, according to which if the accused flees the scene of the crime he is not considered mentally unfit. This judicial precedent is woefully inadequate to define mental illness, to say the least, and the rejection for Ali's plea on that basis against the face of numerous medical examinations declaring him to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia casts serious doubts over the ability of precedent to evolve in Pakistan's judicial system.

The fact that even jail authorities are sympathetic to Ali's case, and an examination carried out by the head of psychiatry of the Nishtar Hospital on the request of the superintendent of district Vehari jail formally diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia must be enough to merit a revision of Ali's death sentence. Moreover, there are testimonies of not just family members but also neighbours regarding Ali's behaviour that is characteristic of paranoid schizophrenia. Unfortunately, Imdad Ali's case is symptomatic of the faulty criminal justice system of Pakistan for which even the otherwise most ardent supporters of death penalty would not, in good conscience, be able to support the death penalty. And even amidst a narrative in which the death penalty has been deemed an imperative to eliminate militancy in the country, the execution of a mentally unstable person finds not even an iota of justification.

Ranging from incompetent public defence counsel to forced confessions, the problems plaguing the criminal justice system of Pakistan are glaringly apparent. And as those with access to resources are able to evade punishment, it is often the poor who are left to face the gallows. While there is good reason to doubt the veracity of most convictions, but even if there is the slightest chance that an innocent individual would lose his life then the ostensible grounds for the death penalty are lost, and carrying it out turns into the gravest of injustice and one that is wholly irreversible. In any case, advocating death penalty during present times is an anachronism, and there are plenty of studies that have shown that it does not act as an effective deterrent. The philosophical underpinnings of state sanctioned punishment are based on the need for preserving the social order and discouraging people from breaking laws that are there for the common good. While in ancient times the state apparatus was not well-developed and, consequently, the chance of catching a criminal were low, punishments were made severe and carried out in public to increase the cost of committing a crime. Now with the modern police system and advanced powers of surveillance, the functional need for the death penalty is no longer there.

Furthermore, a much more effective purpose of the criminal justice system is not the dispensation of punishment but the task of reformation. This takes into account the different circumstances that force an individual into becoming a criminal, and hence the responsibility of society is not to punish that person but to fix him and turn him into a functioning member of society. It is true that Pakistan is far from this ideal, but perhaps a starting point could be to not execute a mentally unfit person. Pardon Imdad Ali.

(source: Daily Times)


We must not turn a blind eye to Iran's executions and abuses

In the week the United Kingdom upgraded its diplomatic presence in Iran to having a full Ambassador, the Iranian regime sentenced a British woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, to 5 years imprisonment, British lawmaker Mike Freer has pointed out.

This follows a series of arrests of British-Iranian dual nationality citizens, pointed out Mr. Freer, Member of Parliament from the Conservative Party.

"What has received less publicity is the ongoing program of executions undertaken by the regime. Whilst the West banks progress we turn an apparent blind eye to the bloodletting used to suppress opposition," he wrote on Sunday for Conservative Home.

He added:August 2016 saw Hassan Rouhani's supposedly moderate regime carry out a new spate of executions, including the mass execution of 20 members of a minority group.

Condemnation followed from many directions, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who criticised the Iranian authorities and expressed "doubts about the fairness of the trials, respect for due process and other rights of the accused."

This same month newly published audio recordings have emerged of meetings between Iran's most senior clergymen in August 1988. In the recording the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri is heard accusing the leaders of Iran's 'death commission' of "the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you..."

The late Ayatollah was referring to the massacre of tens of thousands of political opponents of the Iranian regime, including thousands of members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).

Tehran's use of executions as a form of suppression of its population's desire for democracy has continued from 1988 to the present day. Supposedly moderate Presidents have come and gone, but one thing that has never changed is the systematic use of executions.

Looking at the individuals who formed the 'death commission' leads us to a worrying conclusion: that in reality, although the puppet's head may change from election to election, those pulling the strings in Iranian politics have remained.

4 men made up the commission that led the massacres in 1988. Today 3 of those men remain senior figures within the Iranian regime.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi is Iran's Minister of Justice, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri Iran???s head of the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges, and Ebrahim Raeesi among the regime's most senior clerics and the head of the Astan Qods-e Razavi foundation (a multi-billion dollar religious, political and economic conglomerate and one of the most important political and economic powerhouses in the clerical regime).

This week the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Iran's largest coalition of opposition groups, called on the international community to bring about justice for those massacred in 1988 through the international prosecution of the masterminds of the 1988 massacre. I join her in that call.

Included in that list alongside Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, and Ebrahim Raeesi must be Ayatollah Khamenei Iran's current Supreme Leader and a public supporter of the 1988 massacres.

It is time to take decisive steps sending a clear message to the leaders of Iran that executions which take place without a fair trial, respect for due process or without the individual's rights being preserved will not be accepted by the international community. Have we sacrificed human rights for progress on decommissioning centrifuges?

It is important that in today's climate, where Hassan Rouhani is hailed as a moderate and a man the international community can work with, that we do not simply address the man but rather the establishment in Tehran. Entry into the international community and the benefits that brings must come at a cost for Iran and not simply be a right of way.

Bringing about international prosecutions against the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre is not only something we should have done many years ago, but it will show Tehran that breaches of international protocols will not be accepted if the regime wishes to play a greater part in the international community.

Mike Freer is MP for Finchley and Golders Green.


Theoretician of execution and torture, reacts to UN Commissioner's remarks

In response to the statements of UN Commissioner Zeyd Ra'ad Al Hussein about the "fundamental problems" in regime's judicial process and execution of juveniles by Mullahs' regime, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Secretary General of regime's human rights council, has defended the execution of prisoners.

In a letter to the UN Commissioner on Friday September 16, Larijani tried to justify the executions and said: "It should be pointed out that the commitment to abolish the death penalty has not been accepted by the international community as a hard or soft commitment and there is no consensus in this regard. Besides, the international covenant on civil and political rights does not completely rule out the death penalty. Rather, it even allows the member states to use it under certain conditions. The death penalty is not a human rights issue, but an issue related to the criminal justice system and a deterrent element for serious crimes. Therefore, this punishment should be evaluated in accordance with the rights of victims and the right of society to live in peace and security. Any country has the right to choose its own criminal justice system or its legal, economic, cultural, political and social systems without the intervention of other countries. Purposes and principles of the United Nations charter clearly states, especially in article 2 paragraph 7, that nothing contained in the charter authorizes the UN to intervene in matters that are within the local jurisdiction of a member state."

With the start of the 33rd session of UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday September 13 in Geneva, Zeyd Ra'ad Al Hussein warned over the continuation of human rights violations in Iran under the rule of the Mullahs and the non-cooperation of the Mullahs' regime with human rights organizations. He said: "Regarding the Islamic Republic, my office has not been allowed to have any kind of access from 2003... Our proposal to start technical talks about the death penalty has been, like other cooperation proposals, systematically ignored. This is unfortunate, especially considering the ongoing reports we receive on fundamental problems with the judicial administration of criminal justice, on the execution of so many people including juveniles, on prosecuting and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, on harsh restrictions on human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and on discrimination against women both in law and in practice."

Ra'ad Al Hussein criticized the number of executions in Iran under the rule of the Mullahs while expressing concerns over the ongoing execution of juveniles.

He then pointed to the non-cooperation of the Iranian regime and said: "Some countries may shut down UN (human rights) offices or refuse to cooperate with the international inspectors, but they should know that they can never close our eyes to the truth. We keep trying our best so that our reports on these countries remain accurate."

(source for both: NCR-Iran)


Life after Death Row: How this couple escaped capital punishment and started anew in rural Ireland----Nestled in a warm home in the wilds of Connemara, Sunny Jacobs and her husband Peter Pringle could pass as any other older couple living the dream.

They have a view of the water from the living room window, some dogs and cats for company and family pictures scattered around the walls.

But, to put it mildly, American woman Sunny and Dublin-born Peter are unlike most other couples in the entire world. Both have escaped being put to death by their countries of birth.

"To put it very succinctly, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people," said Sunny (69).

Sunny, along with her then husband Jesse Tafero, was sentenced to death by electric chair for the murder of two Police Officers in Florida.

"I spent the next 5 years on death row, which wasn't really a row for me at all, because I was the only woman with a sentence of death, so I was kept in solitary confinement in isolation for five years," she said.

"I lost faith in everything I was ever taught to believe in - the justice system, society and God."

Although Jacobs' conviction was eventually overturned after spending 17 years in jail, it was too late for her husband, who was executed at the age of 43. Tafero's execution went badly wrong, with witnesses having reported seeing flames coming from his scalp.

Not long after the botched execution, the man who killed the 2 policemen confessed his crimes, paving the way for Sunny's release.

During her 17 years wrongfully spent in jail, Sunny devoted herself to meditation, yoga and prayer in an attempt to stay positive.

"I chose to live my life as fully as I possibly could."

After her release, Ms Jacob's became a fervent anti-death penalty campaigner. She was set to travel to Ireland later in the '90s, where she was advised to meet a man called Peter Pringle. This recommendation was given by 'Galway Girl' singer Steve Earle.

She would later find that Peter's story was strikingly familiar to hers.

Mr Pringle, from Portobello, spent 15 years in prison before his conviction for the murder of 2 gardai following a bank robbery in Roscommon was overturned.

3 men were seen in a getaway car, but only 2 were arrested at the time. Almost 2 weeks after the incident, Peter, who had a severe alcohol addiction at the time, was arrested and eventually convicted of murder.

Pringle, along with the 2 other men, was sentenced to hang for the crime. Although the last person to be put to death in Ireland was killed in 1954, Peter thoroughly believed he would meet the same end.

"I heard 3 jailers discussing what role they might have to play in my execution," he said.

"The conclusion they had come to was that when my body would go down through the gallows when I was hanged, there would be two jailers underneath, so each one would be obliged to pull on my leg to make sure my neck was broken."

His sentence was later commuted to life in prison at the time the death penalty was prohibited by law.

The 3rd criminal who took part in the double murder was never caught and the 2 jailed killers, who have since been released, refused to name their accomplice.

Peter admits there are still people who believe he should be locked up for the crime and his past involvement in republican activities does not do anything to quash such speculation.

"I don't know what the political involvement [in the crime was], but what I do know is that as a young man I was interred in the Curragh as a republican," he said.

"There are still a couple of people who speculate that I shouldn't have been released. That goes and you have to expect that.

"My life is good and I don't hold any animosity towards anyone."

Once released, Pringle was keen to continue his life out of the spotlight, but agreed to meet Jacobs in Galway.

"We met and became friends and then the friendship grew to more than friendship. We had a sort of a long term relationship for 3 years. Then, after 9/11 we decided that we would try to live together," Pringle said.

"So we gave it a shot and Sunny reversed what her ancestors had done. She packed 2 big bags and came over to Ireland and has been with me since 2001. About 5 years ago we got married."

Around a year ago, the couple set up a charity from their Galway home. Peter and Sunny are now welcoming fellow wrongly convicted people from around the world to stay at their house in order to reintroduce them to society.

Since the charity, called the Sunny Center, threw open its doors, a total of 9 exonerees from around the world have stayed with the couple.

The charity which is registered in New York, allows these people to stay in the Connemara home, but they must follow a few rules.

"We don't allow mood-altering substances, no alcohol or drugs and no violence," Sunny says.

"The man who was supposed to be here now couldn't come, because he was successful in getting a job, which is a good thing," Peter said.

"It's very difficult to get work after coming out of Prison, especially in America."

(source: The Independent)


Tribunal sentences a man to death for murdering wife for dowry in Rajshahi

A court in Rajshahi has awarded death penalty to a man who killed his wife for dowry 3 years ago.

Convict Md Sujon was present at the court when the district's Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-2 judge KM Shaheed Ahmed pronounced the verdict on Sunday.

Sujon's father Md Shamsuddin and mother Meher Nigar, both were absconding during the trial, were acquitted as the court found no proof of their involvement in the murder.

According to the case dossier, Sujon's wife Sima Khatun was found dead at their home in Polashbari village of Durgapur Upazila of the district on Mar 1, 2013.

Her father Rezaul Haque filed a case against Sujon and his parents accusing them of beating and strangulation of his daughter Sima.


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