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August 8, 2016

Turkish president shows suport for reintroduction of death penalty at cross-party anti-coup rally

Turkish president shows suport for reintroduction of death penalty at cross-party anti-coup rally

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Monday, August 8, 2016

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Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday told a crowd of at least a million people he would approve the re-instigation of the death penalty if the parliament voted for it.

File photo of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 2016.
Image: Cancillería del Ecuador.

Opposition leaders and religious figures joined Erdogan at the mass rally, in which the president blamed the coup on the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen and called for his network to be destroyed within the laws of Turkey. However the HDP party, which favors the Kurdish minority in Turkey and has been accused of connections to Kurdish terrorists, was not invited. Massive flags were held by cranes as crowds held banners of the Erdogan and Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The Turkish media reported five million people turned up to the rally, and the event was broadcast on large screens in all the provinces across Turkey.

Security was tight, 15,000 police guarded the rally where supporters had to pass through one of 165 metal detectors. Two helicopters circled the air over the rally and there were anti-aircraft batteries at the event. More than 200 boats and thousands of buses were payed for by the government in order to make attendance to the rally easier. The authorities also provided attenders with hats and flags, and the wounded and family of the dead were given special passes for seated areas.

This comes after a bloody coup attempt from a faction within Turkey’s army in which 270 people were killed after Erdogan called for unarmed civilians to fight back against the coup. Since the coup was put down tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs working for the government and nearly 18,000 people have been detained. Local branches of the ruling AKP party have been told remove of supporters of ex-Erdogan ally cleric Fethullah Gülen from their ranks. The response of the Turkish government to the coup has received international criticism from human rights organisations that have urged restraint on the part of Erdogan’s government; and politicians, with some like leader of the small German liberal party the free democrats comparing the coup to the burning down of the reichstag in 1933.

Turkish officials have said those criticising them do not understand the threat to the Turkish state and seemed to care more about the coup plotters than their dead victims.


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January 2, 2016

Saudi Arabia executes 47 people as \’terrorists\’

Saudi Arabia executes 47 people as ‘terrorists’

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

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Yesterday, Saudi Arabian officials said they have executed 47 people whom courts convicted as terrorists.

Officials said the executions were not done in public. Saudi cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh in justifying the executions cited Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Sharia Law and said the executions prevented the accused from committing further crime, calling it a form of “mercy”.

File photo of Dira Square, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where public executions are carried out under Sharia Law; Saudi officials said the 47 people executed were not executed publicly, but rather within prisons.
Image: Luke Richard Thompson.

Some of those executed were reportedly Al-Qaeda militants behind terrorist attacks. Before the executions, an Al-Qaeda branch from Yemen threatened Saudi authorities with violence if they executed their members.

Among those executed was a Shia Muslim cleric who criticized both the royal family of Saudi Arabia and that of Bahrain; he condemned Bahrain‘s suppression of protests with Saudi aid. He reportedly avoided advocating violence. He was convicted of causing violence against authorities, and a Saudi court rejected his appeal of his conviction this past year. His execution led to condemnation from Iranian officials, who had previously said it “would cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.

When news broke the 47 were to be executed, in November, regional Amnesty International director James Lynch said Saudi Arabia was settling “political scores” under “the guise of counter-terrorism.”

The organization said at least 150 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in 2015, while only 90 were executed a year ago in 2014.



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November 27, 2015

At least 52, including six Shia Muslim activists, to be executed in Saudi Arabia

At least 52, including six Shia Muslim activists, to be executed in Saudi Arabia

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Friday, November 27, 2015

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In Saudi Arabia, six Shia Muslim activists, along with at least 46 other people, are to be executed for terrorism on an unspecified date, according to reports on Thursday.

Varying local media reports said at least 52 people will be executed. Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz said some of the people convicted of terrorism were members of the militant group Al-Qaeda, and were convicted of attempting to overthrow the government and planning terrorist attacks. The 52 have allegedly killed at least a hundred civilians and seventy security personnel.

Amnesty International said others who are also to be executed were people from the city of Awamiya, where most of the population consists of Shia Muslims, a minority within Saudi Arabia. Protests have been held there, across the past several years, over alleged mistreatment of Shias by the government. Among those convicted of terrorism were the six Shia Muslim activists, at least two of whom reportedly were minors when they allegedly committed their crimes. Amnesty International has said the trials leading up to their conviction were clearly “unfair”.

File photo of Dira Square, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where public executions are carried out under Sharia Law.
Image: Luke Richard Thompson.

James Lynch, Middle East and North Africa deputy director of Amnesty International, said Saudi Arabia was settling “political scores” under “the guise of counter-terrorism.”

The three Shias, Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher, and Hussein al-Marhoon, said they have confessed to their supposed criminal acts under torture, according to Lynch.

More than 150 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in 2015, while only 90 were executed a year ago in 2014, said Amnesty International.

This news came after Saudi-born Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death by a court in Saudi Arabia, which Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle called an example of Saudi Arabia’s “complete intolerance for anyone who may not share government-mandated religious, political, and social views.”



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November 21, 2015

Saudi Arabian court convicts poet of apostasy, sentences to death

Saudi Arabian court convicts poet of apostasy, sentences to death

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

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A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced Saudi-born Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death on Tuesday for allegedly committing apostasy, a crime punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Sharia Law. The court decision was brought to light yesterday by Adam Coogle, a researcher working for Human Rights Watch.

File photo of Dira Square, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where public executions are carried out under Sharia Law.
Image: Luke Richard Thompson.

Fayadh has previously posted a video online of a public lashing by religious police. Mona Kareem, an activist from Kuwait calling for Fayadh’s release, said “some Saudis think this was revenge by the morality police.”

Fayadh was detained by police in August 2013, accused of blasphemy and promoting atheism through his poems. According to Fayadh, this stemmed from a dispute with a fellow artist. He was soon released under bail.

Fayadh was again arrested in January 2014. He was tried at a court in Abha in February under allegations of committing blasphemy, promoting atheism, and having illegal relationships with women. He was sentenced in May that year to four years of jail and 800 lashes. Fayadh appealed the decision, and the case was retried by another judge, who sentenced him to death.

Activist Mona Kareem said the judge for Fayadh’s retrial “didn’t even talk to [Fayadh], he just made the verdict.”

Fayadh was given 30 days to appeal the court ruling, but according to Kareem, Fayadh “was unable to assign a lawyer because his ID was confiscated when he was arrested” in January 2014.

Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle called the court ruling an example of Saudi Arabia’s “complete intolerance for anyone who may not share government-mandated religious, political, and social views.”



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September 16, 2015

Kuwaiti court sentences seven to death for June mosque bombing

Kuwaiti court sentences seven to death for June mosque bombing

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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A file photo of the mosque.
Image: Abza.

A court in Kuwait yesterday sentenced fifteen people for involvement in June’s bombing of the Imam Sadiq Mosque. Seven were sentenced to death.

The suicide attack in Kuwait City killed 26 and injured 227. The trial of seven women and 22 men before Judge Mohammad al-Duaij produced fourteen acquittals. All those sentenced to death were men; prison terms from two to fifteen years were imposed on the remaining convicts. A number were tried in absentia.

Sunni militants Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack. IS view Shi’ites as enemies. Conducted in the Shi’ite mosque during Friday prayers, the attack came during Ramadan. IS hold a large swathe of Iraq and Syria. Sunnis and Shi’ites live together peacefully in Kuwait. It was amongst the worst attacks to hit the nation in decades.

The accused include Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Pakistani citizens, as well as stateless individuals. Abdul Rahman Sabah Saud, stateless, admitted driving bomber Fahad Suleiman Abdulmohsen al-Gabbaa, Saudi, to the mosque. Saud, also accused of handling explosives, denied intending to harm any people.

Cquote1.svg The court draws attention to the dangers of this extremist ideology Cquote2.svg

—Judge Mohammad al-Duaij

Judge al-Duaij found Fahad Farraj Muhareb to be an IS leader and sentenced him to death. Muhareb and Saud are in Kuwaiti custody. Saudi brothers Mohammad and Majed al-Zahrani, who have been detained in their homeland but were tried in absentia, were held to have transported the explosives used out of Saudi Arabia. Two stateless men convicted of being IS soldiers and a man whose identity is unclear were also sentenced to death in their absence.

Of the eight given prison terms, three were men and five women. They were convicted of offences such as assisting the attack, training IS fighters, and withholding knowledge about the bombing. The death row convicts faced more serious charges such as premeditated murder.

Appeals are possible. The prosecution had sought death sentences for eleven defendents.

Amnesty International acknowledged the bombing was “an utterly heinous and callous criminal act” but said the death sentences are “misguided” and “must be overturned”. The group, which is categorically opposed to the death penalty, said Kuwait conducted five executions in 2013 and none at all last year.

Judge al-Duaij said in delivering his judgement “The court draws attention to the dangers of this extremist ideology that resorts to terrorism for its implementation.”



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August 25, 2015

UK judge witholds report from Thai death penalty defendents

UK judge witholds report from Thai death penalty defendents

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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In a judgement released today Mr Justice Green, sitting in the High Court in London, spoke of his “very considerable unease” as he rejected an application by two defendants in a Thai death penalty case. The pair sought a Metropolitan Police report they hoped could assist their defence.

The murders occurred on the picturesque resort island of Koh Tao, pictured here from file.
Image: Wikivoyage.

The court has expedited the case. Burmese nationals Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 22, are currently on trial accused of murdering David Miller, 24, from Jersey, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, from England. With the defence case due to begin shortly and continue until mid- or late September the court has issued its judgement today following a hearing on Friday.

The case dates to September last year when the victims were found murdered on a Koh Tao beach. Witheridge had been raped. The case attracted worldwide attention with Lin and Phyo confessing, before re-enacting the killing in front of the press.

The accused claim the confessions were tortured out of them and the ongoing trial is unfair. UK Prime Minister David Cameron intervened, speaking to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Cameron and Chan-o-cha arranged for an observer team from the Metropolitan Police to conduct an inspection of the Thai probe, based on powers in the Police Act 1996.

A team was duly dispatched and prepared a report with the intent to use it for assisting the victims’ families. UK police were expressly forbidden, at a ministerial level, to provide any assistance to Thai authorities as the case involves the death penalty. Due to established UK policy on foreign death penalty cases, the report was also not shared with Thailand. It is this report that Lin and Phyo were seeking.

The Royal Courts of Justice complex in London, where the case was heard.
Image: sjiong via Flickr.

Using the Data Protection Act 1998 the defendants asked police for this report to assist their defence, and were denied. That decision was the one challenged unsuccessfully in the High Court. The case pits the two accused trying to defend a death penalty case against the possibility of jeopardising international relations; Thai police co-operated, but only in light of an agreement the report would be confidential.

Legal charity Reprieve, who assisted the two men, said in a statement “Concerns about the conduct of the Thai investigation and the safety of any convictions resulting have been raised from the very beginning[…] only the defence lawyers in Thailand are in a position to judge whether the information could be of assistance.” Mr Justice Green’s judgement acknowledges he did not know “how the accused might structure their defences” or details about what evidence had been or would be involved.

Thai Prime Minister Chan-o-cha, pictured here in December, was directly involved in negotiations that led to the report being produced.
Image: D. Myles Cullen/U.S. Military.

Both men say they were starved, suffocated, stripped naked, exposed to cold temperatures, beaten, threatened, and denied legal representation. The Royal Thai Police deny any misconduct. Mr Justice Green read the report himself and decided not to release it as it was of no assistance to the pair.

The report is known to contain some material disputed by Lin and Phyo. It says they repeated their confessions at various times, including in court with legal representation, before retracting them. It also says they have not backed up their torture claims with evidence, medical or otherwise.

Cquote1.svg This is not a Report which contains, for instance, state secrets Cquote2.svg

—Mr Justice Green

Mr Justice Green said the report described “in many respects […] no more than the routine conduct of a serious crime investigation. This is not a Report which contains, for instance, state secrets.” He also spoke of his distance from the ongoing trial, prompting him to remark of his “very considerable unease” and having to do “the best I could” — not “a comfortable process”.

Noting “the issues of both law and fact are complex, novel and difficult” Mr Justice Green’s judgement notes that, before even hearing the case he promised permission to appeal would be granted, if requested, whatever the outcome. He also promised a swift Court of Appeal hearing to comply with Thai trial time constraints. “The stakes are very high for both sides”, he added.

“In my judgment the common law,” the judgement reads, “and in particular the principles of natural justice and fairness, would in a case such as this which involves the right to life, and the right to a fair trial, as well as powerful countervailing issues of public interest, compel the court to apply the most intense level of anxious scrutiny to the facts to ensure that the accused were not prejudiced.”

Mr Justice Green also ruled the pair, in principal, “have a perfectly proper right to seek access to the personal data for the purpose of using it subsequently in their defence in criminal proceedings”, calling the case one about “fundamental rights”.

Rosa Curling, who represented both men in the London court, has said they would not appeal. She said Lin and Phyo are “disappointed” but “are reassured that at least a British judge has now looked at the information held by the Metropolitan Police, applying anxious scrutiny, and determined that it would not assist them in their ongoing proceedings in Thailand.”

Wikinews has contacted the Metropolitan Police, usually responsible for policing London, for a statement and is awaiting a response.



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June 19, 2015

Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof arrested

Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof arrested

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Friday, June 19, 2015

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Dylann Roof, the suspect in a mass shooting in an historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, has been arrested by police after a fourteen-hour manhunt ending in Shelby, North Carolina, approximately 395km from the site of the massacre.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, site of the massacre.
Image: Cal Sr.

Witnesses say the gunman entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a predominately African-American church, and sat with prayer groups for an hour before opening fire on the church-goers. While in police custody Roof admitted the attacks were racially motivated and that he hoped to start a race war. Allegedly, after shooting nine members of the church, six women and three men including the Reverends Clementa Pinckney and Daniel Simmons Sr., Roof left the church and escaped in his car, a black Hyundai, heading north into North Carolina. Roof’s car was spotted by Debbie Dills, a North Carolina woman who followed him for more than 48 km into Shelby while giving police updates over the phone. Soon after Shelby police pulled Roof over and took him into custody.

Police confirmed that Roof had purchased the gun used to commit the murders from a Charleston gun store in April with his grandfather explaining he had received birthday money but the family didn’t know what he did with it. Roof’s uncle has said that received the gun as a 21st birthday present.

Photos and posts on Roof’s social media appear to show him as supportive of white supremacist ideals with several pictures showing Roof wearing the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia. Several of Roof’s friends have admitted that Roof had expressed racists sentiments before and that he had been planning something for the last six months although the police were not contacted.

Roof is expected to face the death penalty if found guilty.



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March 27, 2015

Utah reinstates firing squad for death penalty

Utah reinstates firing squad for death penalty

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Friday, March 27, 2015

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The US state of Utah has reinstated the use of the firing squad as the method of execution for prisoners on death row, eleven years after it was abolished. On Monday Gary Herbert, the state’s governor, signed into law legislation approving the firing squad as an alternative means of capital punishment if lethal injections are unavailable.

The new law follows the refusal of European manufacturers of drugs used in lethal injections to sell their products to US prisons, in opposition to capital punishment. It states the decision to use the firing squad could be made thirty days before the scheduled date if lethal injections were not available.

Human rights activists have called the move “backward” and “brutalizing”. Karen McCreary, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said, “We believe all current methods of capital punishment violate the eighth amendment to the US constitution that outlaws cruel and unusual punishment, but this particular method, firing squad, seems very barbaric and something more associated with war”.

Last July, U.S Court of Appeals judge, Alex Kozinski, wrote, “The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time.” Jay Chapman, the man who developed the protocol for lethal injections still used today, said in 2007 remarks to CNN that lethal injection “works if it’s administered competently”, but added it does require skill to perform.

The passing of the law on Monday does not grant prisoners a choice on the method of execution they will face, and lethal injections are to remain the primary method of execution.



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February 3, 2015

Connecticut ex-death row inmate Robert Courchesne dies

Connecticut ex-death row inmate Robert Courchesne dies

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Crime and law
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Connecticut murder convict Robert Courchesne, who had a death sentence overturned by the state Supreme Court, collapsed in prison yesterday. He died in hospital an hour later.

File photo of Newton, Connecticut. Courchesne was imprisoned at the town’s prison.
Image: John Phelan.

Courchesne, now 57, stabbed heavily pregnant Demetris Rodgers to death in 1998. In 2004 he was convicted of her murder and that of her unborn baby, delivered minutes after the murder by cesarean section. Baby Antonia Rodgers spent over a month on life support before death was confirmed. Using legislation that provided the death penalty to multiple murderers the court sentenced Courchesne to death.

Courchesne reached the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2010 and had the Antonia murder conviction overturned. The court ruled it was not proved the baby was alive at the time of the cesarean delivery. The death penalty was substituted with a 60-year sentence which prosecutors accepted instead of opting for a retrial.

Yesterday’s death at Danbury Hospital is being probed by police and prison officials, but is not considered suspicious. Courchesne collapsed while walking in the Garner Correctional Center, Newtown at around 10:35 a.m. local time.

Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012, but those already on death row remained sentenced to die.


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December 22, 2014

Jordan ends eight-year stay on executions, hangs eleven

Jordan ends eight-year stay on executions, hangs eleven

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Monday, December 22, 2014

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Jordan yesterday ended a moratorium on executions that had stood since 2006, executing eleven men.

The Interior Ministry made the announcement via official news agency Petra. The ministry did not identify the men, but said all had been convicted of murder in either 2005 or 2006. All were Jordanian citizens and had exhausted all appeals, according to the ministry. None, it said, were convicted of politically motivated murder.

A hangman’s noose, from file.
Image: Chris 73.

The men were executed at a prison in the south early in the morning. All were hung. The executions were spurred by lawmakers requesting action to curb rising crime rates. Agence France-Presse quoted a prison-system source as saying most were in their 40s. “Some of the prisoners asked to have their final words passed on their families, others asked only to smoke a cigarette,” said the source.

Since the stay began in 2006, 122 convicts have been added to death row, including militants. Interior Minister Hussein al-Majali said previously executions could resume following “major debate”, claiming “the public believes that the rise in crime has been the result of the non-application” of death sentences.



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