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Death Penalty: More Executions in Iran, Saudi Arabia

Even as a worldwide campaign to end the death penalty for drug offenses gears up, the resort to the ultimate sanction continues apace, especially in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. According to reports compiled by the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain, this month Southeast Asia is reporting no drug executions, but it's a different story in the Middle East, especially in Iran.

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International Anti-Drugs Day drug burn, Tehran
But not just Iran. On August 21, Saudi Arabia got in on the action, executing two Pakistani nationals for smuggling drugs. The pair were beheaded by the sword after they were caught smuggling heroin in the eastern city of Damman. That was the 63rd execution this year in the country, with drug offenders accounting for between a third and one half of them.

Meanwhile, in the Islamic Republic, the executioner has been busy this month. On August 7, three men convicted of drug trafficking and murder were executed in a prison in the holy city of Qom. Authorities provided no details of the murder for which they were convicted, but said they were caught with 1,080 kilograms of opium. They were identified only by first names.

Four days later, three unnamed convicted drug traffickers were hanged in a prison in the southeastern city of Zahedan. They had been caught with 30 kilos of morphine and 22 kilos of heroin.

Things got really busy last week. On August 20, two men were hanged after being convicted of drug smuggling inside a Tehran prison. One of them had been sentenced to life in 2007 for smuggling, but was upgraded after being caught doing it again while imprisoned. That same day, yet another drug trafficker was executed in Zahedan. Bahrum Nikpur was hanged after being found guilty of possessing 14 kilos of opium and six kilos of heroin. Also that same day, four people were hanged for rape and drug trafficking in an unspecified prison in Iran.

It is not clear if there were four drug trafficking rapists, whether it was rapists and drug traffickers executed together, or how many were rapists and how many were drug traffickers. All the same to anti-drug zealots, perhaps.

Death Penalty: More Executions in China, Saudi Arabia

Despite a global trend toward abolition of the death penalty, a number of countries continue not only to use the ultimate sanction, but to apply it to nonviolent drug offenders. The latest round-up of drug offender executions from the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain includes the following:

  • Chinese media reported on July 11 that 10 people were executed in central China as "heinous criminals that seriously violated social law and order." Some were executed for murder, some for drug trafficking offenses. It is unclear how many of the 10 were drug offenders.
  • China was back at it again last week, when state media reported three members of an international drug trafficking group were executed in east China. They were accused of smuggling drugs into the country. No names were given for the executed Chinese drug offenders.
  • The Saudi Arabian official news agency reported Thursday that a convicted Nigerian drug trafficker was beheaded by the sword in Mecca. Shuaib Ali Mohammed had previous drug trafficking convictions and got a death sentence for trafficking cocaine.

Hands Off Cain presented its annual report on the state of the death penalty late this week. Look for an article here next week on how things are looking in 2008 and the state of the movement to end the death penalty for drug offenses.

Death Penalty: Indonesia Gives Go-Ahead for More Executions

Indonesian authorities executed two Nigerian men, Iwachekwu Okoye and Hansen Anthony Nwaliosa, for drug trafficking on International Anti-Drug Day, June 26. They were the first executions of drug offenders in the island nation since 2004, but Indonesian authorities are warning they won't be the last.

Executions for drug offenders had been on hiatus, but that has changed since the county's Constitutional Court upheld the death penalty for drug offenses late last year. Indonesia had suspended executions for drug offenders in 2006 while the court was considering the constitutional case and had not executed a drug offender for two years prior to that.

Now, the country's attorney general is warning drug offenders on death row their days could be numbered. In a statement late last month, Attorney General Hendarman Supandji said executions would be expedited for the 58 drug offenders sentenced to death there.

That could still take some time, Deputy Attorney General A. Ritonga told the New York Times on Sunday. "Death row inmates will only be executed according to the law, after their appeals are exhausted," he said.

Ritonga added that death row prisoners can apply for clemency. But Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has publicly said he will not pardon drug offenders.

Death Penalty: More Executions, More Death Sentences, A Glimmer of Hope in Vietnam

The resort to the death penalty for drug offenses continues apace. And it is the usual suspects. Here's what's gone on so far this month, with a glimmer of potential good news from Vietnam. (All information below comes from the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain.)

June 9: Iran hanged a man convicted of drug trafficking in the northeastern province of North Khorasan, the Jomhouri Eslami newspaper reported. The unidentified man was executed in the prison of Bojnourd city for buying and trafficking four kilos of crystal methamphetamine.

June 10: The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, told reporters that no fewer than 60 Nigerian nationals face death sentences for drug offenses in Indonesia alone. The foreign minister had earlier pleaded with Indonesian authorities to commute a death sentence on one of his fellow citizens, but wondered how he could make the case for the others. "With over 60 Nigerians on the death row in Indonesia, how will the government be able to make a case for all of them?' he asked.

June 19: In a rare bit of good news on the death penalty front, Vietnam announced it is considering abolishing the ultimate sanction for 12 crimes, including smuggling and "organization of illegal drug use." Vietnam has sentenced dozens of people to death for drug offenses so far this year.

June 23: A Malaysian High Court sentenced a 59-year-old cook to death for trafficking 1.4 kilos of heroin in front of a hotel eight years ago. Tan Kok Tiong will go to the gallows, but his co-defendant got only 18 years. In Malaysia capital crimes include murder, rape, drug crimes, treason and possession of arms. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, a death sentence is mandatory for distributing drugs.

June 24: The Kuwaiti Supreme Court upheld a death sentence against a member of the royal family for drug trafficking. The royal, identified only as Sheikh Talal, was arrested along with two Lebanese, an Iraqi, a "stateless Arab" (Palestinian), and a Bangladeshi in April 2007 when police found 22 pounds of cocaine and 260 pounds of hashish. Three codefendants got life sentences, while two others got seven years each. Only one other member of the royal family has been sentenced to death -- for murder -- but that sentence was later commuted.

June 25: On the eve of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, courts in three Chinese cities executed three drug dealers and sentenced five more to death in a coordinated move designed to spotlight the country's tough approach to drug abuse. "As the number and scale of drug dealing cases have been increasing in recent years, the court has raised its strength to crack down," Zhang Zhijie, Deputy Chief Judge of the Second Intermediate People's Court of Shanghai Municipality, was quoted as saying by official Xinhua news agency. The Shanghai court handed down sentences in four drug trafficking cases on Monday, giving capital punishment in three of them. Two others were sentenced to death by the Intermediate People's Court at Shenzhen in Guangdong province which pronounced sentences in seven cases, it said.

Free, Private Screening of the Award Winning Film: Take

Prison Fellowship and Sojourners in partnership with Telos Films and Liberation Entertainment cordially invites you to attend a free, private screening of the award winning film TAKE. Q and A with the Director, Charles Oliver to follow the screening. Please RSVP to alex@takethemovie.com or (703)-962-7930. See www.takethemovie.com.
Date: 
Thu, 06/19/2008 - 4:30pm
Location: 
201 F Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
United States

From Draconian Drug Laws to Life Without Parole: Speaking Out Against Harsh Sentencing

With one in 100 American adults behind bars, more and more juries across the country are handing down sentences of life without parole. Now is the time to question what it means for society to turn from state-sanctioned executions to punishments that impose what many prisoners describe as "in-house death sentences." Join the New York chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and artist, writer, and activist *Anthony Papa in a public meeting to discuss prisons, harsh sentencing and why life without parole is cruel and unusual punishment. * Anthony Papa is communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance. He is an artist, writer, noted advocate against the war on drugs and co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. Mr. Papa's stinging editorials about the drug war have appeared in news sources across the country. He is a frequent public speaker and college lecturer on his art and criminal justice issues. Mr. Papa is the author of 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom (2004), a memoir about his experience of being sentenced to state prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. For more information, see Campaign to End the Death Penalty at www.nodeathpenalty.org.
Date: 
Mon, 06/16/2008 - 7:00pm
Location: 
126th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam
New York, NY
United States

Death Penalty: Malaysia Sentences Two to Hang for Marijuana Trafficking, Iran Executes Nine Drug Sellers

Countries around the world, but particularly in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, continue to resort to the death penalty for drug offenses. This week, we report on more executions in Iran and death sentences for marijuana in Malaysia.

On Tuesday, a Malaysian court sentenced two Thai citizens to death for marijuana trafficking. The two men, Masoh Daloh, 35, and Romuelee Yakoh, 46, were convicted in the Kuala Lumpur High Court of trafficking 75 pounds of pot. They had been arrested in 2002 with 34 kilogram-sized slabs of marijuana in their vehicle. Both men have appealed their sentences.

Malaysia has hanged more than 200 people, mostly its own citizens, for drug trafficking offenses since it imposed the death penalty for them in 1975. It has come under recent criticism from Amnesty International over secrecy surrounding its resort to the death penalty, but the government denies any cover-up and insists the ultimate sanction is a necessary deterrent to criminality.

Meanwhile, Iranian authorities announced May 5 that they had hanged 12 convicted criminals, including nine people convicted of drug offenses, according to the anti-death penalty organization Hands Off Cain. The nine drug offenders were hanged in the northeastern city of Bojnourd, not far from the Afghan border. One of them was hanged in public, the first reported public hanging since Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Sharoudi ordered an end to the macabre displays without his prior approval in January.

Hands Off Cain Daily eNewsletter - IRAN: 12 CONVICTS HANGED

[Courtesy of Hands Off Cain] In this issue: IRAN. 12 CONVICTS HANGED NORTH CAROLINA (USA). DEATH ROW INMATE WALKS FREE-129TH EXONERATION DRC. FIGHTING TO ESTABLISH THE UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE DEATH PENALTY SAUDI ARABIA. 3 PAKISTANIS EXECUTED FOR HASHISH SMUGGLING IRAN. 12 CONVICTS HANGED Drug traffickers after being executed in Iran May 5, 2008: Iran has hanged 12 convicted criminals, including nine drug traffickers and three rapists, the latest in a growing number of executions in the Islamic republic, reports said. Nine drug traffickers were hanged, one of them in public, in the northeastern city of Bojnourd, Kayhan newspaper reported, without giving the date of the executions. This appears to be the first report of a public execution in Iran since judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi ordered in January that there should be no more public executions without his approval. "One person was hanged in public," said Kayhan, without giving further details. Shahroudi's decree came after a growing number of public executions in Iran, including the hanging of two convicted murderers in the centre of Tehran. It was not clear if he had approved the reported public execution in Bojnourd. Meanwhile, three criminals convicted of kidnapping and raping at least 11 girls were sent to the gallows in the southwestern city of Ahvaz on May 3, the Quds newspaper reported. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NORTH CAROLINA (USA). DEATH ROW INMATE WALKS FREE-129TH EXONERATION May 2, 2008: The state of North Carolina dropped all charges against Levon Jones, and he was freed after spending 13 years on death row. U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle overturned Jones's conviction two years ago, but he was held in prison awaiting a possible retrial until prosecutors announced that they were dismissing all charges. Judge Boyle criticized Jones's defense attorneys for "constitutionally deficient" performance, noting their failure to research the history and credibility of Lovely Lorden, the prosecution's star witness. The judge noted, "Given the weakness of the prosecution's case and its heavy reliance on the testimony of Lovely Lorden, there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." In April, Jones's new defense team filed an affidavit in which Lorden said, "Much of what I testified to was simply not true." She also stated that a detective coached her on what to say. Additionally, she collected $4,000 from the governor's office for offering the clues that led to the arrest of Jones. Jones's retrial was set to begin May 12th, 2008. Duplin County District Attorney Dewey Hudson decided to ask the judge in the case to drop all charges. Jones was originally convicted of robbing and shooting a bootlegger named Leamon Grady. Levon Jones is the 129th inmate to be exonerated and freed from death row since 1973. He is the 8th such inmate freed from North Carolina, and the 6th person in the country exonerated in the past 12 months. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- DRC. FIGHTING TO ESTABLISH THE UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE DEATH PENALTY Liévin N'Gondji May 1, 2008: ongoing penal code reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo is giving abolitionists the chance to have the death penalty recognised as unconstitutional. The current Democratic Republic of Congo constitution, in place since early 2006, recognises the "right to life" and the "inviolable nature of human beings". A proposition for an article explicitly abolishing the death penalty was rejected by the national parliament during the text's elaboration in 2005. "We have submitted two requests, one to the director of public prosecutions' office and a second to the Ministry of Justice" to formally establish the unconstitutionality of the death penalty, explains Liévin N'Gondji, a lawyer and president of Culture for Peace and Justice (CPJ), member of the World and Congolese Coalitions against the death penalty. Thanks to international aid, the DRC's judicial system is being reformed and donors financing the project have invited CPJ to participate in the joint justice Commission, principally responsible for revising the penal code. N'Gondji estimates that "approximately three quarters of those present were in agreement" with his position on the unconstitutionality of capital punishment. According to N'Gondji, the Commission will make its recommendations to the government by the end of May. The latter should then make a decision quickly. "The next three months will be crucial", he believes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SAUDI ARABIA. 3 PAKISTANIS EXECUTED FOR HASHISH SMUGGLING May 1, 2008: Zargar Sadajan, Roajan Sodajar, and Naik Mohammed Malak Mohammed, all Pakistanis, were executed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after being convicted of receiving large quantities of hashish. A statement released by the Saudi Interior Ministry confirmed that the men were convicted by the court, and the verdict was approved by the Cassation Court and the Supreme Judicial Council.

Death Penalty: More Executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Syrian Activists Criticize Saudis

The resort to the death penalty for drug offenses continued apace in recent days. According to reports compiled by the anti-death penalty organization Hands Off Cain, both Iran and Saudi Arabia were hard at it again. Meanwhile, the Saudis have come under fire from Syrian activists complaining that large numbers of their countrymen have fallen under the executioner's sword in Saudi Arabia.

According to recent reports, Saudi citizen Abdullah al-Qahtani was executed for trafficking in tranquilizers in Riyadh on April 11; two Nigerians caught smuggling cocaine into the kingdom inside their bodies, Mohammed Qaddus Suleyman and Idris Abdel Ghani Mohammed, were beheaded in the western Mecca region on April 13; a Saudi man, Ayyed al-Dousary, was executed for selling drugs in the southwestern city of Abha on April 15; and a Jordanian, Mohammed bin Awadh al-Khalidi, was executed for trafficking in tranquilizers in Al Qarah on April 17. Four days later, Iran got back into the game by hanging four people convicted of drug trafficking in the country's southeast.

Meanwhile Syrian human rights activists said that Saudi Arabia has sentenced at least 30 of their compatriots to death on drug charges and jailed hundreds more. "This arbitrary punishment is based on wild interpretations of the Koran. Trials lacked any modicum of justice," lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani said after meeting Syrian officials to raise the plight of the inmates. The activists expressed concern that the Syrian citizens could be suffering from the political tensions between Syria and Saudi Arabia. "I hope regular citizens do not end up paying the price for bad relations between two Arab countries," Hassani said.

Hundreds of Syrians were in Saudi jails for drug offenses, he said, many of whom had spent years awaiting trial. They are mostly young truck drivers and unskilled workers, he said.

Death Penalty: More Death Sentences in Algeria, Syria, Pakistan, a Reprieve in Vietnam

The resort to the ultimate sanction against drug offenders continues this month, with courts in Algeria, Syria and Pakistan handing down death sentences. But yielding to pressure from the West, the Vietnamese government commuted the death sentence of a British citizen.

In Syria, the anti-death penalty watchdog Hands Off Cain reported, a court sentenced four Syrian nationals, two Turks, and one Lebanese to death April 1 for drug trafficking. Two of the Syrians were arrested in Homs with five kilos of heroin and one of cocaine. The two Turks were convicted of selling prescription pain relievers to the two other Syrians, who in turn were to sell them to the Lebanese man.

Also according to Hands Off Cain, the Criminal Court in Algeria's southern Ghardaia province Tuesday sentenced three men to death for trafficking about 1,300 pounds of marijuana. While the three said they were only couriers who had been hired by another person, the judge said he did not believe them.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Daily Times reported District and Sessions Judge Iqbal Malik sentenced Awal Khan to death for possessing about 90 pounds of marijuana. To add insult to injury, the judge also sentenced him to pay a 5 million rupee fine. If he fails to pay the fine, he will have to do six months in jail (presumably before he is executed).

There is one bit of good news on the death penalty front this week. Again according to Hands Off Cain, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet commuted the death sentence of Vietnamese-born British citizen Le Manh Luoung for heroin trafficking to life imprisonment. That announcement came from the British Embassy on April 4. Luong and three other Vietnamese defendants were sentenced to death in 2006 for trafficking 750 pounds of heroin. Lacking powerful Western governments to argue on their behalf, Luoung's accomplices have not been so fortunate. Their death sentences remain pending.

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