Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

Pope washes feet of 12 prisoners on Holy Thursday — There is no good reason to kill your fellow man — We are here to love each other

March 30, 2018


By washing feet outside the Vatican, Pope Francis continued in a Holy Thursday tradition he started five years ago

Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve inmates in a Rome prison on Thursday, telling them that jail sentences must be “open to hope” and condemning the death penalty as “not Christian or human”.

The 81-year-old Argentinian pontiff continued in a Holy Thursday tradition he started five years ago of taking the washing of the feet ritual away from the Vatican and out to the margins of society, this time to the Regina Coeli prison.

Celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, the first of the Easter Triduum services, the Pope said that Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples feet showed that leadership is service, and lamented that Christ’s example was ignored by so many in positions of power.

“Those who lead must serve,” Francis said during his homily. “If so many kings, emperors, heads of state had understood this teaching of Jesus and done this instead of giving orders to be cruel, to kill people, how many wars would not have happened!”

His central message for the prisoners was not to give up hope; that however bad their situation, there is the possibility of forgiveness; and that even though society has discarded them, Jesus tells them: “You are important to me.”

Explaining that Jesus “takes a risk on each of us” the Pope explained: “Know this: Jesus is called Jesus, he is not called Pontius Pilate,” in reference to the Roman prefect who sentenced Christ to death but first “washes his hands” of the matter. “Jesus can not wash his hands”, the Pope said. “He only knows how to risk.”

After the homily, the Pope got on his knees to wash the feet of twelve male prisoners, including two Muslims and a Buddhist. He has in the past washed the feet of non-Christians; he has also washed the feet of women and changed the liturgical rules to allow the latter to participate in the ritual.

“I am a sinner but come as Christ’s ambassador,” the Pope told the prisoners. “When I wash your feet, remember that Jesus never abandons you and he never tires of forgiving you.”

Pope Maundy Thursday Mass prison

Later, in off the cuff remarks at the end of Mass, the Pope said that every prison sentence must be “open to hope”, otherwise it is not human, and for inmates to be able to return to society. And he once again condemned the death penalty, something he has done repeatedly throughout his pontificate.

Saying that he would be having a cataract operation next year to improve his eyesight, Francis added it was important to have a “cataract operation on our souls” in order to “renew our gaze”.

The Regina Coeli is Rome’s oldest and best known prison, just a stone’s throw from the Vatican and housing 900 male inmates, the majority of whom are foreigners. Originally built in the 17th century as a convent it was converted into a prison in the 19th century. Other Popes have paid visits there before including a famous one by John XXIII on Boxing Day 1958 when he told them: “You could not leave to see me, so I have come to see you.”

Throughout his pontificate – and also when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires –  Francis has paid special attention to prisoners, often visiting detention centres and spending Sunday afternoons speaking to inmates.

On Thursday, during the sign of peace, he urged those present to use it as a moment for reconciliation and to think of “those who do not love us” and the people “we would like to take revenge on”.

Pic 1: Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate during Holy Thursday Mass March 29 at Regina Coeli prison in Rome. The pope celebrated Mass and washed the feet of 12 inmates at the prison. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) 

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Pope, in Holy Thursday prison visit, says death penalty not Christian



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Trump to unveil opioid plan that will seek death penalty for drug dealers: White House

March 19, 2018

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WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – US President Donald Trump will unveil a plan on Monday (March 19) to combat the opioid addiction crisis that includes seeking the death penalty for drug dealers and urges Congress to toughen sentencing laws for drug traffickers, White House officials said on Sunday.

The White House plan will also seek to cut opioid prescriptions by a third over the next three years, officials said in a news briefing.

Trump will outline his proposals at an event in New Hampshire, which has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

“The Department of Justice will seek the death penalty against drug traffickers when it’s appropriate under current law,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, in the briefing detailing the plan.

The White House did not offer any specific examples of when it would be appropriate to seek the death penalty for drug dealers and referred further questions to the Justice Department.

The White House also floated several other initiatives to combat opioid overdoses that killed more than 40,000 people in the US in 2016 – five times higher than the rate in 1999.

Trump has talked in the past about his desire to impose capital punishment for drug dealers, arguing that some are responsible for hundreds of deaths.

It’s unclear if Trump’s directive will actually be implemented, as even routine death penalty judgments in murder cases often face years of litigation.

“I don’t think we should play games,” Trump said earlier this month during a political rally in Pennsylvania.

“These people are killing our kids and they’re killing our families, and we have to do something.”

Also included in the initiative: tougher criminal penalties for trafficking in fentanyl, a frequently-abused pain medication; new public outreach efforts to deter drug use; and additional restrictions on federal funding for opioid treatments.

Florida, A Big Death-Penalty State, Weighs What to Do About School Shooting

February 21, 2018

Public defender says Nikolas Cruz is prepared to plead guilty if prosecutors agree to not seek death penalty

Since 1998, there have been more than a dozen shootings at kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools that resulted in multiple deaths. These are some of the victims.
The Wall Street Journal

Defense lawyers seeking to spare Nikolas Cruz execution for last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., could face a high hurdle: the state’s historic embrace of the death penalty, which has led to the second-largest death row in the U.S.

Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender whose office is representing Mr. Cruz, said the 19-year-old suspect, who is charged with killing 17 people, was prepared to plead guilty if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty and settled for a life sentence without possibility of parole. That would avoid years of trial and appeals that could be distressing for those who lost loved ones, he said.

“If it will serve the community and victims’ families to put it all behind them, to try to pick up the pieces of their lives that have been destroyed, then there is that possibility,” Mr. Finkelstein said.

State Attorney Michael Satz, whose office is handling the prosecution, said in a news release over the weekend that it would announce its position “at the appropriate time.” But he noted that “this certainly is the type of case the death penalty was designed for.”

Gov. Rick Scott’s office, in an email response to questions regarding Mr. Cruz’s case, said the state attorney “has been clear that this case would warrant the death penalty,” and “we want to ensure that this individual is held fully accountable and that justice is swiftly served for victims and families.”

Though the number of death penalties imposed nationally has plummeted in the past two decades and polling shows public sentiment turning against execution, Florida continues to apply it actively. The state has 348 inmates on death row, second only to California, and has executed 95 people since 1976, behind Texas, Virginia and Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Mr. Scott, a Republican, engaged in a high-profile battle with Aramis Ayala, the Democratic state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, last year after she announced she wouldn’t seek the death penalty in any of her office’s cases. She criticized the death-penalty system as inconsistent and said it subjected victims’ families to prolonged appeals.

Mr. Scott responded by transferring more than two dozen of her cases to another state attorney, prompting her to file a lawsuit challenging his authority to do so. After the Florida Supreme Court ruled against her in August, she agreed to restore the death penalty as an option and formed a review panel to evaluate whether it should apply to first-degree murder cases in her district.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, said in a recent TV interview that while he has broad concerns about the death penalty and whether defendants get equal representation, “in this particular case, it’d be hard to argue against the death penalty.”

Still, polling data shows that public sentiment in Florida is shifting, consistent with the national trend. A 2016 survey by Craig Haney, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz found that given the choice among sentencing options for a person convicted of murder, 57% of Floridians chose life without parole, while 43% chose the death penalty.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School arrested for killing at least 17 students, has admitted to being the gunman, according to court records. We look back over the events that unfolded during the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012. Photo: Zuma Press

“It used to be that how you voted on the death penalty could determine your future as a legislator,” said Stephen Harper, a visiting law professor at Florida International University who runs a death-penalty clinic and has conducted his own polling. Now, “voters don’t care about it as much.”

It isn’t clear when Mr. Satz, the state attorney in Mr. Cruz’s case, will decide whether to pursue the death penalty. Mr. Finkelstein said he hoped to meet with the prosecutor’s office, but no date has been set. Mr. Cruz hasn’t been arraigned yet, nor has he entered a plea.

Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers on Tuesday began wrestling with what legislation they could craft to strengthen security for students, from boosting funding for school-safety measures to increasing appropriations for mental-health treatment. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School traveled to Tallahassee, the state capital, to meet with lawmakers and state officials on Wednesday.

Write to Arian Campo-Flores at

Shin Bet Warns Israel’s Ministers: Death Penalty for Terrorists Will Lead to Kidnappings of Jews Worldwide

January 3, 2018

Despite the warning, Netanyahu backed the bill in a preliminary Knesset vote: ‘A person who slaughters and laughs should be put to death’

Chaim Levinson Jan 03, 2018 5:12 PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, October 24, 2017.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, October 24, 2017. Olivier Fitouss

UPDATE: Knesset gives preliminary backing to death penalty for terrorists bill

The Shin Bet security service has voiced its objections to the death penalty bill, which it suspects will trigger a wave of kidnappings of Jews around the world to use them in negotiations.

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman has shared his negative opinion of the bill with the inner security cabinet. The security service will be presenting its opinion to the cabinet when it convenes to discuss the bill, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would.

The bill received preliminary backing from the Knesset on Wednesday and still needs to pass three rounds of voting in order to become a law. Despite the warning, Netanyahu backed the bill and, in unusual remarks ahead of the vote, said that, “a person who slaughters and laughs should not spend his life behind bars but be put to death.”

The Shin Bet is predicting abductions of Jews not only in Muslim countries, but in the West as well. It also has other objections to the bill. In 2011, when some – including Central Command General Avi Mizrahi – were advocating the death penalty for Amjad Awad for murders of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, the Shin Bet objected and the idea fell through.

Ahead of the bill’s preliminary reading, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said in a private conversation that he is not bound by the cabinet’s position – and that is just one of many considerations. Mendelblit had also opposed the death penalty as chief military prosecutor, and his position has not changed.

Present military law allows the death penalty to be handed down for murder committed as part of a terror act, but it is conditional on the unanimous support of the sentence by the judges. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who sponsored the bill, proposes that an ordinary majority of judges should suffice to sentence a terrorist to death. The bill also bans leniency after a final death sentence has been handed down.

Chaim Levinson
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Egypt hangs five prisoners: officials

January 2, 2018

A policeman stands guard in front of Mar Mina church, in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, where several people have been killed in a shootout outside the church. (AP/Amr Nabil)
Cairo: Egyptian prison authorities executed on Tuesday five inmates who had been sentenced to death, four of them over a bombing that killed military cadets, security officials said.
The hangings came days after the execution of 15 inmates convicted of attacking police and the military in the largest mass execution in Egypt in recent memory.
Four of those executed on Tuesday had been sentenced to death by a military court over a 2015 the bombing at a stadium north of Cairo that killed three military cadets.
The fifth had been sentenced to death over a criminal matter, the sources said without elaborating.
The other four had been accused of having links with the Muslim Brotherhood movement of former president Muhammad Mursi whom the army toppled in 2013 following protests against his single year in office.
On December 26, prison authorities hanged 15 inmates sentenced to death by a military court over attacks on the police and military in the Sinai Peninsula.
Attacks by jihadists in the restive peninsula have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since Mursi’s overthrow.
Courts have since sentenced hundreds of Islamists to death, although most have appealed the rulings and won retrials.

Chinese convicts executed after stadium trial (Not thrown to lions as previously reported)

December 18, 2017


© AFP/File | Rights groups say China executes more people than any other country, but Beijing does not give figures on the death penalty

BEIJING (AFP) – Thousands of spectators filled a stadium in China to watch 10 suspects be sentenced to death for crimes ranging from drug-dealing to homicide before they were taken away to be executed at the weekend.An online video of the rare public trial, held in southern Guangdong province on Saturday, showed the handcuffed suspects paraded around a track by uniformed police officers as onlookers watched from the sidelines.

The convicts also stood on a podium as their sentences were read over loudspeakers, while officials sat on a stage flanked by military guards.

Rights groups say China executes more people than any other country, but Beijing does not give figures on the death penalty, regarding the statistics as state secrets.

A public announcement last week from Lufeng City People’s Court had invited citizens to sit in on the “open-air stadium trial”, as it was dubbed by the state-run Global Times.

Beijing News, which circulated the trial video along with several other Chinese media outlets, criticised the court for making a spectacle of the sentences.

Ten of 12 suspects were handed the death penalty and taken away for immediate execution while curious locals, including many young people in school uniform, looked on.

“Places may hold public trials in order to intimidate criminals and raise society’s sense of security, but they should not violate the basic humanity of the law,” a Beijing News commentary said Monday.

The column noted that “from a legal standpoint, the death penalty should not be enacted immediately after the final ruling… the local court deliberately put together this scene for dramatic effect.”

According to Global Times, an open-air trial for drug trafficking was also held in Lufeng in 2015, with 10,000 people in the audience.

The city is one of the country’s largest producers of methamphetamine.


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Human Rights Watch denounces Saudi Arabia’s new counterterrorism law — “Criticism of the crown prince is an act of terrorism.”

November 23, 2017

Al Jazeera

Human Rights Watch has denounced Saudi Arabia’s new counterterrorism law, saying it could further enable authorities in the kingdom to silence critics.

The law, introduced earlier this month, includes penalties of up to 10 years in jail for insulting the king and crown prince, as well as the death penalty for other acts of “terrorism”, according to Saudi Gazette and other local news media.

“Saudi authorities are already methodically silencing and locking away peaceful critics on spurious charges,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said in a statement on Thursday.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Defence Minister and Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs Mohammed bin Salman.

Mohammed bin Salman. Credit Fayez Nureldine | AFP | Getty Images

“Instead of improving abusive legislation, Saudi authorities are doubling down with the ludicrous proposition that criticism of the crown prince is an act of terrorism.”

There was no immediate comment on the HRW statement from Saudi authorities, who have long been criticised for the country’s human rights record.


UK: Leaders, academics raise alarm over Saudi ‘crisis’

The new law comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old heir to the throne, consolidates power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.

The passage of the legislation, which replaces another widely criticised counterterrorism law introduced in 2014, coincided with a major government crackdown on the kingdom’s elites, ostensibly to fight corruption.

‘Overly broad definitions’

The new law includes “overly broad definitions” of acts of terrorism, which are not limited to violent acts, HRW said.

“It defines as terrorism ‘disturbing public order’, ‘shaking the security of the community’, and […] ‘suspending the basic laws of governance’, all of which are vague and have been used by Saudi authorities to punish peaceful dissidents and activists,” it said.

In May, a UN special rapporteur on human rights demanded that Saudi Arabia stop using an “unacceptably broad definition of terrorism” to target human rights defenders, writers, bloggers and other critics.

Almost in tandem, Saudi Arabia has reached a turning point in how it views its strategic role in the Middle East since Mohammed bin Salman was named crown prince in June.

He is also the country’s defence minister.

His latest move, the arrest in a corruption crackdown of more than 30 senior figures, including members of the extended royal family – has been interpreted by critics as a political purge to defuse public disquiet over corruption at the highest levels, but also to neutralise potential rivals.

But Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to assert the kingdom’s regional primacy through an assertive foreign policy have backfired in Yemen and Qatar, and are opening a new front in Saudi Arabia’s regional rivalry with Iran.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, along with the kingdom’s Arab Gulf neighbours Bahrain and the UAE, launched a blockade against Qatar in June, accusing the country of supporting “terrorism”. Qatar strongly denies the allegation.

Public relations stunt

Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, said the rise of Mohammed bin Salman represents a concentration of power in a country once distinguished by multiple “fiefdoms” in which power was shared between clans.

She dismisses the corruption crackdown as a public relations stunt.

Speaking at a recent conference in London titled Crisis in Saudi Arabia: War, Succession and the Future, which was attended by nearly 200 people, she said: “Of course, this is a great PR initiative because all of us love to see those corrupt people behind bars, but these anti-corruption purges take place in an opaque kingdom with no freedom of expression and with no independent judiciary.


Sadat to Salman: Israel at the expense of Palestine

Marwan Bishara
by Marwan Bishara

“We know that dictators pick a few people, put them in jail, accuse them of corruption, and that’s a very effective, populist way of getting rid of your rivals.”

Speakers at the conference described a country in crisis, from its contribution to more bloodshed in Yemen to its growing rivalry with Iran, as it attempts to convince the rest of the world that liberalism is expanding at home.

Madawi warned liberals outside Saudi Arabia not to be “taken in” by Mohammed bin Salman’s recent reforms concerning women, such as permitting them to drive.

“These are media and PR exercises that want us to believe that the regime has actually changed,” she said.

“Nothing has changed, all we have seen is a concentration of power in the hands of one man and a purge of the […] regime to pave the way for the arrival of a new elite that will appropriate the resources and that is under no obligation to explain its budget or its corruption to anybody.”

Is the Saudi crown prince a reformist or power-hungry?


Pakistan Executes by Hanging 3 Militants Convicted Over Terror Attacks

October 4, 2017

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s military says authorities have executed three militants sentenced to death by military courts after being convicted of carrying out terror attacks in recent years.

Image result for death by hanging in Pakistan, Photos

A statement from the military says the executions took place at a prison in the country’s northwest on Wednesday.

The executions came day after a rights group, Justice Project Pakistan, expressed concern over the multitude of executions taking place, saying that the country has sent 477 prisoners to the gallows since 2014.

The group also announced a weeklong public awareness campaign against executions ahead of World Day Against the Death Penalty, Oct. 10.

Pakistan halted executions in 2008 due to pressure from rights groups but reinstated capital punishment after the Taliban attacked a school in the city of Peshawar, killing 150 people, mostly schoolchildren.

Netanyahu wants execution of Palestinian who stabbed to death 3 Israelis — Talks about the death penalty for terrorists

July 27, 2017


© AFP | Israeli forensic police on July 22, 2017 inspect a home where a Palestinian broke in the day before and stabbed four Israelis, killing three of them, in the Jewish settlement Neve Tsuf in the occupied West Bank

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called for the execution of a Palestinian who stabbed to death three Israelis last week as tensions rose over new security measures at a Jerusalem holy site.”The death penalty for terrorists ” – “it’s time to implement it in severe cases,” he said while speaking with family members of the victims, a video of which was posted on Netanyahu’s Twitter account.

“It’s anchored in the law. You need the judges to rule unanimously on it, but if you want to know the government’s position and my position as prime minister – in a case like this, of a base murderer like this?” —  “He should be executed. He should simply not smile anymore.”

A 19-year-old Palestinian broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on July 21 and stabbed four Israelis during a Sabbath dinner, killing three of them.

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An Israel family of three was attacked and killed in their home while eating dinner in Halamish, Israel, July 21, 2017. (photo credit IDFWO)

He was shot and wounded by a neighbour, an off-duty soldier.

The stabbings came after a day of protests and clashes over new Israeli security measures at Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, installed after a July 14 attack nearby killed two policemen.

Five Palestinians were killed in clashes on July 21 and 22.

Israel removed the last of the new security measures on Thursday and Palestinians ended a boycott of the site, which includes Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Clashes erupted between Israeli police and Palestinians as thousands of worshippers entered the compound on Thursday for the first time in two weeks.

Because the stabbings of the Israelis occurred in the West Bank, a military court would have jurisdiction under Israeli law.

Three military judges must unanimously approve any death penalty in military courts.

Israel has not carried out any executions since 1962.




Palestinians stand in front of Israeli police officers at Temple Mount.

Palestinians stand in front of Israeli police officers and newly installed metal detectors at an entrance to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City July 16, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Inspecting a body on Friday near what Jews call the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The area, home to the complex of Al Aqsa Mosque, is Jerusalem’s holiest site for both faiths. This photo from just after the killing of Israelis on July 14, 2017. Credit Ammar Awad/Reuters



The Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem.(Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Philippine President Duterte Promises To Continue War on Drugs — Average of nine alleged drug suspects killed daily in the Philippines

July 24, 2017
Residents and police gather near the blanket-covered body of a man killed, along with four others, in an alleged police anti-drug operation in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Authorities said 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — In his second State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his vow to continue his controversial war on drugs campaign.

Duterte said the crackdown against illegal drugs will continue because for him it is “the root cause of evil.” This was despite several criticisms received from both local and international human rights groups.
“The fight against illegal drugs will be unrelenting. Despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternative is either jail or hell,” Duterte said in his SONA speech with the theme of “comfortable life for all.”
The president said he does not intend to lose the fight against illegal drugs while he shrugged off human rights and due process concerns.
Duterte said that instead of condemning the authorities and blaming the government for every killing in this country, his critics should just use their authority to educate the public about illegal narcotics.
“To the critics against the fight [against illegal drugs], your efforts will be better spent if you use the influence, moral authority and ascendancy of your organizations over your respective sectors to educate the people on the evil of illegal drugs,” Duterte said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I value human life the way I value mine,” he added.
A total of 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. On average, nine alleged drug suspects were killed daily during the eleven-month period.
The United States Congress last Thursday conducted a hearing into the human rights consequences of the war on drugs in the Philippines.
In his first year in office, Duterte received several criticisms even from international leaders. He threatened to cut ties with nations which criticized his war on drugs including the European Union and the United States under former President Barack Obama.
Despite this, Duterte continued his call on the public to join his crackdown against drugs.
“That is why I ask you to join me in this fight against illegal drugs and all forms of criminality. The government equipped with legal authority and your moral ascendancy over the sector you represent can do so much and hopefully eradicates the social scourge that plagues us to no end,” he added.


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Credit: Raffy Lerma—Philippine Daily Inquirer

 (Contains links to several related articles)

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.