Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

Saudi Arabia’s barbaric plan to behead a human-rights activist

August 28, 2018

Israa al-Ghomgham has spent nearly three years in prison for her nonviolent advocacy of greater rights for Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority — and now her government wants to execute her.

It’s barbaric.

Ghomgham, 29, is to be tried before the Saudi terrorism tribunal on charges solely related to peaceful human-rights activism, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

New York Post

Along with five other Shiites, she faces beheading (the usual Saudi mode of execution) for fomenting protests in the Qatif area of Eastern Province — “crimes” that include chanting slogans hostile to the regime, filing protests, posting on social media, seeking to inflame public opinion and providing moral support to rioters.

Exercising what ought to be free speech, in other words. And none of it remotely related to terrorism — although the Specialized Criminal Court has already sent other protesters to the executioner.

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Mohammad bin Salam, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

This comes amid a supposed push to liberalize Saudi Arabia under Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince who’s running the kingdom. Is MBS’s control that thin, or does he approve?

As Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, puts it: “Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public-relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business.”

The next hearing in the case is Oct. 28. If the prince is truly serious about reform, that date will bring the immediate release of Ghomgham and her co-defendants.

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Has Saudi Arabia Arrested Imam and Preacher of the Grand Holy Mosque in Makkah?

August 26, 2018

The case could be about the mixing of unrelated men and women

Saudi Arabia has yet to confirm or deny the reports of Sheikh Dr Saleh bin Mohammed Al Talib, Imam and Preacher of the Grand Holy Mosque in Makkah, being detained by authorities.

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On Sunday, the social media advocacy group Prisoners of Conscience, which monitors and documents arrests of Saudi preachers and religious scholars, had stated that Sheikh Saleh was arrested after he delivered a sermon on the duty in Islam to speak out against evil in public.

According to Al Jazeera’s report published on Wednesday, Arabic news website Khaleej Online reported that in his sermon, Sheikh Saleh “derided the mixing of unrelated men and women at concerts and other mixed entertainment events”.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview to CBS News in July, had said: “We have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a work place. Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the Prophet (pbuh).”

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman

Hours after his reported arrest, Al Jazeera added, both of Sheikh Saleh’s Engish and Arabic Twitter accounts were deactivated.

Yahya Assiri, a UK-based Saudi human rights activist, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying that the kingdom’s “authorities are looking at everyone that’s influential and has a presence on the scene”.

On Wednesday, human rights groups had said that Saudi prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including, for the first time, a woman.

The five stand accused of inciting mass protests in mainly Shiite areas of the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Human rights groups said that the execution threat is a calculated bid to stifle dissent.

The Saudi government, however, has not confirmed that the activists face the death penalty.

Trudeau doubles down on Canadian criticism of Saudi Arabia — Beheadings planned for incitement to disobedience of the ruler in KSA

August 25, 2018

The prime minister is the latest Canadian official to take aim at Saudi human rights record amid diplomatic spat

The two countries have been embroiled in a diplomatic dispute for weeks (AFP)

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern on Thursday over reports that human rights activists in Saudi Arabia face the death penalty in the latest and most high-profile statement to date in an ongoing diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia and Canada are locked in a diplomatic dispute triggered by Canadian criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record, but Trudeau said Canada continues to “engage diplomatically” with Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups say Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including, for the first time, a woman – Israa al-Ghomgham.

Executions, most commonly beheadings, usually take place in Saudi Arabia after the decision is ratified by the king – in this case, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. At least 65 people have been executed in 2018 so far, according to the Cornell Law School Center on the Death Penalty.

The defendants had been in pre-trial detention for nearly three years on charges of organising anti-government protests, incitement to disobedience of the ruler, and providing moral support to participants in anti-government protests in the Shia-majority eastern region of Qatif.

“I think it’s important to have positive relationships with countries around the world,” Trudeau told a press conference in British Columbia.

“At the same time, we have expressed our concern with the sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia, our concern for defending human rights and our shared values all around the world,” he said.

“Canada will continue to stand up strongly for human rights,” he added.

The Saudi government has not confirmed that the activists face the death penalty.

Two weeks ago, Canada sparked fury in Riyadh by calling for the immediate release of detained activists, including award-winning women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi.

Saudi Arabia froze all new trade and investments, moved to pull out thousands of Saudi students from Canadian universities and pledged to stop all medical treatment programmes in Canada. State airline Saudia also suspended flights to Toronto.

In the end, the kingdom gave its students an extension until 22 September according to several universities.

Earlier this week, Saudi authorities detained friends and relatives of Canada-based Saudi activist Omar Abdulaziz.

“They have been arrested to blackmail me into stopping my online criticism of the human rights violations committed by the Saudi government,” Abdulaziz told Middle East Eye on Thursday.

Canada condemns Saudi Arabia for planned beheading of women activist as diplomatic row deepens

August 23, 2018
CANADA has blasted Saudi Arabia for preparing the beheading of an imprisoned female activist, causing the already tense diplomatic row between the two countries to reach new highs.Image may contain: sky and outdoor

saudi arabia, saudi arabia human rights, human rights, canada saudi arabia, chrystia freeland, israa al-ghomgham, activist beheaded, female activist saudi arabia

Canada has blasted Saudi Arabia for preparing the beheading of an imprisoned female activist (Image: Getty)

Human Rights advocates claim Israa al-Ghomgham, along with five other activists, are being tried by the country’s terrorism tribunal on charges “solely related to their peaceful activism”.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland inflamed tensions with a single tweet last month, in which she expressed concern surrounding the imprisonment of activists in Saudi Arabia.

The dispute escalated and Saudi Arabia cancelled all flights to Canada on the state airline, recalled students studying in the North American nation, cut investment and issued threats.

Following the news of the planned beheading of Israa al-Ghomgham, a Foreign Affairs Department spokesman renewed Canada’s concerns in a statement.

They said: “As Minister Freeland has previously stated, Canada is extremely concerned by the arrests of women’s rights activists.

“These concerns have been raised with the Saudi government.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world.”

Ms Ghomgham’s trial started earlier this month, almost three years after her arrest in late 2015.

saudi arabia, saudi arabia human rights, human rights, canada saudi arabia, chrystia freeland, israa al-ghomgham, activist beheaded, female activist saudi arabia

Chrystia Freeland inflamed tensions with a single tweet last month (Image: Getty)

The Shiite female activist was part of a political movement which continued until 2014.

The European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights commented on Ms Ghomgham’s activism, saying: “She called for fundamental and basic civil and political rights, such as peaceful assembly and expression, for the release of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, and expressed her peaceful opinions on social media platforms.”

State prosecutors are seeking to sentence Ms Ghomgham with the death penalty, and if delivered, it will mark the first time a female activist is executed in Saudi Arabia for their political activities.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities have also been holding five other activists, who are facing the death penalty, in pre-trial detention without legal representation for over two years.

saudi arabia, saudi arabia human rights, human rights, canada saudi arabia, chrystia freeland, israa al-ghomgham, activist beheaded, female activist saudi arabia

Mrs Freeland wrote on Twitter Canada strongly calls for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi (Image: Getty)

The next court date is scheduled for October 28, 2018.

146 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, according to Amnesty International.

Beheading is the most common method of execution in Saudi Arabia.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behaviour, is monstrous.

“Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business.”

Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty by beheading for female rights activist — Canada was trying to warn us….

August 23, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has sought the death penalty against five human rights activists, including a prominent female rights defender, campaigners said on Wednesday.

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Among those accused of inciting protests by the Shia Muslim minority in the oil-rich Eastern Province is Israa al-Ghomgham, the first female activist to possibly face the death penalty for her rights-related work.

“Israa al-Ghomgham and four other individuals are now facing the most appalling possible punishment simply for their involvement in anti-government protests,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of campaigns.

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Israa al-Ghomgham

“We are urging the Saudi Arabian authorities to drop these plans immediately.”

Saudi government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ghomgham, a prominent Shia activist who documented mass demonstrations in the Eastern Province starting in 2011, was arrested at her home along with her husband in December 2015, according to Human Rights Watch.

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“Sentencing Israa al-Ghomgham to death would send a horrifying message that other activists could be targeted in the same way for their peaceful protest and human rights activism,” Hadid said.

“The charges against Ghomgham… are absurd and clearly politically motivated to silence dissent.”

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Amnesty says at least 12 other leading human rights activists, including eight women, have been arrested in the kingdom since May — just before the kingdom ended its ban on women drivers.

Many of them long opposed the decades-long ban and resisted the system of male “guardians” — fathers, husbands or other relatives, whose permission is required to travel or get married.

The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world’s highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty.

Rights experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, an absolute monarchy governed under a strict form of Islamic law. The government says the death penalty is a deterrent for further crime.

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Bangladesh considers death penalty in careless driving death cases

August 6, 2018

Bangladesh’s cabinet on Monday will consider capital punishment for traffic accident deaths, a law ministry official said, as thousands of students held protests for a ninth day over the deaths of two teenagers by a speeding bus in Dhaka.

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Bangladesh we want justice protest

Tens of thousands of angry school and colleges students have been demanding changes to Bangladesh’s transport laws, paralyzing the crowded capital of 18 million, after the two teenagers were killed when a privately operated bus ran over a group of students on July 29.

“In this amendment it has been proposed to award the highest level of punishment if it is killing by an accident,” said the law ministry official, who has been briefed on the matter but declined to be named ahead of a decision.

The current punishment is a maximum jail term of three years. Using the death penalty for road accidents is rare anywhere in the world. Bangladesh’s transport authority listed punishments given in different countries that ranged from 14 years in the U.K. in extreme cases to two years in India.

Sheikh Shafi, a student of a polytechnic institute in Dhaka who lost his brother in a road accident in 2015, said one of the problems was that bus drivers are not paid fixed monthly salaries instead only earn commissions based on the number of passengers, forcing them to work long hours.

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“Our demand is that the owners must appoint them and they will work a maximum of 10 hours. The commission based system must be eliminated,” said Shafi, who was injured while protesting on Saturday.

Amid the ongoing protests, an official vehicle carrying the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh was attacked by a group of armed men on Sunday, some on motorcycles, the embassy said in a statement. There were no injuries but two vehicles were damaged.

The embassy has condemned the “brutal attacks and violence” against the students protesters by security forces, a charge the government denies.

Police said they did not have an immediate explanation as to why the U.S. ambassador came under attack.

Reporting by Serajul Quadir and Ruma Paul; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Michael Perry


See also (Includes video):

Bangladesh police fire tear gas to disperse students protesting against road deaths

Iran’s Use of Death Penalty During Economic Crisis “Direct Breach of International Law,” Amnesty International says

August 1, 2018

Iran’s application of the death penalty to individuals arrested during the country’s economic crisis would be in “direct breach of international law,” the world’s leading human-rights organization has said.

At least 29 people have been arrested for “economic disruption,” Iranian officials announced last weekend, with many facing charges that carry the death penalty.

Amnesty International on Wednesday expressed “alarm” over the arrests, saying that the application of the death penalty for non-violent crimes would be “in direct breach of international law.”

The plunging value of the Iranian currency and worsening economic situation has prompted a string of public protests this year. In an apparent attempt to be seen to be tackling the crisis, officials announced dozens of arrests and blamed unnamed “enemies” for the rial’s decline.

“Amnesty International is alarmed at the judiciary’s announcement that it has charged individuals arrested in relation to the country’s economy and currency crisis with ‘corruption on earth’ (efsad-e fel arz), which incurs the death penalty,” an Amnesty spokesperson told Arab News.



, , Agust 1, 2018. The people rallied to protest against the Iranian regime’s corruption and the declining economic situation for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.

“This would be in direct breach of international law, which restricts the use of the death penalty to only the ‘most serious crimes’ — those involving intentional killing. Amnesty International’s research has shown that basic fair trial guarantees are absent in death penalty cases in Iran.”

The statement follows warnings from other campaign groups over the human-rights situation in Iran.

“In recent weeks and months we’ve had many protests,” .Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesman for the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“Human rights are suffering … and every day they suffer more. Iran is among the biggest violators of human rights in the world today.”


BBC NEWS فارسی


حضور پلیس ضد شورش در منطقه شاپور جدید اصفهان
گروهی از کسبه و رانندگان شاپور جدید در “اعتراض به گرانی و بیکاری” تجمع کرده‌اند.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said that the arrests connected to the economic crisis amounted to a PR exercise by the Iranian government.

“The arrests by the regime are mostly cosmetic actions aimed at projecting that the Islamic Republic is taking actions to address corruption and address people’s grievances,” he said.

“The regime is also trying to point (the) finger at some individuals rather than on the systematic financial corruption within the political establishment.”

Amid widespread public anger, demonstrations spread to the historic city of Isfahan on Tuesday, with protesters demanding an end to the Iranian regime’s costly interference in the affairs of neighboring countries in the region.

Video footage showed hundreds of protesters shouting: “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my soul is Iran’s redemption.” The slogan refers to Tehran’s military adventures in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, at the expense of the domestic economy.

“The protests in Isfahan are significant because they highlight people’s ongoing and growing outrage and frustration with the theocratic establishment, as the economy is in shambles,” said Rafizadeh. “Despite the regime’s crackdown, people continue to take to streets as they can’t make ends meet.”


Japan executes six more cult members of deadly sarin attack

July 26, 2018

Japan executed six more members of the doomsday cult group Aum Shinrikyo on Thursday that perpetrated the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, public broadcaster NHK said.

FILE - In this undated file photo, cult guru Shoko Asahara, left, of Aum Shinrikyo walks with Yoshihiro Inoue, then a close aid, in Tokyo. Japanese me

FILE – In this undated file photo, cult guru Shoko Asahara, left, of Aum Shinrikyo walks with Yoshihiro Inoue, then a close aid, in Tokyo. Asahara, who has been on death row for masterminding the 1995 deadly Tokyo subway gassing and other crimes, has been executed. He was 63.

All 13 members of the cult that were on death row have now been executed, after Chizuo Matsumoto, the cult’s former leader who went by the name Shoko Asahara, and six other members of the group were hanged on July 6.

The attack killed 13 people and injured at least 5,800 people, shattering the nation’s myth of public safety.

Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa will hold a news conference at 11:05 a.m. Japan time (0205 GMT).

The Aum Shinrikyo, or Aum Supreme Truth cult, which mixed Buddhist and Hindu meditation with apocalyptic teachings, staged a series of crimes including simultaneous sarin gas attacks on subway trains during rush hour in March 1995. Sarin, a nerve gas, was originally developed by the Nazis.

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko


Britain would not oppose death penalty for Islamic State suspects

July 23, 2018

Britain’s interior minister has suggested the UK will not block a death sentence on two captured IS fighters dubbed “The Beatles” if they are tried in the US. The UK usually calls for protection of its citizens.

Islamic State propaganda photo (picture-alliance/Zuma Press)

Britain will not seek the usual assurances that its citizens facing trial in the United States do not receive the death penalty in the case of suspected “Islamic State” (IS) fighters Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, according to a report in a British newspaper published on Monday.

Kotey and Elsheikh are suspected of being members of a four-man IS gang dubbed “The Beatles,” which was notorious for videotaping its beheadings of high-profile Western captives. The two men were captured in Syria by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in January and are still being held by the group. Britain and the United States have discussed how and where they should face justice.

Read more: Syrian Kurdish forces capture two British ‘IS’ militants — US officials

According to a leaked letter written by Home Secretary Sajid Javid to the US attorney general, excerpts of which were published in the Telegraph, the UK wants “these individuals to face justice in the most appropriate jurisdiction which maximises our collective chances of a successful prosecution.”

Javid appeared to waive Britain’s long-standing opposition to the death penalty in order to allow the two suspects face trial in the United States.

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” he wrote in the letter last month.

However, he added that the decision did “not reflect a change in our policy on assistance in US death penalty cases generally.”

Read more: ‘Islamic State’ claims beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto

‘Higher profile’ suspects

In the transcript published by the newspaper, Javid said Britain considered the two suspects distinct from the “broader strategic issue of detained foreign terrorist fighters” for three reasons:

  • “Firstly, there is intelligence implicating these two individuals in the kidnap and murder of a number of individuals, including three American and two British citizens.”
  • “Secondly, these individuals have a significantly higher profile than other detainees in Syria due to their crimes and will be held up as an example of how we treat and deal with alleged ISIS [an alternative acronym for IS] fighters.”
  • “Thirdly, we need to deliver justice for the victims’ relatives, who have been vocal in their demands that both detainees face the rest of their lives in prison following a fair and transparent trial.”

Fearing a precedent

Prime Minister Theresa May echoed Javid’s wishes for a successful proscecution.

May’s spokeswoman said, “We are continuing to engage with the US government on this issue and our priority is to make sure that these men face criminal prosecution.” She acknowledged Britian’s long-held opposition to the death penalty.

Human rights group Amnesty International criticized the apparent wavering of Britain’s stance in this case, tweeting that UK opposition to the death penalty should not be compromised even in view of the “appalling” nature of the two men’s alleged crimes.

Amnesty UK


‘While the alleged crimes of Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikh are appalling, the UK’s principled opposition to the cruelty of the isn’t something it should compromise.’ 

Read more: Israeli leaders back death penalty for ‘terrorists’


The most notorious member of the cell — dubbed “The Beatles” on account of their British accents — was Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” who appeared in videos showing the murders of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and other hostages. Emwazi is believed to have been killed in a US-British missile strike in 2015.

Death penalty

The mother of James Foley told BBC radio she did not want the suspects to be executed if found guilty, because it “would just make them martyrs in their twisted ideology.”   Amnesty International’s Allan Hogarth said the case “seriously jeopardizes the UK’s position as a strong advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.”

Britain’s defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, said earlier this year that he did not want the two suspects to be returned to the UK because “they are no longer part of Britain.”

kw, tj (Reuters, DPA)

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) 

See also:

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



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