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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Egypt’s shocking homophobic purge

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Egypt’s authorities are deliberately fuelling a homophobic ‘moral panic’ in order to build support for a homophobic crackdown, a report has alleged.
There has recently been a dramatic surge in arrests of gay people in Egypt, fuelled in part by the country’s media.
Sources on the ground have repeatedly raised the alarm about Egypt’s so-called ‘Public Morality Investigation Unit’, which actively targets the gay community with raids and entrapment.
The situation worsened in September this year, when the waving of a rainbow flag at a music concert was extensively derided in the press – leading to a dramatic crackdown.
A report released this week by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights charts the horrific extent of the crisis.
It says: “The EIPR has observed an exponential increase in the number of individuals arrested because of their private sexual practices and/or sexual orientation.
“In what is now known as the as the Public Morality Investigation Unit’s campaign against LGBTQ …

Malaysia tables amendment to allow judges to decide penalty for drug traffickers

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Putrajaya tabled today an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (DDA) to return discretionary powers to the court instead of imposing the mandatory death sentence on drug traffickers.
The amendment, tabled for 1st reading today by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, seeks to revert Section 39B as law.
The provision, introduced in an amendment to the DDA or Act 234 in 1975, had allowed a person convicted of drug trafficking to be punished with jail and whipping or death.
It was removed in 1983 so that drug traffickers could only be punished with death.
Under the new amendment to Section 39B(2) of the DDA, any person who is found guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs can be be punished with either the death penalty or life in prison and whipping with a minimum of 15 strokes.
The Bill also states several circumstances for the courts to consider when deciding whether to mete jail for life or the death penalty.
Among the circumstances for th…

Saudi Arabia: New Counterterrorism Law Enables Abuse

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Criminalizes Criticisms of King and Crown Prince as Terrorism Offense
Saudi Arabia's new counterterrorism law includes vague and overly broad definitions of acts of terrorism, in some cases punishable by death, Human Rights Watch said today.
The law replaces a widely criticized counterterrorism law promulgated in 2014, adding definitions of specific acts of terrorism and their corresponding sentencing guidelines. It includes criminal penalties of 5 to 10 years in prison for portraying the king or crown prince, directly or indirectly, "in a manner that brings religion or justice into disrepute," and criminalizes a wide range of peaceful acts that bear no relation to terrorism.
"Saudi authorities are already methodically silencing and locking away peaceful critics on spurious charges," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of improving abusive legislation, Saudi authorities are doubling down with the ludicrous proposit…

Israel: Liberman's party presses coalition to advance death penalty for terrorists

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Yisrael Beytenu's MK Robert Ilatov says legislation has been languishing in ministerial panel for nearly a month
A Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker on Thursday urged coalition chairman David Bitan to advance legislation to apply the death penalty to convicted terrorists.
In a letter, MK Robert Ilatov said the legislation - the advancement of which is detailed as a condition in the party's coalition agreements - has languished in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation since late October, when he revived the bill.
"As you know, this is an important and essential item for Yisrael Beytenu and was one of the cornerstones for its entry into the government and coalition," Ilatov wrote. "Despite this, we see there are those in the coalition who are trying to dissolve this important issue."
The party, headed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, has long advocated introducing the death penalty for terrorists. The issue was one of its key campaign promises in the 2015 ele…

Drug cartels increasingly use Zimbabweans women as mules

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More than 50 Zimbabweans, mostly women, have been arrested in various countries since 2012 for drug trafficking. Drug cartels have been increasingly using Zimbabweans as mules to transport hard drugs to Asian countries, where such crimes attract a death sentence or life imprisonment.
In June this year, 3 Zimbabwean students were arrested in Cyprus on allegations of drug trafficking amid revelations that a number of Zimbabwean students studying in that country were being forced into crime and prostitution after being offered fake university scholarships.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs chairperson Cde Kindness Paradza revealed this while addressing the Bulawayo Press Club. In March last year, a Zimbabwean woman was arrested at Delhi Airport in India after she was found with 2 kilogrammes of cocaine worth $1,5 million.
In May 2016, Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mr Joey Bimha said they had received reports of 10 Zimbabweans arrested in China over drug trafficking, w…

Iran Attempts to Deflect Responsibility in Criticizing UN Resolution on Country’s Human Rights Record

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Iran has responded to a draft UN resolution condemning the country’s human rights record by attempting to deflect responsibility and verbally criticizing the sponsors of the draft.
After UN member states adopted the draft resolution by the UN’s Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affair on November 14, 2017, the country’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi accused the resolution’s sponsors of being “the biggest violators of human rights.”
However, Iran continues to renege on its domestic and international obligations on human rights. In presenting her semi-annual 2017 report to the UN General Assembly in October 2017, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran Asma Jahangir noted concerns over civil and political rights, including restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and information.
Jahangir called for progress to protect the rights of women “in practice, and in legislation”, to ensure the independence of the judiciar…

Quick raising of ‘blood money’ saves Tamil’s life in Kuwait

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He had been sentenced to death for killing a co-worker from Kerala
Arjunan Athimuthu, 45, a construction worker from the Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu, is on death row in Kuwait. But he is set to get a reprieve after his wife managed to convince an influential benefactor to raise the necessary ‘blood money’ to save him.
Athimuthu was sentenced to death last year by the apex court in Kuwait for the crime of killing Abdul Wajid, a labourer from Kerala’s Malappuram district. Both Athimuthu and Wajid worked for the same company in Kuwait. Wajid was reportedly killed in September 2013 during a fight between the two.
Kuwaiti law offers the convict a reprieve from capital punishment if the victim’s family pardons him. Wajid’s family demanded ₹30 lakh as ‘blood money’ to pardon Athimuthu.
The convict’s family and the victim’s kin are both poor. But a win-win situation has emerged for both the parties, wherein the convict’s life could be saved, and the victim’s family gets a handy compensat…

UAE: Man who raped, killed eight-year-old boy Obaida executed

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Dubai: Nidal Eisa Abdullah, the convict who raped and killed eight-year-old boy Obaida in May 2016, was executed this morning, Gulf News has learnt.
In February, Dubai’s Cassation Court rejected the appeal lodged by the Jordanian convict, Nidal Eisa Abdullah, 48, and upheld his death sentence given by lower courts.
“Today (Thursday) morning, the convict was taken from his confinement at Dubai Central Jail, where he had been waiting for the rulers approval to have the death sentence executed ... a special execution team carried out the sentence in the presence of high ranking officers, senior prosecutors and other involved law enforcement bodies. Justice has been served and the ruling was carried out,” a chief prosecutor confirmed to Gulf News Thursday morning.
When contacted for further confirmation, the convict’s court-appointed lawyer Ali Musabbah Dahi, who represented Abdullah before the Courts of Cassation and Appeal, also confirmed to Gulf News that the sentence has been carried…

Skype disappears from Chinese app stores in latest web crackdown

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Microsoft Corp.’s Skype has vanished from Apple Inc. and Android smartphone app stores in China, becoming the latest victim in Beijing’s sweeping internet clampdown.
The internet phone and video service was no longer available on Apple’s iOS or on popular local Android stores such as Xiaomi Corp.’s, though it still functioned as of Wednesday. The Ministry of Public Security notified Apple that a number of voice-over-internet-protocol apps didn’t comply with local law and the U.S. company subsequently removed them, a spokeswoman for the iPhone maker said. Those apps, which enable voice calls among other things, remain in place elsewhere.
It’s unclear why Skype, which has operated for years in China despite making little headway against more popular services like WeChat, was targeted. Under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has tightened controls over online content and taken aim at messaging services in particular, requiring users to register their real names and threatening action agai…

Indonesia: Mastermind of Bengkalis murder sentenced to death

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The Bengkalis District Court in Riau has sentenced to death the mastermind behind the killing of a man whose body was found mutilated on Rupat Island in March.
Heriyanto, 28, was found guilty on Thursday for the premeditated murder of Bayu Santoso.
His accomplices, 29-year-old Andrian (also known as Gondrong) and 25-year-old Ali Akbar (also known as Barok), were sentenced to life and 20 years’ imprisonment, respectively.
Andrian reportedly received a harsher punishment for participating in stabbing the victim.
While reading out the verdict, presiding judge Sutarno said that Heriyanto had carefully planned Bayu’s death, then mutilated his body to hide the crime — an aggravating factor that lead to a harsher sentence for Heriyanto.
“Evidence introduced in the hearings showed that the defendant changed his plan several times to ensure that the murder would not be easily uncovered,” Sutarno said in a hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
Bayu was killed in a local pool hall on March 24 after H…