Entries in Death Penalty (7)


Girl, 11, Could Face Death in Pakistan for 'Blasphemy'

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- To some, she's an innocent victim, an apparently mentally challenged Christian girl swept up by a rising tide of irrational Islamic extremism. To others, she's God's enemy, guilty of a crime so vile the only suitable punishment is death.

On Monday, Pakistani police arrested the girl, known only by her first name, Ramsha, after accusations that she burned pages of the Koran, Islam's holy book. In Pakistan, it is a crime to utter derogatory statements or insult the Prophet Muhammad or the Koran in any way. Blasphemy convictions carry an automatic death sentence.

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The accusations, made by the girl's neighbors in a mixed Christian-Muslim neighborhood, sent area Muslims into a fury, with some police reports suggesting an angry mob of hundreds of men descended on her home, demanding authorities arrest her and charge her with blasphemy.

They then allegedly went on a rampage, attacking the girl's family and setting Christian houses on fire. The girl's parents are now in protective custody and, according to reports, several Christian families have left the neighborhood, an impoverished district in the country's capital, Islamabad.

Police officials put the girl in jail for 14 days, but suggested the charges might be dropped for a lack of evidence. When she was brought to jail, she reportedly had a shopping bag filled with religious and Arabic-language papers, but it was unclear whether the papers were pages of the Koran.

Some have said the girl is mentally challenged and suffers from Down's syndrome.

The case is drawing worldwide condemnation, including from senior officials in the United States, a key military and political ally that gives billions in annual aid to Pakistan.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland referred to the case as "deeply disturbing."

"We urge the government of Pakistan to protect not just its religious minority citizens, but also women and girls," she said.

Critics say Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often misused and applied vindictively, often as a way to target minorities.

"It has been exploited by individuals to settle personal scores, to grab land, to violate the rights of non-Muslims, to basically harass them," said the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zora Yusuf.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws have met with controversy in the past. Last year, a prominent Pakistani politician who advocated reforming the law was gunned down and killed by his own bodyguard while leaving an upscale Islamabad cafe frequented by westerners.

Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, has ordered an investigation into Monday's incident.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Resident Could Face Death Penalty in Sudan

Rudwan Dawod is shown at a Sudan Sunrise school in Sudan. Sudan Sunrise(NEW YORK) -- Rudwan Dawod, a permanent U.S. resident currently in a Sudanese jail facing charges including involvement in a terrorist organization, could now also face the death penalty there.

Dawod had been working in Sudan with the non-profit Sudan Sunrise to build schools and churches in his home country.  ABC's George Stephanopoulos spoke with Dawod's wife Nancy Williams Dawod, and asked her to respond to the accusation that her husband is involved in a terror group.

Watch the interview here:

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As mentioned in the interview, the Sudanese Embassy released a statement to ABC News. The embassy would not speak about Dawod’s case, but did comment on the protests in Sudan.

Here is the full statement from Seif Yasin, the Press and Information Counselor at the Embassy:

“Concerning the sporadic protests witnessed in the country, it is important to note first that Sudan affirms and protects the right of the citizens to demonstrate as they wish, provided that the rules and regulations in place are observed, as they are principally meant to ensure public order and safety.

It is during this delicate process of facilitating self-expression and maintaining public order on which some opportunists capitalize to inspire violence and chaos or smear Sudan’s image. Fair observers will note how easily things can get out of hand in such settings if the laws that regulate such an affair are not adhered to, be it in Sudan or the United States. The world has witnessed plenty of such disasters. Occupy wall Street protests are a case in point, where numerous arrests were made by the New York Police. While we cannot comment on any one specific case, if any arrests do occur in Sudan, the detained individuals will most certainly have a fair and just trial in court.

Moreover, these protests, though by no means comparable to the ones elsewhere in the world might very well reflect the genuine grievances of a few, relating to economy and job opportunities. And indeed the Government recognizes this and has been aggressively moving to tackle these same economic adversities that the entire world is today challenged with. But in this process, order must prevail, not chaos.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


China’s Death Row Reality Show Axed from Air

David J. Sams/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- The 40-million fans who have been faithfully tuning into China’s death row reality show, Interviews Before Execution, may have watched the last episode without knowing it.

Legal TV Channel, the station in central China’s Henan province that produced and broadcast the show for the last five years, confirmed to ABC News that it has been abruptly canceled due to “internal problems” and will not be seen again.

A spokesman at the station said that a new program on legal affairs will be broadcast in its place, but could provide no further details.  Requests for an interview with the host of Interviews Before Execution, Ding Yu, were denied.

The cancellation comes at the end of a week in which the show made international headlines for the first time.

Both the BBC and PBS International own the rights to a documentary film, Dead Men Talking, produced by a film company in China, which goes behind the scenes for an up close look at how the show is made.  BBC2 has plans to air the show next week.

Articles in the Daily Mail, New York Times, ABC News and numerous other outlets described the show as a one-of-a-kind reality series on a dark topic: death row inmates just before they die.

The host, journalist Ding Yu, interviewed more than 200 Chinese men and women, sometimes just hours before they were put to death.  The majority of convictions were for murder under often gruesome circumstances.

According to the Daily Mail, the show was approved by the government as a deterrent to would-be criminals.  Convicts were chosen by a judiciary committee for Ding for being “suitable subjects to educate the public.”

The show was not broadcast nationwide.  Few people know of it outside of Henan province in central China.

China is the only country that does not release the number of people executed each year, despite international calls to do so by groups such as Amnesty International.

It is estimated that about a thousand people are put to death each year.  That number cannot be confirmed, but puts China well ahead of any other country by far.  Fifty-five crimes are punishable by death there.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lawyer Hired to Work for American 'Spy' Sentenced to Death in Iran

ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Amir Mirzaei Hekmati's family has retained Los Angeles attorney Pierre-Richard Prosper to see what he can do to free 28-year-old Hekmati, who was sentenced to death by a court in Iran for allegedly spying for the CIA.

The White House has denied that Hekmati, a former Marine Arabic translator, was secretly spying while visiting his grandmother.  However, the State Department's options are limited since Washington and Tehran have had no formal diplomatic relations since the Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979.

Prosper has an extensive background in international affairs, having served as an ambassador at large for war crimes under the Bush administration.  He also acted as prosecutor for the Rwanda war crimes tribunal at the Hague.

But what drew Hekmati's family, who live in Michigan, to Prosper was that he was able to free American businessman Reza Taghavi from an Iranian prison after he was accused of having ties to an Iranian opposition group.

Gaining Hekmati's release could prove more daunting since he has already been charged, convicted and sentenced, becoming the first American to receive the death penalty in the long and contentious relationship between the U.S. and Iran.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Sentences American 'Spy' to Death

ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran has sentenced a former U.S. Marine to death on charges of spying for the CIA, Iranian state media reported Monday.

Iran's Revolutionary Court found 28-year-old Amir Hekmati "Corrupt on Earth," according to the Fars news agency, and sentenced him to death "for cooperating with the hostile country...and spying for the CIA." Under Iranian law, Hekmati has 20 days to appeal.  

His trial and death sentence came as Iran announced that it had enriched uranium at an underground facility and as the U.S. imposed harsher economic sanctions on Iran to stop its nuclear program.

Hekmati's mother Behnaz Hekmati released a statement saying that she and her husband Ali were, "shocked and terrified by the news that our son, Amir, has been sentenced to death. We believe that this verdict is a result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair."

"Amir did not engage in any acts of spying, or 'fighting against God,'" as the convicting judge has claimed in his sentence," said the statement.  "Amir is not a criminal.  His life is being exploited for political gain."

The U.S. State Department has asked the Iranian government repeatedly to allow Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, to meet with Hekmati.  Iran has refused, according to the State Department. Hekmati's family also said they had been rebuffed in all attempts to speak with the Iranian government.

"A grave error has been committed," said Hekmati's parents on Monday.  "We pray that Iran will show compassion and not murder our son, Amir, a natural born American citizen, who was visiting Iran and his relatives for the first time."

Hekmati, an Arizona-born Iranian-American who served in the U.S. Marines as a rifleman from 2001 to 2005, was arrested while visiting his extended family, including two elderly grandmothers, in Tehran on Aug. 29, 2011, according to the family. The family said they were urged by the Iranian government to keep quiet about his arrest with the promise of later release, but then in December, Hekmati was shown on Iranian television allegedly confessing to being an undercover agent of the Central Intelligence Agency on a mission to infiltrate the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

"It was their [the CIA's] plan to first burn some useful information, give it to them [the Iranians] and let Iran's Intelligence Ministry think that this is good material," Hekmati says calmly in the video.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News shortly after the broadcast, Hekmati's father strongly denied his son was a spy and said the confession was forced.

"My son is no spy.  He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man," Hekmati said.  "These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies."

In the Iranian broadcast, Hekmati was described as having been trained in military intelligence for 10 years by the U.S. Army before being sent in country on his secret mission to become a double agent for the CIA.  But military service records provided to ABC News showed Hekmati is a former Marine, was never in the Army and never had any military intelligence training. He spoke Arabic and may have helped translate for his Marine unit, but left service in 2005 as a rifleman.

The elder Hekmati said his son worked for a security contractor after his Marine service, but insisted he never had intelligence training there either.

"We've seen this story before with the Iranian regime falsely accusing people of being spies and then holding the innocent foreigners for political reasons," State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in December.  In September, the Iranian government released the last two of three American hikers detained there for two years on accusations of espionage.

Hekmati's mother, father, two sisters and brother all live in the U.S.

"Every waking moment, our family is agonizing over Amir's fate," the family's statement says.  "We continue to hope, struggling to reach out to Iran and abroad for Amir's freedom... to the ones who have hearts, and the ones who can hear.  We will not stop hoping and praying for justice, for peaceful dialogue with Iran, and for Amir's safe return home."

A representative at the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., declined to comment for this report and referred ABC News to his colleagues in New York.  Representatives at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately return requests for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptian Prosecutors Call for Hosni Mubarak's Execution

AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO, Egypt) -- Prosecutors in Egypt are seeking the death penalty in the trial for ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.  In their closing arguments, lawyers against the former president said Mubarak, as the erstwhile leader of security forces, should be held responsible for the deaths of hundreds of citizens who protested his authority, The New York Times reports.

"He is responsible for what happened and must bear the legal and political responsibility for what happened," Mustafa Suleiman, the lead prosecutor, said, according to media reports.  Suleiman added that one would be "irrational" and "illogical" to believe that Mubarak had no knowledge protesters were targeted by security forces.

Defense attorneys for Mubarak, who is charged with conspiring to kill protesters in an attempt to retain power, are expected to deliver their closing arguments as early as next week.  A panel of judges may give their decision before the Jan. 25 anniversary of the protests that forced Mubarak out of office, according to the Times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Saddam Hussein Aide Sentenced to Death

Photo Courtesy - KAREN BALLARD/AFP/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- A former member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle has been sentenced to death by hanging.

Tariq Aziz was accused of persecuting Shiite political parties during the Hussein regime. He was charged with taking part in a campaign against members of the Islamic Dawa Party of which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member.

Aziz often played the role of the diplomatic face of the regime, such as in the Iran-Iraq peace talks in Geneva in the 1980s.

The height of his power and influence came at the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, when he was foreign minister.

Aziz ranked 43rd on the United States' most wanted list of Iraqi officials when he gave himself up to American forces in April 2003.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio