International Death Penalty News 2020, Issue 06: Belarus, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Mauritania, United Arab Emirate, United States of America
February 7, 2020
IDPN 2020 Issue 06
Belarus: A court has upheld the life sentence (25 years) for 26-year-old Natalya Kolb. After a night of drinking with 48-year-old Viktar Syarhel, Kolb watched as he beat and beheaded her 8-month-old child. Syarhel was sentenced to death for the murder. He has also lost his appeal against his sentence. The baby was found when her father returned home with two other children. The law in the nation only allows men to be executed. Executions are carried out by a single pistol shot to the back of their heads, after they are blindfolded and forced to kneel.
Hungary: László Toroczkai, the leader of the Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland) party, has called for a social debate regarding the possibility of reinstating the death penalty in the nation. The call comes after the murder of a 61-year-old Hungarian woman who was allegedly murdered “by a perpetrator likely of Gypsy ethnicity.” Supports of reinstating capital punishment argue that the criminal justice system in the nation does not pose sufficient deterrent for committing murder. Most political leaders oppose reinstating capital punishment, questioning whether it is even possible as a member of the European Union.
Indonesia: Mary Jane Veloso, a Philippine national, has been on death row in Indonesia for over nine years. She was sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle drugs into the nation. Mary Jane was arrested approximately 10 years ago, when she traveled from her home in the Philippines to Malaysia to become a domestic worker. When she arrived, she was informed the position was already filled and she was rerouted to Indonesia, and given a suitcase to carry. The suitcase contained heroin and Mary Jane has, since her arrest, insisted that she was unaware of the contents in the suitcase. Mary Jane was most recently scheduled to be executed in April 2015, however there was public outcry against her execution, with many labeling her as a human trafficking victim, leading to stay of execution. Now, the Filipino men who recruited her, Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, have been arrested and accused of illegal recruitment. Mary Jane is scheduled to give a deposition against them. Her legal team hopes that her statements, and their convictions, will lead to Mary Jane being freed from death row.
Iraq: A sleeper cell of the Islamic State terrorist group has kidnapped a group of seven individuals and murdered and unknown number of them. Although the Islamic State has lost much of the power it once held, small groups continue to operate. Allegedly many of the abductees are members of a Turkmen ethnic group.
A report from the United Nations has indicated that over the last year and a half, nearly 400 individuals were tried in Iraq courts for terrorism charges related to membership in the Islamic State. Of those, 60 were deemed to be minors, and 33 minors were found guilty. None of the minors were sentenced to death, however most received lengthy prison terms. Of the adults, 105, all male except one, were sentenced to death. The United Nations is seriously concerned about the fairness of the trials
Mauritania: Ten men were arrested in the Muslim nation, after a video appeared on social media of the men allegedly partaking in traditional wedding ceremony. The nation, which follows Shariah, criminalizes homosexuality. If the men are convicted, they could be sentenced to death, although it has been over a decade since an execution has been carried out.
United Arab Emirates: A 45-year-old Asian has been arrested and his charged with the robbery and murder of two shop owners. When the man was arrested, he had in his possession the phone of the first victim. The Asian man is currently standing trial before the Sharjah Criminal Court, which has adjourned the court until March, to determine if the families of the victims are willing to accept blood money, or if the execution should proceed.
United States of America: On Thursday, February 6, 2020, Abel Ochoa was executed by the state of Texas. Abel, a Mexican national, was 47 years of age. He was executed for the murder of his wife, 29-year-old Cecelia; their daughter 7-year-old Crystal, in a shooting spree that also killed their 9-month-old daughter, Anahi; Abel’s 56-year-old father-in-law Bartolo Alivizo; and his 20-year-old sister-in-law Jacqueline Saleh. The murders occurred on August 4, 2002, in Dallas Texas.
In 2017, Ledell Lee was executed in Arkansas for the sexual assault and murder of 26-year-old Debra Reese on February 9, 1993, in Sunnyside, Arkansas. Now, the Jacksonville City Council has voted to allow evidence from the case to be tested, such a fingerprints and DNA. Supporters of Lee insist that he is innocent of the crime for which he was executed.
The Senate in Washington state has passed a bill that would abolish capital punishment in the state by a vote of 28-18. The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives. The bill was sponsored at the request of the attorney general after a 2018 ruling by the Washington state Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s death penalty unconditional as it was applied. The ruling has lead to some confusion regarding capital punishment, sparking the request from the attorney general to clarify the issue.
After years of delays and ongoing legal challenges to Ohio’s death penalty process, some lawmakers believe it is time to eliminate capital punishment in the state. While the House leader is considering the idea, the Senate counterpart has stated that such a measure is unlikely to pass this year. Ohio’s last execution was carried out in 2018, although the death penalty has languished in the state since a controversial execution in the state in 2014.
Current and former prosecutors in Virginia are backing an effort to abolish capital punishment in the state, calling it a “failed government program.” Both the state House of Representatives and the Senate are considering bills that would abolish capital punishment. There are three inmates on death row in the state.
On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, Thomas Potts, a death row inmate in California was pronounced dead. He was 71 years of age. The cause of the death has not been reported, however foul play is not suspected. Thomas was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly couple, Fred and Shirley Jenks, on August 4, 1997, inside their home.
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