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IDPN 2020

International Death Penalty News 2020, Issue 14: Botswana, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Taiwan, United States of America, Zimbabwe

April 3, 2020
IDPN 2020 Issue 14

Botswana: Thirty-three-year-old Moabi Seabelo Mabiletsa and 39-year-old Matshidiso Tshid Boikanyo were both executed by hanging in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, on Saturday , March 28, 2020. They were executed for murdering a taxi driver six years ago. They are the third and fourth individuals to be executed in the nation since Mokgweetsi Masisi became President in October 2019.

Indonesia: In an attempt to avoid mass infection of COVID-19, The Justice and Human Rights Ministry passed a new decree allowing 30,000 prisoners to be released from overcrowded jails, in which nearly all prisoners share a cell. Inmates will be tested for the virus before being released, and prisoners who have been convicted of corruption, illegal logging, terrorism, drug crimes, gross human rights crimes or transnational organized crimes, will not be eligible for release. Those released from prison will continued to be monitored by the authorities after their release. Additionally, Indonesian jails have limited family visits, switching to online video calls; hand washing facilities and disinfectant chambers have been installed to stem to the spread of the disease; and prisoners have been given hands sanitizer.

Iran: A report by Iran Human Rights determined that the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out at least 280 executions in 2019. At least four of those were for juvenile offenders. Only 84 executions were announced by official Iranian sources. The report also indicates that 80 percent of those executed were convicted of murder, while 11 percent were convicted on drug related offenses.

On Thursday, April 2, 2020, the body of Danial Zeinolabedini was handed over to his family. His family believes he was beaten to death by prison guards. Daniel had allegedly partaken in a prison riot over concerns about COVID-19. Following the riot, he was sent, along with others, to solitary confinement, where he received many beatings. Upon returning Danial’s body to his family, the authorities claimed that Danial committed suicide. Danial was arrested and convicted of a murder at the age of 17, making him a juvenile when he was sentenced to death. Danial’s family insists that he is innocent. Shortly before his death, Danial called his family, telling them about the severity of the beatings and asking for help.

Pakistan: The death sentences and murder convictions for four men have been overturned by a local court. The men were convicted of murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. Three of the men were originally given life sentences, while a court was given a death sentence. Little information is available regarding the change in the case due to the judicial system working in a limited capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic. Daniel was kidnapped by militants while working for the Wall Street Journal in Karachi. His death by beheading was filmed and helped inspire other terrorist groups to do the same.

Taiwan: On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, 53-year-old Weng Jen-hsien was executed for the murder of six of his relatives during a Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration in February 2016. Among those burned death were his parents and a caregiver. Five other relatives were injured in the fire, but, they survived their injuries.

United States of America: Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., also known as the Grim Sleeper serial killer, was found unresponsive in his cell on death row at San Quentin prison on Sunday, March 28, 2020, in California. No signs of trauma was evident, however an autopsy is pending to determine the cause of death. Lonnie was 67 years of age. In 2016, Lonnie was convicted of murdering nine women and a teenage girl between the years of 1985, and 2007. He was also connected to several additional murders, with detectives believing he may have killed at lease 25 women. Lonnie’s murders often failed to garner attention due to him targeting young, vulnerable, and, often, ignored women.

Patrick Jones, an inmate at a low-security federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, is the first federal inmate to die after contracting COVID-19. The Bureau of Prisons has identified 14 other federal inmates, and 13 staff members, that are also infected with the virus. In 2007, Patrick was convicted of possessing crack cocaine with the intent to distribute and sentenced to 30 years in a federal prison.

Fabian Hernandez, a death row inmate in Texas, is the third inmate in a row to have his execution stayed. His execution was scheduled for later this month. Fabian was granted a 60-day stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, who did not give a reason for the stay, however, Fabian’s attorney’s recently requested a stay of execution due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Fabian is convicted of the murder of his former wife, 28-year-old Renee Urbina Hernandez, and her 24-year-old friend, Arthur Lee Fonseca, on November 3, 2006, in front of Renee’s parent’s home in El Paso, Texas.

Zimbabwe: On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Clemency Order Number 1 of 2020 was released, which grants clemency to all death row inmates who have been on death row for at least the last 10 years. Their sentences are commuted to life in prison. Additionally, the order also grants full remission of sentence for all convicted female prisoners, juveniles, and those over 70 years of age that have served at least half their sentences, with a few specific exceptions. The clemency order has earned praise from some members of the National Assembly, however, some members continue to call for the complete abolition of capital punishment in the nation.

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