September 11, 2020
IDPN 2020 Issue 37
Congo: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of prisoners die each year due to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and lack of medicine and food, including those on death row. In one prison, built to hold 220 inmates, there are 1,364 inmates detained. Additionally, this year with the coronavirus pandemic, there are concerns that even more prisoners will die. Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has promised to look into the shortages of food and medicine in the prison system and seek out a solution so that, “every detainee can benefit from a treatment that preserves his life, physical and mental health, as well as his dignity.”
Iran: On Wednesday, September 9, 2020, Shahbaz Haddadi was executed by hanging in Borujerd Central Prison. He was sentenced to qisas, that is retribution in kind, for murder. The execution has not been announced by state media. Another man was also scheduled to be executed that day, however, he was granted a two-month extension to pay the family of the victim diyya, that is blood money.
On Thursday, September 10, 2020, Khezr Ghavidel was executed by hanging at Urmia Central Prison. He was arrested seven years ago and convicted on drug related charges.
On Thursday, September 10, 2020, the death sentences for seven Sunni political prisoners was upheld for the third time by Branch 38 of the Mullahs’ Supreme Court. The men have been identified as Farhad Salimi, Qassem Absteh, Davood Abdollahi, Ayub Karimi, Anwar Khezri, Khosrow Besharat, and Kamran Sheikha and have been imprisoned for the last 11 years. The men were arrested in 2009, and charged with “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” “membership in Salafi groups,” “corruption on earth,” and “Moharebeh (waging war against God).”
Pakistan: On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, the Lahore Sessions Court sentenced Asif Pervaiz to death for blasphemy. Asif, a former factory workers and a Christian, was arrested in 2013, after being accused of sending blasphemous messages to his supervisor. Asif has denied the charges, claiming his supervisor was trying to convert him to Islam and was upset when Asif refused. The Muslim country has strict blasphemy laws, with a mandatory death penalty for the convicted. Human rights organization claim that the blasphemy laws are frequently used to target religious minorities and settle personal disputed. Asif’s lawyer plans to appeal the ruling.
Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer, is currently on death row in Pakistan. He was arrested in 2016, and sentenced to death the following year by military tribunal for spying. India maintains that Jadhav was in Iran running a logistics business, having been retired from the Indian Navy for years. Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran and taken to Pakistan, where he was forced to confess. Jadhav has refused to appeal his death sentence, instead he is seeking a military pardon.
Saudi Arabia: Two unnamed terrorists were convicted and sentenced to death for their part in attacks on unarmed villagers in Al-Ahsa on November 3, 2014. They were also connected to an attack on the Al-Dalwah village that killed eight people, including three children, and injured 12 others, including seven children. The men were sentenced to death by a special criminal court in Riyadh, who had the week before, had sentenced seven other members of the same terrorist cell to death on the same charges. Three other members of the terrorist cell were given 25-year jail terms.
A Saudi court has overturned the death sentences handed out to five men who helped carry out the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Jamal was abducted and murder after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. The reduction in punishment came after Jamals’ son granted “pardons” to their father’s killers, sparing them from being executed. They have instead been given prison terms. Jamal’s body, which was dismembered, has not been found.
Turkey: In 2001, capital punishment was abolished for all crimes except those committed during times of war and related to terrorism, before it was entirely removed from the penal code in 2004. With the abolishment of capital punishment, Turkey was hoping to secure membership into the European Union. Turkey has not been accepted in the European Union, and there have been renewed calls to reinstate capital punishment in the nation, especially after a failed 2016 coup attempt. Now, Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop has stated that he believes the death penalty should be approved for a limited number of crimes, including premeditated homicide and sexual crimes against children. Allowing for capital punishment again would require a constitutional change.
United States of America: John Ramirez was scheduled to be executed in Texas on Wednesday, September 9, 2020. John’s execution has been called off by Judge Bobby Galvan of the 94th District Court in Corpus, Christi, Texas. The execution was called off due to a request for a new lawyer. Thirty-six-year-old John is convicted of the murder of 45-year-old Pablo Castro on July 19, 2004, in Corpus Christi, Texas.
On Friday, September 4, 2020, Curtis Flowers was officially exonerated of the charges that once landed him on death row in Mississippi Curtis’ case being in 1996, with the murders of 59-year-lld Bertha Tardy, 45-year-old Carmen Rigby, 42-year-old Robert Golden and 16-year-old Derrick Stewart, who all worked at the Tardy Furniture store. Police eventually arrested Curtis for the murders. By 2010, Curtis was on his sixth trial. Three earlier convictions had been overturned and two trials ended in hung juries. At the end of his 2010 trial, Curtis was again convicted and sentenced to death. However, allegations of racial bias when selecting the jury, prosecutorial misconduct, fabricated and unreliable evidence, and little physical evidence, continued to plague the cause as Curtis again appealed his sentence. In 2019, Curtis’ conviction and death sentence was again thrown out because a court found the prosecutor improperly excluded black jurors. Now, in September of 2020, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office has submitted a motion, which has been approved, to dismiss all charges against Curtis. Curtis was out of prison on bond at the time the motion was filed and has since had his ankle monitor removed.
Nineteen-year-old Darren Peter Zesk could be sentenced to death in California, if convicted of murdering 18-year-old Massai Cole. Massai, from Los Angeles, was killed on February 1, 2020, at a party in Moreno Valley. Zesk is charged with intentionally killing Massai because of his race and lying in wait to kill Massai. Massai’s family members have alleged that Zesk, and his accomplice, are white supremacists. Massai was shot eight times in his upper torso. There is currently a moratorium on executions in California.
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