February 2, 2018

IDPN 2018 Issue 05

Bangladesh: Sixty-one-year-old Billal Hossain and his 20-year-old son Muhfuzul Islam have both been sentenced to death for the murder of one of their relatives in 2015. They abducted the relative, 7-year-old Maqsudul Islam Tuhin, held him for ransom before killing him, and then hid his body. In addition to the death penalty, they have also been sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined. The abduction and murder was in response to an insult to Billal given by the boy’s father.



Belarus: Last year, in 2017, five individuals were sentenced to death. Three others were sentenced to life in prison, an alternative to the death penalty. At least one individual was executed last year, carried out by firing squad. Belarus is the only European nation to retain the death penalty.



Iran: Some protesters who were arrested in December 2017, are now facing charges of “rebellion” and “corruption on earth,” which means that they could be sentenced to death. Other protesters who were arrested and have since been released are being threatened with more serious charges and punishments if they do speak out again. Approximately 400 were arrested at the protest and 50 remain detained. Three to six individuals died during the protests.

On Sunday, January 28, 2018, at least two prisoners were executed by hanging at Urmia Central Prison. Both were convicted of murder. The two prisoners, both men, were identified as Tehran Behshad and Farhad Alba.

On Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 22-year-old Ali Kazemi was executed by hanging in Busher province. Allegedly, his execution was carried out without notifying his lawyers, which is a violation of Iranian law. Amnesty International has condemned his execution, as Ali was allegedly a minor at the time of the crime for which he was executed. Ali was convicted of murder.



Malaysia: In 2013, Chin Chui Ling and her husband Soh Chew Tong were convicted of homicide for starving Mey Sichan, their Cambodian maid, to death. Two years later they were sentenced to death by an appeals court. Now, the Federal Court of Malaysia reduced the charge and removed them from death row. Mey was brought to Malaysia in 2011, and found dead one year later weighing just 57.5 pounds and with signs of having been physically abused. Chin and Soh have now been sentenced to 10 years in prison.



Saudi Arabia: Ibrahim Ciroma and Maimidu Issah were executed by hanging after being convicted of drug related crimes. The two men were Nigerian nationals. There are at least 15 other Nigerians on death row in the kingdom. Nigerian officials are concerned they will also be executed. Attempts to have the men extradited to Nigeria to serve out their sentences or be executed have allegedly been ignored by Saudi authorities.



United States of America: On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, William Rayford was executed by the state of Texas. He was 64 years of age. He was pronounced dead at 8:48 pm CST, inside the Walls Unit execution chamber at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. William was sentenced to death for the murder of Carol Hall in 1999. He was out on parole, after 8 years in prison, for another, similar murder at the time. Read more about William and his case here.

On Thursday, February 1, 2018, John Battaglia was executed by the state of Texas. He was 62 years of age. John was convicted of murdering his two daughters, 9-year-old Faith and 6-year-old Liberty, while on the phone with their mother, John’s estranged wife, in 2001. John was pronounced dead at 9:40 pm CST, inside the Walls Unit execution chamber at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Read more about John’s case here.

Five men on death row in Pennsylvania, have joined together for a lawsuit which argues that keeping death row inmates isolated for 22-24 hours a day is unlawful, a violation of their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The five men have spent a cumulative 115 years on death, each spending between 16 and 27 years on death row. The lawsuit is seeking to end the practice of mandatory solitary confinement. In addition to the near complete isolation in small cells, the lawsuit also alleges that the cells are kept illuminated at all times. The five men currently involved in the lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status are 50-year-old Anthony Reid, 49-year-old Ricardo Natividad, 46-year-old Mark Spotz, 49-year-old Ronald Gibson, and 46-year-old Jermont Cox. They are being represented by the lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Executions are currently on hold in state by order of Governor Tom Wolf. The last execution in Pennsylvania was in 1999.

Over the course of the last week, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected appeals by 40 death row inmates. Such large rulings are unusual. In 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States found Florida’s death penalty sentencing procedure to be unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled that a jury’s decision to sentence a defendant to death must be unanimous and that their decision would be retroactively applied to any case after 2002 - the last year in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on the legality of Florida’s death penalty sentencing. The 40 appeals denied by the Florida Supreme Court this last week, were also cases from before 2002. All were arguing that the new unanimity requirements should be applied to their cases as well.

Since 2013, a battle in has played out in the courts between Louisiana State Penitentiary and the death row inmates residing there. The inmate allege that they are forced to endure cruel and unusual punishment due to the hot weather during the summer. The prison in which they are residing does not have air conditioning and it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to install a unit to air condition the entire prison. The prison has attempted to reduce the heat using other measures. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a lower judge’s ruling that the prison must maintain a heat index temperature of no higher than 88 degrees cannot be upheld and have sent the case back for revisions to the ruling.

Legislatures in South Carolina are attempting to address the issue of shortages of lethal injection drugs with two measures. The first bill would initiate a shield law - that is a state law that would protect the identities of those who supply the state with lethal injection drugs. The second bill would allow for the state to use the electric chair if it was unable to obtain the drugs. Currently, inmates have the option of being executed by the lethal injection or by the electric chair, however they cannot be forced to use the chair. Both bills have passed the South Carolina Senate subcommittee and can go before the full committee. All inmate on death row in the state have appeals pending at this time.

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