Month: July 2013

JAPAN: Justice Ministry frustrated by delays in executing Aum Shinrikyo founder

Justice Ministry officials are growing increasingly irritated over moves that have delayed the execution of a man held responsible for 27 murders and fears that gripped the nation in the 1990s.

Defense lawyers have filed yet another appeal for a retrial of Chizuo Matsumoto, the founder of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that spread nerve gas in public and killed its opponents during its reign of terror.

Matsumoto, 58, the blind and bearded guru who went by the name of Shoko Asahara when he led the doomsday cult, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004.

He was convicted of masterminding more than 10 crimes that killed a total of 27 people, including 12 in the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 and eight in a sarin attack on a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994.

3 victims–an anti-Aum lawyer, his wife and their child–were murdered in November 1989.

The Supreme Court finalized Matsumoto’s death sentence in September 2006.

A senior ministry official said the public is demanding justice, given the high death toll from Aum’s crimes that were ordered by Matsumoto.

“The people will not support his escape from the death penalty,” the official said. “As long as the (capital punishment) system exists, the execution of his death sentence is unavoidable ‘homework.'”

Matsumoto’s defense team submitted its 1st appeal for a retrial in November 2008. 4 days after that appeal was rejected in September 2010, the defense team submitted a 2nd appeal.

On May 8 this year, the Supreme Court rejected the 2nd appeal, saying there is no reason to start a retrial. The next day, the defense submitted its 3rd appeal for a retrial to the Tokyo District Court.

Under the Criminal Procedure Law, courts can grant retrials under certain circumstances, including the discovery of new evidence.

However, Justice Ministry officials say Matsumoto’s lawyers are simply nitpicking at the procedures in his trial to prevent him from being sent to the gallows.

The ministry official emphasized that executions are possible even after the defense applies for a retrial.

“In the case of a death-row inmate repeatedly submitting appeals that have little substance, we can carry out the death sentence,” the official said.

In 1999, a death-row inmate was executed even though a court was examining his seventh appeal for a retrial.

However, the Justice Ministry customarily does not execute criminals during their appeals for retrials. It has shown more caution since the 1980s, when 4 death-row inmates were acquitted after their retrials were granted.

Another custom in the ministry is to refrain from executing prisoners when the trials of their accomplices are continuing because the death-row inmate could be summoned to testify.

The trials of 3 former Aum members, including Katsuya Takahashi, 55, who was arrested and indicted on murder charges in 2012 after years on the run, have yet to start.

“If it is decided that Matsumoto’s testimony is unnecessary in the trials for the 3, there will be no obstacle in executing him even if a court is examining his appeal for a retrial,” the ministry official said.

However, some legal experts are calling on the ministry to show restraint during the appeal process.

“Under the current system, the only way to oppose a ruling after a death sentence is finalized is to appeal for a retrial,” said Shinichi Ishizuka, a professor of criminal law and procedure at Ryukoku University’s Graduate School of Law.

Ishizuka also said Matsumoto’s defense team is simply doing its job.

“The defense lawyers’ biggest mission is to protect the rights of death-row inmates,” the professor said. “What the defense team (for Matsumoto) is doing is a legitimate act.”

One other issue concerning Matsumoto’s death sentence is his mental health.

The Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that executions must be suspended for “insane” inmates who cannot understand the meaning of their death sentences.

Defense lawyers say Matsumoto falls under this category.

Matsumoto last appeared in public when the Tokyo District Court handed down its ruling in February 2004.

During his trial, he wore diapers, muttered to himself and sometimes burst out laughing for no apparent reason.

One source said of Matsumoto: “He uses a wheelchair to go to the yard. Even if I ask him something, he does not respond at all. He has become thinner than before, and his physical health condition is good.”

Author and psychiatrist Otohiko Kaga, who interviewed Matsumoto in 2006, recalled: “I was immediately aware that he is not pretending to be suffering from a mental disease. He was suffering from an emotional breakdown that resulted from his confinement. His (mental) condition was not one that makes it possible to carry out the death sentence.”

The Justice Ministry official, however, said Matsumoto is faking it.

“Matsumoto is acting abnormally to pretend that he is suffering from a mental disease. This poses no problem in executing his death sentence,” the official said.

In recent years, Matsumoto has refused to meet people, even his defense lawyers. His self-imposed isolation makes it difficult to confirm if he actually has psychiatric problems.

(source: Asahi Shimbun)


LIBYA: Former Gadafy minister given death sentence

Court finds Ahmed Ibrahim guilty of plotting to kill civilians and undermining security.

A former minister in the government of Muammar Gadafy was sentenced to death today for inciting violence against protesters during the uprising that led to the Libyan dictator’s overthrow in 2011, his lawyer said.

In the 1st such ruling against a Gadafy-era official, a court in Misrata found Ahmed Ibrahim guilty of undermining national security and plotting the killing of civilians, the lawyer, Salim Dans, said.

He said Libya’s supreme court would have to confirm the ruling for the death penalty to be implemented.

Ibrahim held several senior positions including education and information minister. He was captured by Misratan rebel fighters in Gadafy’s hometown Sirte, the last bastion in the former leader’s fight to hold onto power. Gadafy was captured and killed in October 2011.

Libya’s new rulers, who aim to draw up a democratic constitution this year, are keen to try Gadafy’s family members and loyalists at home to show citizens that those who helped him stay in power for 42 years are being punished.

Human rights activists worry legal proceedings will not meet international standards. Libya’s weak central government is trying to reform the judiciary while struggling to stabilise the country and tame the militias that fought Gadafy’s forces.

The most prominent person facing trial is Gadafy’s son Saif al-Islam. Libya has appealed a ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hand him over to the tribunal, which wants to try him for alleged crimes committed during the 2011 uprising.

Libya has challenged the ICC’s right to put Saif al-Islam on trial on the grounds that it is planning its own proceedings. It argues the international court in The Hague has no jurisdiction because it should intervene only if the local legal system is not up to the task.

(source: Irish Times)

Pakistan prosecutors to charge Musharraf over Bhutto murder

Prosecutors at a Pakistani court will next week charge former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with criminal conspiracy and the murder of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, lawyers said Tuesday.

Musharraf, once the most powerful man in the nuclear-armed country, has been under house arrest since April. He appeared before the anti-terrorism court in person on Tuesday.

Indicting a former army chief would be an unprecedented move in a country ruled for more than half of its life by the military.

It would be seen by many as a far more serious challenge to the armed forces’ power than his house arrest was.

Bhutto, twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in a gun and bomb attack in December 2007 after campaigning in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

“Pervez Musharraf appeared before anti-terrorism court today,” prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar told AFP.

“Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman fixed the next hearing on August 6 for General Musharraf’s indictment,” Azhar said.

He said Musharraf would have to appear in person.

“The charges relating to criminal conspiracy and murder will be read out before him and he will have to sign the charge sheet, after which further trial will proceed,” he said.

Musharraf’s lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri told AFP the retired general would plead not guilty and the court had on Tuesday ordered that his bank accounts and assets be unfrozen.

“General Musharraf is appearing in all cases against him,” Kasuri said.

The main prosecutor in the case, Chaudhry Zulfiqar, was shot dead in Islamabad on May 3.

There was no public claim of responsibility for Bhutto’s murder.

Musharraf’s government blamed her assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.

The Bhutto case is one in a series of court battles that Musharraf has faced over allegations dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, since he returned in March from 4 years of self-imposed exile.

The new government headed by Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf deposed in a coup in 1999, has said he should stand trial for treason and has appointed a committee to investigate the charges against him.

The offence carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.

He is also wanted over the death of Baluchistan rebel leader Nawab Akbar Bugti during a military operation in 2006.

On Tuesday Musharraf’s application for bail in the Bugti case was rejected and he has been ordered to appear on August 19, a lawyer and court officials told AFP in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Musharraf, 69, returned from exile to stand in the May elections won by Sharif, but was barred from running for parliament because of the legal allegations against him.

He has been under arrest at his villa in an upmarket Islamabad suburb since April 19.

There is, however, lingering speculation about the possibility of a behind-the-scenes deal that could allow him to leave Pakistan without facing the courts and undermining the military.

(souce: Global Post)

Saudi Arabia: Prison, lashes for liberal Saudi website founder; apostasy charges dropped

Riyadh: The founder of a liberal minded website in Saudi Arabic has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes after angering Islamic authorities in the country, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Raif Badawi, through his website known as Free Saudi Liberals, had urged Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country, which follows a strict form of Islam that includes harsh punishments for challenging customs. A judge in the Red Sea port of Jiddah imposed the sentences but dropped charges of apostasy, which could have brought a death sentence, the Al Watan newspaper reported.

Badawi has been held since June 2012. The newspaper did not name the judge who sentenced Badawi, nor did it say when the ruling was handed down. It was unclear Tuesday whether Badawi would receive any credit for the time he’s already served.

Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the US was “deeply concerned” by the sentence given to Badawi. “We believe that when public speech is deemed offensive, be it via social media or any other means, the issue is best addressed through open dialogue and honest debate,” Psaki said.

Hard-line Saudi clerics have raised repeated objections to social media, including one prominent Islamic scholar describing Twitter as a path to hell. He later withdrew the comment.

(Agence France-Presse)

UAE: Janitor rapist gets death penalty

50-year-old who raped seven-year-old girl on school premises sentenced to death

Abu Dhabi: A man who was found guilty of raping a seven-year-old Emirati pupil on her school premises has been sentenced to death, the Criminal Court of First Instance ruled in the capital on Monday.

According to court documents, after returning home from school one day earlier this year, the victim displayed signs of sexual abuse.

“Her aunt who is accustomed to giving her a bath after school, asked her to remove her trousers. Upon refusing to do so, and after her aunt’s insistence, traces of blood and semen were found in the girl’s underpants,” Hussain Al Jaziri, the plaintiff’s lawyer said during the trial’s closing arguments.

The victim had been sent to the administration office to deliver some papers by her class teacher, who was believed to have left the country days before the defendant was arrested.

Seeing her walk by, the accused, in his 50s, who was also a former janitor at the girl’s private school, reportedly took her into the school’s kitchen where he continued to molest her. He then threatened to kill her and her mother if she told anyone about the incident.

Lawyers had cited the girl’s unsupervised presence in the school to be the direct reason for the aggressor’s actions.
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The defence team had argued that a DNA and blood test were not conducted to link the suspect to the crime. However, the accused had confessed to his crimes claiming that he possessed feelings of affection towards the victim, according to court documents.

“Hopefully this verdict will provide the victim’s family with closure and security knowing that justice was served. I also urge parents and child caretakers everywhere to promptly report any act of aggression or abuse taken against their children as refraining from reporting these incidents only protects the offender,” Al Jaziri told Gulf News. The verdict is subject to appeal.

(Gulf News)

KENYA – David and Judith Tebbutt: Kenya imposes death sentence

A Kenya court has sentenced a former hotel worker to death after convicting him of being in a gang which murdered a British tourist and abducted his wife.

Judith Tebbutt, of Hertfordshire, was held for six months in Somalia after pirates shot her husband David in 2011.

The Met Police, which helped the Kenyan probe, said Ali Babitu Kololo, 27, was found guilty of robbery with violence.

Kenya has not carried out a death sentence since 1987, and Kololo is expected to serve a prison sentence.

He had been sacked from his job at the resort several months before he guided the kidnappers to the Tebbutts’ villa at the remote resort on an island in Kenya’s Lamu archipelago.

He pleaded not guilty at his trial held in the town of Lamu, and said he had been acting under duress.

The Met Police said a small team of counter-terrorism officers travelled to Kenya shortly after the murder and kidnap to support the local police investigation.

The investigation matched footprints found on the beach to the shoes worn by Kololo when he was arrested shortly after the incident.

The Foreign Office confirmed the death penalty had been imposed, but said it was not expected to be carried out because of a moratorium in place since 1987.

A spokesman said: “We welcome efforts by the Kenyan authorities to bring those responsible for the kidnap of Judith Tebbutt and the murder of her husband, David, to justice.

“Today’s news that Ali Babitu Kololo has been found guilty of robbery with violence is a positive development, but the wider Kenya investigations continue.”

Writing on Twitter, the UK ambassador to Somalia, Neil Wigan, said: “Welcome conviction in Lamu today of Kololo for his role in Tebbutt kidnap and murder.”

The Tebbutts, from Bishop’s Stortford, travelled to the resort, close to the Somalia border, after visiting the Masai Mara game reserve.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Mrs Tebbutt, 58, said she felt uncomfortable after arriving at the beach resort for a two-week stay as she and her publisher husband were the only guests.

She was awoken by the sounds of her husband struggling with someone in the dark. Then she was jabbed with the barrel of a rifle and dragged down to the beach.

She revealed after her release she remained unaware that the gang had killed her husband for two weeks after she was kidnapped.

Her release came after her family reportedly paid a ransom. (BBC News)

Sri Lanka President to pardon elderly condemned prisoners

July 28, Colombo: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the Minister of Prisons Rehabilitation and Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera and the Commissioner General of Prisons Chandraratna Pallegama to take steps to provide relief to the elderly condemned prisoners.

Accordingly, the condemned prisoners who are over 60 years of age and who have been imprisoned for more than ten years will be pardoned.

Prison sources say that the documents in this regard are being prepared now.

Sources say that 15 prisoners of this category are in Welikada prison and some of them are ill.

Sri Lanka recognizes death penalty in principle but it is not implemented since the President does not endorse it. All death penalty cases have been commuted to life in prison and there have been no executions since 1973.

Although the government reinstated the death penalty in 2004 for murder, rape and drug trafficking following the murder of a high court judge, no execution has been carried out yet.