Month: February 2014

Bali Nine mule Scott Rush: I wish I was dead

february 28, 2014

“IF I had my way, I would have been dead at 25. I just didn’t want to be executed in front of the entire world.”

So declares Bali Nine drug mule Scott Rush, now 28, in utter despair. Recalling the day in 2011 when his death sentence was commuted to life, he views his current fate as worse than the death he escaped.

Amid the roar and kerfuffle of the Schapelle Corby media circus, Rush, a despondent figure, is one of the forgotten Australian inmates in Bali, suspended in the shadows of the convicted trafficker’s spotlight.

He is particularly alone.

Now isolated in Karangasem jail, in remote east Bali, he’s at the end of his tether after enduring a prison hell for almost a decade. He constantly talks of death as his only way out.

Asked if he would commit suicide, he says he would not do it himself, muttering that he would enlist help. “I’m not going to be able to survive here. I wish I was dead,” he tells The Weekend Australian. “I’m trying to figure out a way to do it that’s moral. It’s a coward’s way out, but I can’t put up with this shit any more.

“I don’t know what my future is. I’ll never get out. I will be taken away from here in a box.”

Speaking from behind thick bars separating us in a sparse visiting area, he says he dreams of how things could be different, admitting he desperately wants a wife and children and to lead a normal life.

“I don’t want to be on a life sentence,” he says. “But I really don’t know what I would do (on the outside). I’m a good person gone bad. (Bali Nine ringleaders) Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are bad people who have come good.”

In September 2006, an Indonesian court unexpectedly replaced Rush’s life term with a death sentence. That decision was overturned in 2011.

Transferred 3 1/2 weeks ago from Kerobokan jail to Karangesem prison, a three-hour drive away, Rush is the only foreigner among 157 Indonesian inmates, one of 141 males and the first prisoner to be moved of his own volition. He sees it as a coup. He does not want to return to Kerobokan.

Of the furore Corby sparked over speculation she was being paid about $2 million for a TV interview, Rush cannot understand the public outrage. “Good on her. She’s lost 10 years of her life – she should be compensated. We should all get compensation when we get out.”

(Source: The Australian)

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Venezuela protests to blame for 50 deaths, says Maduro

february 27, 2014

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has said the number of deaths which can be connected to two weeks of anti-government protests has risen above 50.

Official estimates put the number killed in clashes at 13. Mr Maduro has blamed the violence on fascist groups.

He was speaking ahead of a meeting intended to put an end to the unrest, sparked by anger at high inflation, rampant crime and food shortages.

But the main opposition coalition has refused to attend, calling it a farce.

“We will not lend ourselves to a sham dialogue that would end in a mockery of our compatriots,” the opposition MUD said in a letter to Vice President Jorge Arreaza.

On Monday, Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega said 13 people had died in protest-related violence. At the time, opposition groups said the number of dead was at least 15.

Speaking at a pro-government rally staged by farmers outside the presidential palace, Mr Maduro said there were “more than 50 dead as a result of road blocks and barricades”.

“Yesterday, an 84-year-old lady died in eastern Caracas because she was held up at a road block for three hours and died in her family’s car of a heart attack,” he said.

He did not further clarify his reasons for giving a steep increase in the death toll.

Elsewhere in Caracas, hundreds of people, mostly women, led by the wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez protested against the government’s handling of the demonstrations.

‘Photo opportunity’

The “national peace conference” was called by President Maduro a few days ago, after another violent weekend.

The Roman Catholic church and a major business federation had confirmed their presence.

The protests have continued, although their numbers seem to be declining.

The leader of the opposition, Henrique Capriles, dismissed the talks initiative as a “photo opportunity” for Mr Maduro.

“Who does dialogue suit more? Nicolas [Maduro], I think. This is a government that is becoming extinct, eating itself up,” Mr Capriles told Reuters news agency.

On Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said he was “saddened by the violence” and called for the “protection of human rights” in Venezuela.

Pope Francis also said he hoped that “violence and hostility would cease as soon as possible”.

He called on the Venezuelan people “to promote reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and sincere dialogue”.

Egypt: 26 face death penalty over Suez Canal plot

february 27, 2014

An Egyptian court has sentenced 26 people to death for conspiring to attack ships transiting the Suez Canal.

The defendants were accused and found guilty of “founding and leading a terror group that aimed to attack peoples freedom, damage national unity and attack the Suez Canal waterway” says an official statement by the Cairo Criminal Court.

This includes plans to attack ships passing the canal, security buildings, foreign tourists and local police.

A verdict was given after a single session. Only one defendant, less than 18 years old, managed to escape the death sentence.

The case has been passed on to the Grand Mufti, a top Muslim cleric who must approve all executions, with a final decision to be made on March 19th.

Defendants were charged in absentia. If and when they are finally caught, they will be allowed a re-trial. According to the Washington Post it is common for defendants to receive the death penalty when tried in absentia.

Terrorist activity along the canal has been on the increase in recent years, since the ousting of Egyptian president Hosri Mubarak in 2011. Tensions were only fuelled further by the forced expulsion of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi in July 2013 via military intervention.

Many of the attacks have been supposedly committed by Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, an al-Qaida linked organisation.

Another group, Furqan Bridgades made several claims in regards to attacks along the canal last year.*

It is unknown whether the convicted men in question are associated with either group.

However, according to Times of India, the trial covers a series of offences that happened before the Arab Spring uprising, at some time between 2004 and 2009.

(Source: Port Technology)

INDONESIA -Two Iranian Nationals Nabbed With 60 Kg of Meth in West Java

february 27, 2014

Jakarta. Indonesian anti-drug agents arrested two Iranian nationals caught allegedly unearthing 60 kilograms of methamphetamine buried in Sukabumi, West Java, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) said on Thursday.

The agency captured Mostava Moradaviland, 32, and Seiyed Hasheim Mosavipour, 35, at 8:10 a.m. Wednesday morning as the suspected drug traffickers allegedly dug up narcotics buried in the seaside town of Pelabuhan Ratu, Sukabumi, West Java. Both men face the death penalty under Indonesia’s strict anti-drug laws.

The drugs, a large haul of methamphetamine, was reportedly smuggled out of either Iran or Afghanistan and was in transit in Indonesia to be sold in either Australia or New Zealand.

(Source: The Jakarta Globe)

SHOCKING: Teenage Gang-Rape Survivor in Sudan Convicted of ‘Indecent Acts’

february 25, 2014

An 18-year-old Ethiopian migrant woman in Khartoum, Sudan was out looking for housing, when she was lured into an empty property and gang-raped by seven men. A police officer found her after the attack and took her to the police station. However, since it was a public holiday, a formal complaint was not filed.

The perpetrators of the rapes filmed the attack and distributed the video through social media six months later. As a result, everyone involved was arrested.

Of the seven men put on trial, three were convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes. Two more were convicted of indecent acts and sentenced to 40 lashes and fines. Another man was convicted of distributing indecent material and sentenced to 40 lashes and a heavy fine. The seventh individual was released on grounds of insufficient evidence against him. Those sentenced to lashing had their sentences carried out immediately after the trial in a closed court.

But that’s not where the story ends.

The young woman, who is now nine months pregnant, was first charged with adultery, which carries a possible sentence of death by stoning in Sudan. For any married person, sex outside the marriage is considered a capital offense under the Sudanese legal code.

However, the court eventually dropped the charge after recognizing that the woman is divorced and therefore not subject to being charged as a married person for adultery.  When she tried to file a formal complaint of the rapes, the Attorney General did not allow her to do so because she was under investigation for a criminal offense.

During the trial, she was found guilty of committing “Indecent Acts,” sentenced to a month in prison, which has been suspended, and fined 5,000 Sudanese Pounds (about $961.00). She has also been threatened with “punishment for illegal entry” under Sudan’s immigration law and faces a prison sentence of 1 to 2 years and/or a fine, followed by expulsion.

Guilty verdicts and immigration charges against survivors of sexual violence only discourage individuals who experience such violations from speaking up and seeking help, reinforcing a culture of impunity for the perpetrators. Governments around the world must protect the human rights and safety of people living within their borders and hold those who violate those rights accountable.

We can help break the cycle of violence against women and girls globally by urging the U.S. Congress to pass legislation making this a diplomatic priority.  The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), currently under consideration as H.R. 3571 in the House of Representatives and soon to be reintroduced in the Senate, would do just that. You can start by taking action here to urge your Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor!

 

Uganda: President Museveni Signs Anti-Homosexuality Bill

february 24, 2014 (amnesty)

President Museveni has just signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. It is a draconian and damaging piece of legislation, Amnesty International said today.

“This deeply offensive piece of legislation is an affront to the human rights of all Ugandans and should never have got this far,” said Michelle Kagari, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

“This legislation will institutionalize hatred and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda. Its passage into law signals a very grave episode in the nation’s history.”

“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill will further criminalize consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex, with some offences carrying life imprisonment. It also includes offences such as ‘promotion of homosexuality’, which will directly impact human rights defenders and healthcare providers. It makes a mockery of the rights enshrined in the Ugandan constitution.”

Uganda has become more repressive recently. In the last 6 months it has brought into law the Public Order Management Act, then the Anti-Pornography bill and now the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. 

Libya: Politicians face death penalty over blasphemous cartoon

february 27, 2014 (amnesty international)

Two politicians could be sentenced to death over a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam when a verdict is issued in their case on Sunday 2 March, said Amnesty International. The organization is calling for the charges against them to be dropped immediately.

The cartoon, which depicts a group of men discussing the role of women in society, appeared on a Libyan National Party electoral campaign poster in the main streets of Libyan cities ahead of parliamentary elections in 2012.

“It is shocking that two political figures may face a firing squad over a cartoon that was published on an electoral campaign poster. No one should be prosecuted for freely expressing his or her views in public – however offensive they may seem to others,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“Libyans must be free to speak their minds, regardless of whether those views are expressed verbally, or appear on a poster, in a poem or a newspaper article. It is ludicrous that doing so could be considered a crime punishable by death.”

The cartoon caused an uproar because, unintentionally, it featured the same character used to depict the Prophet Mohammed in anti-Islamic comic published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. However, the Libyan poster made no reference to Islam or the Prophet Mohammed.

Ali Tekbali and Fathi Sager, both members of the Libyan National Party, were charged nearly a year ago with a string of offences including “promoting and possessing satirical drawings offensive to Islam and the Prophet” and “instigating discord” between Libyans over the publication of the cartoon. The offices of the Libyan National Party, a moderate political party, were raided in November 2012 by a state-affiliated militia and have been closed since then by order of the prosecution.

“The charges against them are absurd. The poster makes no reference to religion. The fact that this case was not dismissed from the outset sends a chilling message that freedom of expression in Libya is under serious threat,” said Said Boumedouha.

Fathi Sagher told Amnesty International last week that he was hoping for the best and putting his faith in the fact that “some judges in the Libyan courts are fair and courageous enough to do the right thing.”

Ali Tekbali told Amnesty International that he had hoped the poster would challenge stereotypes of women held by some groups in Libya.

Libyans are currently in the process of shaping the future of post-al-Gaddafi Libya. Elections for an assembly to draft a new constitution took place last week amidst reports of violence and protests in some areas. A re-run of elections in polling stations, where violence prevented voting was held yesterday.

“Libya is at a critical juncture. Once elected, the constitutional assembly will have a responsibility to safeguard freedom of expression and enshrine women’s rights and other human rights principles in the new constitution to prevent future attempts to curtail freedoms,” said Said Boumedouha.

“In a climate of such change, open debate and different opinions should be encouraged, not hushed up and swept beneath the carpet.”

In recent months the Libyan authorities have increased curbs on freedom of expression across the country with a series of measures introduced to clamp down on free speech. Three weeks ago an al-Gaddafi era law banning insults to the state was revived and amended to protect the“17 February Revolution”. Earlier a ban on satellite stations broadcasting views perceived as hostile to the “17 February Revolution” was also introduced.

“Libya’s laws need to be drastically reviewed and brought in line with international standards on human rights. Any clauses that prescribe the death penalty and criminalize free expression must be expunged immediately,” said Said Boumedouha.

In another case illustrating the repressive crackdown on freedom of expression, Amara al-Khattabi, editor of al-Umma Newspaper, is facing up to 15 years in prison for publishing a list of 84 judges whom he alleges were corrupt. His trial is expected to resume on 2 March. Amnesty International is calling for all charges against him to be dropped.

Problematic articles within Libya’s Penal Code

Fathi Sager and Ali Tekbali are prosecuted on charges under Articles 203, 207 and 291 of the Penal Code all of which place undue restrictions on freedom of expression and contravene Libya’s international human rights obligations and the Constitutional declaration adopted on 3 August 2011 which guarantees freedom of expression.

Article 203 of the Penal Code provides the death penalty for any act “aiming at initiating a civil war in the country, or fragmenting national unity, or seeking to cause discord” between Libyans.

Article 207 prescribes the death penalty for promoting “theories or principles” with a view of changing the fundamental principles of the constitution or the fundamental structures of the social system” or “overthrowing the state’s political, social and economic systems”.

Article 291 criminalizes blasphemy and prescribes a two-year prison term for insults to Islam, “the Divine being”, the Prophet and other prophets.

The two politicians were also wrongly charged under Article 318 of the Penal Code, which prescribes a one-year prison term and a fine for anyone who “publicly instigates hate or contempt” for a  religious community in a manner that disturbs public security.

Under international law, restrictions on freedom of expression are allowed only on specific grounds, such as protecting national security, public order, or the rights of others. Such restrictions may only be imposed if absolutely necessary. Amnesty International believes that imprisonment would always be a disproportionate measure.