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Making a Murderer and Matsumoto Kenji: The truth can be stranger than fiction

9 Mar

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Does this set of circumstances sound familiar?

·         A man from a poor background, with an IQ below 70; a score so low that he has difficulty comprehending what is happening to him.
·         His implication in a serious crime, in which a dominant older relative was the prime suspect.
·         A confession extracted by police after hours of intense interrogation, a confession which was subsequently described as ‘coercive’ by the man’s lawyers.

Well, if you’ve been watching the Netflix documentary ‘Making a Murderer’ you may be thinking of the case of Brendan Dassey who, at the age of 16, confessed to assisting his uncle in a rape and murder after hours of intense police questioning. No lawyer was present during the interrogation, nor was his mother, despite the fact that he was a minor.

Brendan Dassey is not the only young man spending a very long time in prison after being convicted of a crime following a confession extracted in contentious circumstances.

In 1993 Matsumoto Kenji – along with his older brother – was arrested and charged with a double murder in Japan. Kenji has an IQ of between 60 and 70, allegedly caused by Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) which was common in the prefecture in which he was born, around the time he was born. As a result of the condition Kenji suffered from seriously hampered cognitive function.

Amnesty has serious concerns about Kenji’s treatment at the hands of the police. His interrogation has been described at coercive, as officers offered him food if he talked and told him to “be a man” during the interrogation.

Upon learning of a warrant being issued for his arrest, his brother killed himself and Kenji was left to face trial alone. During his trial it was accepted by the court that he was totally dependent upon his brother and was unable to stand up to him. Following his conviction he was sentenced to death, a sentence which has been repeatedly upheld in subsequent appeals.

Unfortunately, Kenji’s mental health has deteriorated significantly on death row, to the point that he has developed a delusional disorder. His lawyers have argued that he is currently unable to communicate or understand information pertinent to his case and they further believe that his isolation has contributed significantly to his deteriorating mental health condition.

Kenji’s case is currently under review for appeal and the Minister of Justice will be the key decision-maker. If you have a moment, please write to him and call for him not to execute Kenji. Visit the Death Penalty page of our website to find out where to write. Thank you.

Poet facing execution in Saudi Arabia

10 Feb

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Ashraf, a 35-year-old poet and artist, is sentenced to be executed by Saudi Arabian authorities for his art.

On 17 November, the General Court in Abha, southwest Saudi Arabia, found Ashraf guilty of ‘apostasy’ – renouncing Islam – for his poetry and sentenced him to death.

Arrested for poetry and pictures on his phone

Ashraf was initially arrested on 6 August 2013 following a complaint registered against him by another Saudi citizen, who said that the poet was promoting atheism and spreading blasphemous ideas among young people. Ashraf was released the following day, but then rearrested on 1 January 2014, when he was charged with apostasy – he had supposedly questioned religion and spread atheist thought with his poetry. He was at the same time charged with violating the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law for allegedly taking and storing photos of women on his phone.

On 30 April 2014, Ashraf was sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for the charges relating to images of women on his phone. The General Court accepted Ashraf’s apology for the charges of apostasy and found the punishment to be satisfactory.

However, the court of appeal recommended that Ashraf should still be sentenced for apostasy, and his case was sent back to the General Court, which in turn sentenced him to death for apostasy.

Throughout this whole process, Ashraf was denied access to a lawyer – a clear violation of international human rights law, as well as Saudi Arabia’s national laws.

What we’re calling for

Quite simply, we’re calling for Ashraf to be freed. He has committed no crime, and as such should not be imprisoned, let alone face execution.

We’re asking the Saudi Arabian authorities to drop Ashraf’s conviction and all charges against him. We’re also asking for them to stop executing anyone for ‘apostasy’.

Please sign the petition here calling for Ashraf’s release.

Stop Torture campaign – good news!

31 May

Moses AkatugbaMoses Akatugba, who was sentenced to death for stealing mobile phones, has been granted a total pardon by Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Governor of Delta State in Nigeria. Moses was just 16 when he was arrested, and 24 when he was sentenced to death. He was convicted based on ‘a confession’ obtained through repeated torture.
More than 34,000 people signed the Amnesty petition to the Governor of Delta State in Nigeria, asking him to show mercy on Moses Akatugba – and it’s thanks to those actions that Moses will experience freedom again after ten years behind bars, the last few of which were on death row.

Moses sent Amnesty International this message:
‘I am overwhelmed. I thank Amnesty International and their activists for the great support that made me a conqueror in this situation. Amnesty International members and activist are my heroes.
‘I want to assure them, that this great effort they have show to me will not be in vain, by the special grace of God I will live up to their expectation.
‘I promise to be a human rights activist, to fight for others. I am thanking the Governor for his kind gesture and for keeping to his words.’

Together our voices really can free people, change laws and defend human rights around the world.

Urgent Action: They plan to hang him tomorrow

18 Mar

Shafqat-Hussain-pictured--007Shafqat Hussain was still a child – fourteen years old – when Pakistan authorities sentenced him to death. His execution is due to take place tomorrow.

According to his lawyers, he was convicted based on a “confession” following nine days of torture by police.

Hussain has been in prison for ten years now. But late last week, authorities suddenly issued his death warrants.

They’re planning to hang him tomorrow.

Please, call on Pakistan to halt this execution immediately.
Take action by clicking here to help save this young man’s life. It will only take you a couple of minutes to sign the petition.

Thank you.

Stop the Execution of Reggie Clemons in Missouri

13 Jan

action.retrievefileOn February 4th, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Reggie Clemons’ case. He was sentenced to death in St. Louis as an accomplice to a 1991 murder. Allegations of police coercion, prosecutorial misconduct, and a ‘stacked’ jury in his case were compounded by inadequate trial attorneys. Despite so many lingering questions, Missouri still might execute Reggie Clemons.

The Clemons case illustrates many of the flaws of the US death penalty system. Urge Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to prevent an execution.

Please write to Governor Jeremiah W. Nixon to ask him stop the execution of Reggie Clemons. You can do this via this link.

Pakistan woman sentenced to death for blasphemy

31 Oct

Asia Bibi

122085_aasia_bibi_and_familyPakistani Christian Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, has had her appeal rejected by the Lahore High Court of Appeal. Asia Bibi, who is 45 years old and has five children, was initially found guilty of blasphemy on 8 November 2010 and sentenced to death under Section 295C of Pakistan’s Penal Code for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

There are serious fair trial concerns. Asia Bibi claims the evidence of her alleged blasphemy, which has been accepted by successive courts, was fabricated, and that she did not have access to a lawyer during her detention and the final day of her trial in 2010. Asia Bibi’s lawyer has maintained that the case against her is based on hearsay. Human rights activists have voiced concerns that judges of the Lahore High Court may have rejected the appeal out of fear for their safety. Religious groups demanding her execution were present in court.

Asia Bibi has been kept in almost total isolation for her own protection since she was first arrested in 2009. Her mental and physical health have reportedly deteriorated during her time in detention including on death row, and her family and lawyers continue to fear for her safety. In December 2010, a prominent Islamic cleric offered half a million Pakistani rupees (about US$5,000) to anyone who killed Asia Bibi.  The blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal disputes, and those accused of blasphemy often become targets of violence.

To find out how you can help Asia Bibi click here: https://amnestytaunton.wordpress.com/?page_id=122&preview=true

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