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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Cinq innocents condamnés à mort

by Lina Sankari and Christophe Deroubaix

Five innocents condemned to death

Human Rights

Translated Saturday 17 October 2015, by Adrian Jordan

Ali Mohammed Al Nimr, Asia Bibi, Matsumoto Kenji, Hank Skinner, Mohammad 
Ali Taheri have all been condemned to death. They have committed no crime.

Ali Mohammed Al Nimr, Saudi Arabian victim of the crime of protesting When he was just 17, he lost his liberty. Now he is only 20, and he could lose his head. In May 2014, Ali Mohammed Al Nimr was condemned to be decapitated. Then his body would be crucified and displayed until putrefied. That was the decision handed out in a sentence in May 2014. Something is rotten in the kingdom of the Saudi dynasty.

Ali Mohammed Al Nimr was accused of theft and attacking the forces of order. In reality, the young Saudi was indicted for his participation in demonstrations in Qatif, in the Shiite eastern region of the country. His uncle is none other than the celebrated cleric Nimr Al Nimr, who himself is a critic of the regime. In 2011 he was one of the leaders of the Arab spring. He also was condemned to death. In this country, which holds the presidency of the current cycle of the UN Human Rights Council, which wants to spearhead the fight against Daesh in the region and is the strongest ally of the West, there have been no less than 134 people executed since the start of the year. A worldwide campaign is being conducted for his release.

You can send your letters of protest to the Ambassade d’Arabie saoudite, 5, avenue Hoche 75008 Paris, in France. Or you can find the address in your respective countries, here.

Asia Bibi, Pakistan; Condemned for blasphemy A life for a glass of water. After a dispute erupted in which Pakistani villagers in the Punjab, who, being Muslim, refused to share their glass with their Christian neighbour, Asia Bibi, she now faces death. Several days after the dispute, the women accused Asia Bibi of blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. She was immediately arrested and incarcerated. Condemned to death in 2010, the mother of five children has been hit by one of the harshest blasphemy laws in the world. In the “Land of the Pure”, profaning the Quran can also result in life imprisonment. Numerous violations have been reported and the blasphemy law is often used to convict people in personal and property litigation. In Pakistan, there is little support for Asia Bibi. The governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was killed by a volley of 28 shots by his police protection officer for being among those asking for a change in the law. The Pakistani government lifted a moratorium on execution after the murderous attack against the Peshawar military school, which caused the deaths of 141 people in December 2014.

Matsumoto Kenji, Japan His handicap was not taken into account Matsumoto Kenji is mentally handicapped. Believed to be due to exposure to mercury linked to industrial pollution in the prefecture of Kumamoto, this Japanese only has an IQ somewhere in the range of 60 to 70. Condemned to death for two thefts and murders committed between September 1990 and September 1991, he has walked the corridors of death row since 1993. His mental problems have worsened since his sentence but Japan, whose penal code provides for the suspension of execution of prisoners for reasons of insanity, has never considered it appropriate to commute Matsumoto Kenji’s sentence. Though he proved to be vulnerable during interrogations where torture is commonplace, incapable of following the debate during his trial, even just talking to his lawyer is difficult. In April 2000, the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal. In 2012, Japan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty which was in place for two years. Matsumoto Kenji can now be executed at any moment. On 4 October, Okunishi Masaru, 89, also condemned to death but always protesting his innocence, died on death row, in the medical prison in Hachioji. LS

Hank Skinner, United States In the clutches of deepest Texas The case of Hank Skinner shows the injustice of trial by opinion, made more gangrenous by the influence of financial power. Condemned to death in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend and her children, despite everything, this 53-year-old man continues his fight for life. Even though he has always protested his innocence: an inquiry conducted by a professor of journalism and his students in 2009, led to the first DNA tests being carried out – exculpating the condemned man. However in Texas, land of the death penalty (second largest state by population, accounting for more than half of US executions), the highest scientific proof is not enough. On 20 October 2009, judge Steven Emmert (a Republican, no surprise there) signed the death warrant before giving the Supreme Court the chance to suspend his execution on 24 March 2010. DNA tests carried out in 2014 by his defence and financed by an international subscription campaign again proved another person was present at the scene of the crime. However, the same judge (re-elected in a one horse race, in a county which gave 87 percent of its votes to Romney and 12 percent to Obama in 2012) considered that it carried no new significance.

Mohammad Ali Taheri, Iran “A spreader of corruption” The Iranian Mohammad Ali Taheri was condemned to death on 1 August 2015 for “spreading corruption on Earth”. The founder of the spiritualist group, Erfan e Halgheh, was criticised for teaching theories considered as “insults to the sacred values of Islam”. He is a follower of “cosmic consciousness” and alternative medicine. In 2006, he, quite legally, opened a cultural and academic institute to promote his doctrine and offer “healing sessions”. According to Amnesty International, which considers him a prisoner of conscience, the judgement of the Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court is “is based on the same spiritual teachings and practices which were relied upon in October 2011 to convict him of several offences [...] and to sentence him to five years’ imprisonment, 74 lashes and a fine of nine billion rials (US$300,000)”. Mohammad Ali Taheri would fall victim to pressure exerted by the Pasdaran (The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) on the Iranian judicial system. He is currently held in isolation in Tehran in the sinister Evin prison. [1] DR

[1You will find Amnesty’s “Take Action" page for Mohammad Ali Taheri HERE and other appeals, such as that for Ali Mohammed Al Nimr, by clicking the “Take Action Now” link.

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