Tag Archives: death penalty

Report from our March meeting

24 Mar

End the horror in Syrian prisons: we emailed the Russian and US governments asking them to do everything in their power to stop the mass deaths and torture. AI have a recent report out documenting the thousands who, since 2011, have been executed at Saydnaya Military Prison. Mass hangings are carried out there at night and in the utmost secrecy. Many other detainees at Saydnaya have been killed after being repeatedly tortured and systematically deprived of food, water, medicine and medical care. These and many other atrocities carried out in furtherance of state policy amount to crimes against humanity.

In Turkey lawyer Eren Kesken, an outspoken defender of human rights for over 30 years (during which time she has been subjected to death threats, physical attacks and sustained judicial harassment) is now facing charges including ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ which could bring her a life sentence. We wrote on her behalf to the Turkish Minister of Justice, and sent her a solidarity card.

Our Death Penalty co-ordinator told us of her cases: we signed a birthday card to Chiou Ho-Shun, Taiwan’s longest serving death penalty prisoner, and signed letters pleading for Syrians Mah’moud Tale’ Nayef and Taleb Tale’ Nayef , both sentenced to death.

We discussed wayCollecting for Amnestys in which the Group could reach out to other sections of the community in Taunton, and heard reports from our members. On 19th March Tesco Taunton were kind enough to allow us to collect for Amnesty outside their store, and we raised £214.

We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month in the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton. Come and hear about our work – visitors are always welcome.

Report from our January meeting

18 Jan

548x331solidarity_with_refugees_march_in_london_12_september_2015Taunton Welcomes Refugees! This message underpinned the talk given by Chris Waddilove of Citizens UK. He spoke about his organisation, and then went on to talk of refugees in Taunton. The town is currently hosting four Syrian Refugee families, helping them through a joint collaboration, funded by a UNHCR resettlement scheme.

The families have been settled in privately rented accommodation, and are helped on the same footing as the Troubled Families Project, backed up by local volunteers: EFL teachers, general language support work, and help with such day to day things as transport, DIY  and, most importantly, friendship.

We discussed our Write for Rights day, held on 10 December, Human Rights Day, in St Mary’s Church, Taunton. We were welcomed by the Vicar and Churchwardens at their Coffee Morning, and encouraged those passing through to sign cards for Prisoners of Conscience. On the same day we formally handed over a donation of books on Human Rights issues to the Public Library in Paul Street.

We heard reports from members working on the Death Penalty and on Women’s Human Rights – International Women’s Day is on 8 March. We wrote letters of support to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe,  jailed for 5 years in Iran with no valid trial. We received worrying reports about the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma). A group of Nobel Prize winners have written in protest about this to their fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a leader in the Myanmar Government.

Our next meeting is at 7.30pm on Tuesday 14th February at the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place. All are welcome!

Report from our September meeting

20 Sep

image001Matsumoto Kenji of Japan has been on death row since 1993 – twenty three years. Appeals on his behalf have been turned down; he could be executed at any time.

Prison conditions for those condemned to death in Japan are harsh: they are held in solitary confinement, visitors are infrequent, exercise is limited to two or three sessions a week, and they must remain seated in their cells. Little wonder that Matsumoto, now 65, has become delusional; he is now in a wheelchair. He has had from birth an intellectual disability, related to mercury poisoning, with an IQ of no more than 70.

We wrote on his behalf to the Minister of Justice, pleading for mercy and a moratorium on executions in Japan, and to the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare with concerns about his health.

We held a stall on Castle Green on 16 July, highlighting the issues of Female Genital Mutilation and Early Forced Marriage, with particular reference to Burkino Faso and Sierra Leone. The event was very successful, raising £178.90 in donations from the public; this has since been doubled by the UK government and so the sum of £357.80 has been sent to Amnesty International UK to support its work in this area. We are very grateful to everyone who made donations and also signed a petition concerning these issues.

Susan Mew of the Minehead Group will be speaking at our October meeting (11th October) on Amnesty’s Global Refugee Campaign. We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month at the Quaker Meeting House in Bath Place, Taunton. Visitors are very welcome.

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.

Report from our October meeting

21 Oct

468x283_kenji_matsumoto_japanIn Japan, Matsumoto Kenji could be hanged any day now, and he does not know why. He has been on death row for over 20 years. He was sentenced to death in the early nineties for robberies and murders committed with his brother (who killed himself in detention). Matsumoto has had a mental disability and low IQ from birth, allegedly caused by mercury poisoning. Despite this, he was ruled mentally competent and his sentence confirmed in 2000.

We wrote to the Japanese Minister of Justice asking her to commute Matsumoto’s death sentence, to improve the treatment of death row prisoners and introduce a moratorium on the death penalty. You can send an email to the Japanese authorities asking them not to execute him by clicking here.

We have begun to work on behalf of our new Burmese Prisoners of Conscience, five journalists on the Unity newspaper, sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for ‘disclosing state secrets’ in an article on an alleged secret chemical weapons factory. Unity has been forced to close after the imprisonment of most of its staff; their sentencing has had a chilling, intimidating effect on journalists working in Burma.

We meet at 8pm on the second Tuesday of the month in the Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton. All are welcome.

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.

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