Market stall

On Saturday, 22 June, we held our annual stall in #Salisbury market place to raise funds.  We were in a new position this time following the new layout of the market square.  Quieter than usual, and for the first time, we did not have the queue of people anxious for us to start.  We also suffered from a shortage of stock.  Despite this, there was a steady stream of people and we took £110.   This is much lower than previous years and was due to a shortage of stock.

Thanks to Michael and Yvonne P; Andrew; Eddie; Judy; Diana; Peter; Lesley; Tony.

Amnesty stall

Death penalty


No to the death penaltyGeneral 

  • USA
    • Tennessee – are reported to be considering bringing back the electric chair in the light of the recent difficulties with the use of lethal injections
    • Wyoming – are reported to be considering using a firing squad
    • New Hampshire – disappointingly, the second attempt at the repeal of the death penalty was defeated in the Senate on 22nd May. The death sentence remains.
    • Missouri – a stay of execution was granted for Russell Bucklew on 22nd May following his claim that a congenital illness would probably cause additional suffering under the current regime of lethal injection
    • A report appeared on Google that the US Supreme Court has said states must look beyond an intelligence test score in borderline cases of mental disability to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible to be executed

Urgent Actions 

  • #Sudan – Meriam Ibrahim – a Christian woman has been sentenced to hang (and to a flogging) for the ‘apostasy’ of marrying a non-muslim, and for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.  An AI email UA was circulated to the DPLWG on 26th May.  Information in media on 31.5.14 that she was to be released but there are doubts as to the truth of this.  Note – Nesrine Malik expressed concern in the Guardian (4.6.14) that western media are harming Meriam’s chances of release.  Initial local opposition had been having an effect, and Government pride is an issue.  She criticised David Cameron’s approach.  Latest news – Meriam gave birth in chains. She is to be hanged in 2 years.


  • USA – Florida – Michael Duane Zak – UA 140/14 – has exhausted his ordinary court appeals and is seeking executive commutation of his death sentence of life imprisonment. Circulated to DPLWG 28.5.14 (this month’s Urgent Action)


  • #Iraq – UA 151/13 – Osama Jamal ‘Abdullah Mahdi’s files are now with the office of the President for review. If his death sentence is ratified, he could be executed at any time. Circulated to DPLWG 30.5.14



  • Hakamada Iwao – information has been received from Caroline Butler that the Devizes Group have been in contact with AI in Japan in order to send cards and messages to Hakamada. Would the Salisbury Group like to do so?


  • #Belarus – a response has now been received from SCT with contact details of Barry Hay for seeking further advice – an email was sent on 10th June. Note: 


Belarus is the last UN member state in Europe to have retained the death penalty.  In 2013 there were no reported executions, but the death penalty was reinstated this year, and to date two men are believed to have been executed. Death row prisoners receive no advance notice and are executed by a bullet through the back of the head. This month the UN Human Rights Council will be focusing on the human rights situation in Belarus – making it a particularly appropriate time for action by Amnesty.



Monthly meeting – update

The monthly meeting took place on Thursday, 12 June.

The following were discussed:

  • there was an update on the death penalty from Lesley and her report will be a separate post in a few days.  It was noted that the Devizes group were active with Hakamada Iwao who was probably the longest serving prisoner on death row but is now on release.  We are waiting advice from AIUK on the campaign in Belarus
  • an email has been received from Kenny Latunda Dada concerning North Korea and he has a speaker on that country.  This will be investigated
  • John Glen MP.  11 July has been confirmed for him to speak to the group which will be in the Methodist Church at 7:30.  It is restricted to members and supporters.  We are to let AIUK know of this event
  • Unfortunately the regional rep could not come to this meeting but is coming to the next
  • Peter said he had received no copy from anyone and was reluctant to write an entire newsletter.  It was agreed that it would wait until after 11 July
  • Magna Carta.  The group were very disappointed not to have heard from AI HQ following the contact Kate Allen had made with Robert Key.  Fiona is to write to the regional rep to complain.  Peter is to contact the manager of the MC event being organised by the cathedral.  It was unlikely that there would be any money coming from the City Council as they had awarded money to the Cathedral project
  • Cathedral service in November: Tony is to follow up
  • Film.  Omar has been agreed on as this years film.  More details in future.  To be shown on 4 December
  • The stall is on Saturday 21st!

Meeting with John Glen MP: update

The MP for Salisbury, #JohnGlen, has agreed to come and speak to the Salisbury group on Friday 11 July starting at 7:30 pm.  It will be in the Methodist Church in St Edmund’s Church Street, Salisbury.  Parking is in Salt Lane car park.

We invited Mr Glen to speak to the group following his various statements saying he wished to see the Human Rights Act abolished #HRA.  It is about this subject that we want to hear his views and for members to ask questions if they wish.

Open to members and supporters.


Mr Glen came on 11th and members had the opportunity to put points in favour of the HRA to him.  A fuller report will be placed here soon.


The case of Meriam Ibrahim has shaken the world and there have been many calls for her to be released from prison.  The basic facts seem by now to be familiar although there are some differences on details depending where you look.  Over 150,000 signed Amnesty International’s petition and there has been widespread coverage including by the tabloid press in the UK.

She is to receive 100 lashes for adultery and it has to be made clear that it is not adultery as we in the west know it – that is having sexual relations with, in this case, a man not her husband – but the act of marrying a Christian.  In two years she will be executed for apostasy.  On 27 may she gave birth whilst chained to her bed in what has been described as primitive conditions.

The issue of the death penalty for apostasy seems far from clear and some experts say that the relevant hadith actually allows someone to renounce their faith without the penalty of death.  Others say differently.  Another relevant fact which did not receive that much coverage is that it was a complaint made by a relative that caused her to be arrested and tried for apostasy.

Of course Sudan sees it differently and the embassy in Washington DC claims that her real name is not Meriam Ibrahim but Abrar Elhadi Muhammad Abugadeen although it does not explain the significance of this.  What is significant in their view is that it is not a political or religious issue but a legal one.  The problem with this in an Islamic country is distinguishing the difference particularly where the president is keen to make Sudan an Islamic state.  Indeed, one commentator suggests that it is an attempt to distract people from other problems and to be able to claim he is a ‘defender of Islam.’

The media has for the most part, focused on this one woman and ignored the wider context.  An exception is Time Magazine and an article by Kimberly L Smith who argues that ‘fundamentally, the crisis in Sudan is not one of religion but a complete disregard for the dignity of life, particularly female life’ (May 16, 2014).  She goes on to describe in horrific detail the treatment of women and some men in that country because they had the wrong skin colour.  Her descriptions come from working for 10 years in the Sudan.

Once Meriam became a cause célèbre and featured on the front pages it was not long before politicians joined in and all three UK party leaders were loud in their condemnations.  By contrast, a quick look at Amnesty’s web site under, say, Saudi Arabia, reveals two recent cases which are relevant.  One is of a Filipino women sentenced – after an unfair trial with no legal representation and who cannot speak Arabic – to 18 months and 300 lashes of which 50 have already been administered (23 May).  Another is an outrageous sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison given to a man who set up an on-line forum allegedly because it ’insulted Islam’ (7 May).  Both are prisoners of conscience.   There are pages of these but when did you hear of protests from our party leaders about any of them?

It is encouraging to see international protests and we hope for a successful result.  But in a thoughtful piece in the Guardian by a Sudanese writer, Nesrine Malik, she argues that these public interventions can be counterproductive.  There is the sensitivity she says of Sudan being an ex-colony.  She also argues that a lot of these dramatic sounding sentences are because the ‘authorities in a sudden fit of piety pass the harshest sentences, ones rarely carried out, to prove the Islamic project still exists.’  Whereas a private phone call would be made to Saudi Arabia or Bahrein, David Cameron and the other leaders chose a more public condemnation which according to Malik went down badly in Khartoum.

Condemning barbaric sentences is right but there does need to be a degree of even handedness.  There were 21 executions in Sudan last year, only slightly fewer than Saudi which are carried out in public.  Publicly condemning one country while courting another is not helpful.



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