This is to let you know that on Thursday a Pakistani Court acquitted Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, the Christian couple, who had been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy in 2014, and ordered their release from prison. The resolution stated that the evidence against the couple was ‘deeply flawed’ as, since both were ‘illiterate’, they would have been unable to send the text. It called for them to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for their death sentences – and those of all others on death row for allegedly violating the Country’s ‘draconian’ blasphemy laws – to be speedily reviewed.
This is an urgent action for a couple in prison in Faisalabad for the crime of blasphemy. They face the death penalty and have been in prison since 2014. They are Shafqat and Shagufta and further details can be found on the link below from Amnesty International. The problem is that the ‘crime’ of blasphemy is very hard to prove and is based often on hearsay. The allegation can be made as part of a feud. If you have time to respond to the action it would be appreciated. Previous actions have been successful in gaining the release of people accused of this so-called crime.
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This urgent action is on behalf of a Christian couple in Pakistan who are on death row for ‘Blasphemy’ still a crime in that country. If convicted, the death penalty is mandatory. The laws are vague and arouse considerable tensions. Allegations can be made and it is extremely difficult for the police and courts to carry out proper investigations. Angry crowds can congregate, whipped up by religious clerics and their supporters, making it extremely difficult for justice to be done. Judges are under pressure to convict or risk becoming targets themselves. Some individuals take the law into their own hands and anyone associated with the accused, including lawyers, are at risk of attack or murder.
Another problem is constant trial postponements as judges are reluctant to decide. Since defendants are denied bail, it can mean years spent in captivity. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has said that many of these accusations are false and are made for ulterior motives and to settle feuds.
This UA is on behalf of a Christian couple, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagfur Kauser sentence to death in 2014 for allegedly sending a blasphemous text to a cleric. They have been in prison for nearly 8 years awaiting their appeal. They should not be in prison at all.
The link below gives the full details and a suggested letter which can be sent via email. Since many of our followers are in the USA (welcome!) the US embassy address to send copies is:
Embassy of Pakistan
3517 International Ct
Washington DC 20008
Or the email is: email@example.com
We hope you have time to write. Thank you.
Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan for Canada a free woman
Many people were outraged at the treatment Asia Bibi received in Pakistan and have written letters in support of her. We have today (12 June 2019) heard that she has been acquitted.
Asia Bibi is a Christian farm worker, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. After an eight-year ordeal, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges and released her in October 2018. Following the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold her acquittal on 29 January 2019, it was confirmed by the Pakistani Foreign Office on 9 May that she had left Pakistan and safely arrived in Canada to be reunited with her family.
We are extremely grateful to supporters who wrote appeals to not only acquit Asia Bibi but to also ensure her safe passage out of Pakistan. Her wrongful death sentence has also helped bring more nuance into the discourse around the blasphemy laws and their rampant misuse. Offered asylum in Canada, Asia Bibi can begin to live her life as a free woman.
We thank you, for standing with Asia Bibi during her ordeal. It’s a great relief that Asia Bibi and her family are safe. She should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone faced the death penalty. Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
Source: Amnesty press release
The media has devoted considerable space to the #executions of five people in #Indonesia. It has been on the main news and in all of the main papers in the UK to a greater or lesser extent. There is a general sense of outrage that the execution and the manner of its doing – that is by firing squad – are barbaric. One would be forgiven for thinking that Indonesia is the only place where people are being executed.
It isn’t. We must not forget that China continues to execute more than the rest of the world put together although the precise number is not known because it is a state secret. Executions continue at a faster rate than previously in Iran. Public beheadings still continue in Saudi Arabia. And in the southern states of USA, many are executed after spending years and years on death row. Pakistan has been busy too. The list is a long one.
Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all cases. We should be outraged wherever it happens not just in one country such as Indonesia. If you feel outraged at the use of this penalty, why don’t you join us and write letters or send emails? Follow this site or the Amnesty site for urgent actions.
This is the monthly report on the state of death penalty around the world, thanks to Lesley for compiling it.
The news that Ray Hilton has been released after 28 years on death row is both heartening and shocking. That the state of Alabama should have so badly conducted his trial and then refused to allow the fresh ballistic evidence to be heard, which was the only evidence against him, is particularly shocking. There can be few better examples of the dangers of this penalty than a case such as this.
Britain’s role in Afghanistan is coming to an after over a decade of bloodshed and war. It is doubtful that the country is in a fit state to function effectively since the Taliban and the warlords are still very much in evidence and there are reports of ISIS being present in the country as well. After all this time it is easy to forget some of the original aims which were defeating terrorism and the Taliban. We can also forget that it was the CIA who helped establish, arm and train the Taliban in order to assist them in their fight with the Russians.
One of the major victims of the years of war is women. It has turned thousand of Afghan women into refugees and widows – or both – and made it dangerous for them to seek schooling, go out to work, get healthcare or secure paid employment. Before the arrival of the Taliban in 1996, women’s rights had steadily improved and indeed, there are many photographs from that era women and girls in schools and university with not a burqa or veil in sight. Improving the rights of women became one of the additional aims of the invasion and it will be recalled that Cherie Blair – wife of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair – hosted an event in 10, Downing Street in 2001 with this aim in mind. Kofi Annan said:
There cannot be true peace and recovery in Afghanistan without a restoration of the rights of women.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the then secretary of state Colin Powell:
The recovery of Afghanistan must entail a restoration of the rights of women, indeed it will not be possible without them.
At the South West regional conference of Amnesty International it was heartening to hear from someone who has worked to improve the status of women through theatre and artistic groups in the countryside. The speaker was Abdul Hakim Hashemi Hamidi who set up the Simorgh Film Association of Culture and Art, SFACA. Unlike many aid programmes which tend to stay in Kabul or the main cities, SFACA goes out into the countryside and to the villages.
He has organised educational theatre workshops in prisons, juvenile correction centres, drug addiction rehabilitation centres, in schools and with the police. He has produced films with an emphasis on human rights and the role of women.
Not all the problems faced by women are solely to do with the Taliban. Another factor is honour killings which are at a very high rate in the country. 57% are identified as the responsibility of a family member and 21% by the husband. The perpetrator of 43% killings is unclear however. A telling quote from the PowerPoint display was:
A problem with women [is] because men don’t accept women have rights
He went on to discuss the problems of human rights defenders in Afghanistan. These included difficulty in
travelling to some areas combined with a lack of government control in some parts of the country, traditional beliefs and illiteracy. Religion was a main cause he said and human rights are seen as a western construct. He urged that the UK government consider the role of human rights defenders in their discussions with the Afghans.
It was an interesting and uplifting talk by someone who has taken risks to go into the Afghanistan countryside to promote the rights of women. Abdul is a visiting fellow on the Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at York University. There is a permanent link to the York University Centre for Applied Human Rights at the bottom of the main page.
This is the monthly #deathpenalty report with thanks to Lesley for compiling it. One interesting fact is that Indonesia has suspended an execution following the airline crash which has meant the eyes of the world’s media is upon them.
We have added the Death Penalty Information site to list of links at the bottom of the home page
This is the monthly death penalty report thanks to Lesley.
- 19th Sept – A Death Row Pop Up Restaurant offering a ‘last meal without the nasty execution bit’ was due to open in Hoxton, London. Condemned by Amnesty as ‘in appallingly bad taste’, the owners initially issued an apology but later withdrew it, saying ‘all over the world there are attractions that have the potential to offend’
- LC spoke with Kate Allen at the recent Stop Torture Campaign Skills Day and raised the Group’s concern that the Death Penalty was no longer a distinct campaign. Kate noted our concern, but said AI needed to look more to local groups to take the campaign forward.
- Pakistan – Mohammed Asghar, the British Pakistani 70 year old with paranoid schizophrenia, sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ was shot and badly injured in his prison cell by a prison guard. There is an on-line 38 Degrees Petition calling on David Cameron to press his case with the Pakistan Government.
- 21st September – the third anniversary of the execution of the execution of Troy Davis. An excerpt from the statement issued by the National Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty reads: ‘……. I am Troy Davis. And we are 90 million strong. You, Xxxxx, are Troy Davis, and we are 90 million stronger – because of you. Together we are building the ground-game state by state and nationwide to fulfil Troy’s wishes: to keep fighting this battle until we end the death penalty once and for all.’
- Texas – News today (9 October) that Manuel Velez was released from prison following 6 years on Death Row and 9 years in prison. Convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the killing of his girlfriend’s child, in 2012 his death sentence was thrown out because of false testimony during the sentencing phase. A new trial was ordered because of inadequate legal assistance in his original trial. The DA’s office continue to maintain, however, that he contributed to the child’s death. See a separate post on this subject.
- Afghanistan – Despite attempts by AI and other Human Rights Organisations to persuade the new President, Ashraf Ghani, to stop the execution of 5 men convicted of rape, they were hanged on 8th October. There were accusations of a lack of evidence and forced confessions.
Death Penalty Statistics for 2013
- 778 executions were known to have been carried out in 22 countries
- 1,925 people in 57 countries were known to have been sentenced to death
- 23,392 people were known to have been on death row world-wide
- These figures do not include the thousands of executions likely to have taken place in China where they are a state secret.
- Iran – UA 85/14 – (update) Reyhaneh Jabbari – her execution date of 30th September was deferred, but she remains at risk as the family of the man killed (who Reyhaneh claims sexually assaulted her) could request her execution at any time. David Cameron has spoken out on her behalf to President Rouhani, and been criticised for ‘unacceptable remarks’. Circulated to DPLWG; posted on the Group’s blog – 1.10.14. This month’s Group Urgent Action.
- Bahrain – UA 252/14 – Maher Abbas Ahmad – sentenced to death in February for the premeditated murder of a policeman at a ‘gathering’, has lodged his final appeal and could be at risk of execution. He told his lawyer he was tortured into making a confession. Circulated to DPLWG 9.10.14.
- World Day Against the Death Penalty – 10th October. The Group are asked to sign cards to be sent to Reggie Clemons
- Death Penalty Stall – A signing event will take place on Saturday ll1th October from 9.00-12..00 mid-day in the Library Covered Way. We will be asking the public to sign cards calling for justice for Moses Akatugba, the young Nigerian tortured and sentenced to death for the alleged theft of three mobile phones.