TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Hangs 12 Men in Largest Single-Day Execution in Nearly a Decade

PAKISTAN-CRIME-EXECUTION-PROTEST
AAMIR QURESHI—AFP/Getty Images Pakistani NGO activists carry placards during a demonstration to mark the International Day Against the Death Penalty in Islamabad on October 10, 2014.

The country's death penalty was reinstated in December and broadened to non-terrorism crimes a week ago

Pakistan hanged 12 men on Tuesday, the largest number of people put to death on the same day since a moratorium on executions was lifted in December, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman.

“They were not only terrorists, they included the other crimes,” the spokesman said, according to Reuters. “Some of them were murderers and some did other heinous crimes.”

The informal suspension of capital punishment, enacted when the current democratic government took over from military rule in 2008, was removed on Dec. 17 following a Taliban attack on a school that killed over 140 people, mostly children.

Although Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium under pressure to expedite justice for terrorists and militants, the death penalty for non-terrorism crimes was also reinstated last week.

A total of 27 Pakistanis have been executed since the ban was lifted, and more than 8,000 remain on death row in what human-rights groups say is a severely deficient criminal-justice system.

Read next: Pakistan Court Sanctions Release of Alleged Mumbai Attacks Mastermind

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME indonesia

Indonesian Judge Postpones the Final Appeal of Australian Drug Smugglers on Death Row

This combination of two file photos from Jan. 24, 2006, left, and Jan. 26, 2006 shows Australian drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran, left, and Andrew Chan during their trial in Bali, Indonesia
Firdia Lisnawati—AP This combination of two photos from Jan. 24, 2006, left, and Jan. 26, 2006, shows Australian drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran, left, and Andrew Chan during their trial in Bali, Indonesia

The hearing has been rescheduled to next week because of the absence of a signed document

The two ringleaders of the Bali Nine — a group of Australians convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia — had their final appeals against their death sentences adjourned until March 19 after a representative of President Joko Widodo was unable to show the court any signed document bestowing the power of attorney.

Judge Ujang Abdullah postponed Thursday’s hearing of the convicted narcotics smugglers for one week, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. This gives the duo more time to appeal to Joko for clemency.

Legal counsel for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, convicted of masterminding the trafficking of 8.3 kg of heroin in 2005, argue their pleas and rehabilitation requests have been rejected because of the President’s refusal to assess each case individually.

The pair are due to be executed by firing squad simultaneously with all other foreigners on death row for drugs offenses.

However, this means their death sentences may be delayed for weeks or even months because of a backlog of cases. The Attorney General is waiting for the decision on a judicial review for a Filipino maid convicted of smuggling, a French national arrested at an ecstasy laboratory, and investigators are scrutinizing allegations that the judges in the cases of Chan and Sukumaran’s solicited bribes in exchange for lighter terms.

[Sydney Morning Herald]

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Reinstates the Death Penalty After Seven-Year Moratorium

Pakistani NGO activists protest the death penalty in Islamabad on October 10, 2014
Aamir Qureshi—AFP/Getty Images Pakistani NGO activists protest the death penalty in Islamabad on Oct. 10, 2014

More than 8,000 people sit on death row in the South Asian nation

After a seven-year moratorium, Pakistan has reinstated the death penalty for nonterrorism cases eligible for capital punishment, and will begin executions in cases where appeals and clemency pleas are no longer an option.

Islamabad reintroduced the death penalty on terrorism-related cases last December, following the 2014 Peshawar school attacks that killed over 150 people. Pakistan has executed 24 people since December, already including three whose convictions were unrelated to terrorism, according to Amnesty International.

“This shameful retreat to the gallows is no way to resolve Pakistan’s pressing security and law-and-order problems,” said Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-Pacific director Rupert Abbott.

More than 8,000 citizens languish on Pakistan’s death row, including women like Aasia Bibi, a Christian convicted under the nation’s blasphemy laws. Last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Pakistan to restore its moratorium on the death penalty, which also applies to crimes such as adultery, apostasy and blasphemy.

Rights groups contend that Pakistan’s justice system is marred by unfair trials, poor counsel and police torture.

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, however, released a letter clarifying that the death penalty applies “strictly as per law and only where all legal options and avenues have been exhausted and mercy petitions … have been rejected by the President.”

TIME Utah

Utah Lawmakers Vote to Permit Firing-Squad Executions if Lethal Injection Unavailable

The move still has to be inked by Governor Gary Herbert

Utah legislators on Tuesday passed a bill that, if ratified by Governor Gary Herbert, will allow inmate executions by firing squad in the event that lethal-injection drugs are unavailable.

The bill, passed through the state senate by an 18-10 vote, will make Utah the only state in America with such a provision. Herbert, a Republican, won’t comment on whether he will sign the bill until he has had time to review the final legislation.

But in a statement, the governor’s office told TIME, “Our state, as is the case with states around the country, is finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the substances required to perform a lethal injection … if those substances cannot be obtained, this proposal would make sure that those instructed to carry out the lawful order of the court and the carefully deliberated decision of the jury can do so.”

In 2004, Utah phased out the option of choosing execution by firing squad, but there remains a group of inmates who were sentenced before and so can still be executed in this manner. The last instance was in 2010 when Ronnie Lee Gardner, convicted of murder, was executed.

Wyoming, Oklahoma and Tennessee are also in the process of finding alternative execution methods.

Last year’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma — in which an untested blend of drugs led to a drawn-out and supposedly painful death — brought national scrutiny to the merits of lethal injections.

TIME Crime

Nebraska Considers Eliminating the Death Penalty

Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.

With support from Republican lawmakers

Nebraska legislators are considering a bill that would eliminate the state’s death penalty, receiving significant support from Republican lawmakers and family members of murder victims.

MORE: Georgia Postpones 2 Executions Over ‘Cloudy’ Drugs

Dozens of people rallied at the Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday night in support of a bill that would do away with death sentences,the Associated Press reports, and replace them with life without the possibility of parole.

More than two dozen relatives of murder victims signed a letter supporting the bill, saying that the time between a conviction and an actual execution can be painful for families who see their loved one’s name appear in the news during appeals and often decades-long delays.

MORE: Ohio Looks to Shield Lethal Injection Drugmakers

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, an Independent, has worked to eliminate the state’s death penalty for years but appears to have more support this time around, especially from Republicans who make up the majority of the state’s nonpartisan legislature. The Journal Star reports that seven GOP senators have signed onto the bill.

While the legislation will likely make it out of committee, the bill may still face a veto if passed from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has supported the death penalty in the past.

Since 2007, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland have eliminated the death penalty, and currently 32 states still enforce capital punishment. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put an effective moratorium on executions in the state in part over fears of putting innocent people to death.

Nebraska currently has 11 people on death row.

[AP]

TIME georgia

Execution of Georgia Woman Postponed Over Problems With Drug

Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections
Reuters Death-row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections

Georgia only uses pentobarbital for lethal injections, but there are some problems

(JACKSON, Ga.) — Georgia postponed its first execution of a woman in 70 years late Monday because of concerns about the drug to be used in the lethal injection.

The pentobarbital was sent to an independent lab to check its potency and the test came back at an acceptable level, but during subsequent checks it appeared cloudy, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said. Corrections officials called the pharmacist and decided to postpone the execution “out of an abundance of caution,” she said. No new date was given.

Pentobarbital is the only drug used in Georgia executions. For other recent executions, the state has gotten the drug from a compounding pharmacy, but officials did not immediately respond late Monday when asked if that was the source in this case. Georgia law prohibits the release of any identifying information about the source of execution drugs or any entity involved in an execution.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. at the prison in Jackson for the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. The execution was put on hold while officials waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to either grant or deny a stay requested by her lawyers. The court had still not ruled more than five hours later.

Her lawyers were seeking a delay pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case out of Oklahoma, and an appellate court had rejected that request. Late Monday, the lawyers added additional arguments for the high court: that it should consider a stay because Gissendaner didn’t kill her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, herself in February 1997. They also argued that she had been thoroughly rehabilitated.

Previously, courts had found Gissendaner had plotted the stabbing death of her husband by her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, who will be up for parole in eight years after accepting a life sentence and testifying against her.

Gissendaner would have been only the 16th woman put to death nationwide since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976. About 1,400 men have been executed since then, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence, denied clemency last week and upheld that decision late Monday. Gissendaner’s lawyers had urged the board to reconsider and “bestow mercy” by commuting her sentence to life without parole. The board said it voted to abide by its earlier decision after “careful consideration” of the request.

Kelly and Douglas Gissendaner had a troubled relationship, repeatedly splitting up and getting back together, divorcing and remarrying. At the time of her husband’s death, Gissendaner was a 28-year-old mother of three children, 12, 7 and 5 years old. And she had an on-again, off-again lover in Owen.

Rather than divorcing her husband again, Gissendaner repeatedly pushed Owen to kill him, prosecutors said. Acting on her instructions, Owen ambushed her husband while she went out with friends, and forced him to drive to a remote area. Then he marched him into the woods and stabbed him multiple times, prosecutors said.

Owen and Gissendaner then met up and set fire to the dead man’s car in an attempted cover-up. Both initially denied involvement, but Owen eventually confessed and testified against his former girlfriend.

Her lawyers challenged the constitutionality of her sentence as disproportionate, given that she wasn’t there when Owen killed her husband, and yet Owen will eventually be eligible for parole. But Georgia’s Supreme Court voted 5-2 Monday to deny her motion, citing Owen’s testimony that she pushed for murder rather than divorce so that she could get her husband’s insurance money.

In their request Monday for reconsideration, Gissendaner’s lawyers said the parole board did not have a chance to hear the overwhelmingly positive testimony of many corrections employees who declined to speak up for fear of retaliation.

Her clemency petition already included testimonials from dozens of spiritual advisers, inmates and prison staff who described a seriously damaged woman transformed through faith behind bars. She has shown remorse and provided hope to struggling inmates while helping guards maintain control, they said.

“The spiritual transformation and depth of faith that Ms. Gissendaner demonstrates and practices is a deep and sincere expression of a personal relationship with God,” Prison chaplain Susan Bishop wrote. “It is not a superficial religious experience.”

Two of Gissendaner’s three children also asked the board to spare their mother’s life, describing their own emotional journey from anger and bitterness to forgiveness.

“The impact of losing my mother would be devastating. I can’t fathom losing another parent,” wrote her daughter, Kayla Gissendaner. “My mom has touched so many lives. Executing her doesn’t bring justice or peace to me or to anyone.”

But it also has been “a long, hard, heartbreaking road” for Douglas Gissendaner’s parents and sister, according to a statement from them issued through the Gwinnett County district attorney’s office. The family made it clear they wanted the execution to go forward.

Several dozen people gathered outside the prison in support of Gissendaner, including some women who served time with her.

Kara Tragesser recalled Gissendaner telling her “You can do better!” when she was put on lockdown while serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.

“We’re here because Kelly’s made a difference in our lives,” Tragesser said.

Michelle Collins, who did time for forgery, remembered Gissendaner persuading her to stop misbehaving and start caring about her future.

“She looked around at us and said, ‘At least y’all are going to get out of here again. Who are you to throw your lives away when I’m never going to get out of here?'” said Collins.

“She gave me the will to do something good when I got out,” said Collins, adding that she now makes good money working for a Fortune 500 company. “She told me to make sure I never came back and I never have.”

A loud cheer came up from the crowd gathered outside the prison when they heard the execution had been postponed.

TIME Crime

Execution of Georgia Woman on Hold Pending Supreme Court Ruling

Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections
Georgia Department of Corrections/Reuters Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections.

The execution is on hold

(JACKSON, Ga.) — The execution of the first female in Georgia in 70 years was on hold Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed last-minute arguments by her lawyers that they hoped would persuade the nation’s top justices to grant a stay.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was scheduled to die by injection of pentobarbital at 7 p.m. in the state prison for the February 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.

Still pending was a response from the high court after an appellate court rejected her lawyers’ request for a delay on the grounds that Georgia’s lethal-injection procedures aren’t transparent enough to be challenged in court. Late Monday, her lawyers also added that the court should take into account the fact that she didn’t kill her husband herself, and that she had been thoroughly rehabilitated.

Previously, courts had found Gissendaner had plotted the stabbing death of her husband by her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, who will be up for parole in eight years after accepting a life sentence and testifying against her.

Gissendaner would be only the 16th woman put to death nationwide since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976. About 1,400 men have been executed since then, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence, denied clemency last week and upheld that decision late Monday. The woman’s lawyers had urged the board to reconsider and “bestow mercy” by commuting her sentence to life without parole. The board said it voted to abide by its earlier decision after “careful consideration” of the request.

Kelly and Douglas Gissendaner had a troubled relationship, repeatedly splitting up and getting back together, divorcing and remarrying. She was a 28-year-old mother of three children, 12, 7 and 5 years old. And she had an on-again, off-again lover in Owen.

In prison, Gissendaner eventually took responsibility: Rather than divorcing her husband again, she pushed Owen to kill him. Acting on her instructions, Owen ambushed her husband while she went out dancing with friends, and forced him to drive to a remote area. Then he marched him into the woods and stabbed him multiple times, prosecutors said.

Owen and Gissendaner then met up and set fire to the dead man’s car in an attempted cover-up, and both initially denied involvement, but Owen eventually confessed and testified against his former girlfriend.

Her lawyers challenged the constitutionality of her sentence as disproportionate, given that she wasn’t there when Owen killed her husband, and yet Owen will eventually be eligible for parole. But Georgia’s Supreme Court voted 5-2 Monday to deny her motion, citing Owen’s testimony that she pushed for murder rather than divorce so that she could get her husband’s insurance money.

In their request Monday for reconsideration, Gissendaner’s lawyers said the parole board did not have a chance to hear the overwhelmingly positive testimony of many corrections employees who declined to speak up for fear of retaliation.

Her clemency petition already included testimonials from dozens of spiritual advisers, inmates and prison staff who described a seriously damaged woman transformed through faith behind bars. She has shown remorse and provided hope to struggling inmates while helping guards maintain control, they said.

“The spiritual transformation and depth of faith that Ms. Gissendaner demonstrates and practices is a deep and sincere expression of a personal relationship with God,” Prison chaplain Susan Bishop wrote. “It is not a superficial religious experience.”

Two of Gissendaner’s three children also asked the board to spare their mother’s life, describing their own emotional journey from anger and bitterness to forgiveness.

“The impact of losing my mother would be devastating. I can’t fathom losing another parent,” wrote her daughter, Kayla Gissendaner. “My mom has touched so many lives. Executing her doesn’t bring justice or peace to me or to anyone.”

But it also has been “a long, hard, heartbreaking road” for Douglas Gissendaner’s parents and sister, and they made it clear they want the execution to go forward, the Gwinnett County district attorney’s office said.

More than a dozen women who served time with Gissendaner gathered outside the prison to support her Monday afternoon.

Kara Tragesser recalled Gissendaner telling her “you can do better!” when she was put on lockdown while serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.

“We’re here because Kelly’s made a difference in our lives,” Tragesser said.

Michelle Collins, who did time for forgery, remembered Gissendaner persuading her to stop misbehaving and start caring about her future.

“She looked around at us and said, ‘At least y’all are going to get out of here again. Who are you to throw your lives away when I’m never going to get out of here?'” said Collins.

“She gave me the will to do something good when I got out,” said Collins, adding that she now makes good money working for a Fortune 500 company. “She told me to make sure I never came back and I never have.”

TIME justice

Pennsylvania Stops Using the Death Penalty

Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School on Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa.
Matt Rourke—AP Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School on Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa.

The governor will grant temporary reprieves until the state reaches a final decision

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that the state has effectively put a moratorium on the death penalty.

While Wolf awaits a report from a task force on the state’s use of capital punishment, he will grant temporary reprieves for all death row inmates whose executions are scheduled. That begins with Terrance Williams, who was slated to be executed on March 4.

Wolf noted said the moratorium “is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes.” But he also said capital punishment is expensive, possibly ineffective and sometimes inaccurate—six Pennsylvania men have been exonerated from death row.

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: Why America Could Change How It Puts People to Death

3 Inmates in Oklahoma are challenging the use of certain drugs in executions

A new Supreme Court case could mean a change in the chemicals that prisons use for lethal injections. Watch #TheBrief to find out more.

TIME Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s New King Refused to Intervene in a Controversial Beheading

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud looks on during a meeting with China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
Lintao Zhang—POOL/Reuters Saudi Arabia's King Salman looks on during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 13, 2014

An alleged rapist was executed Monday but many Saudis believe the case against him was shaky

A Saudi man accused of raping young girls was beheaded on Monday in the first execution under the administration of Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman.

Teacher Moussa al-Zahrani, 45, was beheaded in the western city of Jeddah, the Associated Press reports. The execution drew an unusual amount of debate on Saudi talk shows and social media, with citizens and relatives pointing out inconsistencies and gaps in evidence.

Al-Zahrani repeatedly maintained his innocence throughout his trial and appeals, and pleaded to the late Saudi King Abdullah to intervene in a video, which circulated widely in social media. The video featured al-Zahrani’s allegations that police framed him, eliciting a Twitter hashtag in Arabic “We are all Moussa al-Zahrani.”

However, King Salman, like his predecessor, chose not to intervene in the execution. Saudi Arabia continues to apply the death penalty to cases of rape, murder and other offenses according to the theocratic kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic law.

[AP]

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