The death sentences against Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi and five other Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been overturned by the country’s highest court of appeal.
Egypt’s Court of Cassation ordered that the six men face a retrial in connection with a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
Twenty-one life sentences for other Brotherhood members were overturned.
Mohamed Morsi was elected president in 2012 but was removed by the military in 2013 after protests against his rule.
Although the former president is no longer at risk of execution, he is serving three lengthy prison sentences relating to other convictions.
Mohamed Morsi and more than 100 other people were sentenced to death in May 2015 after being convicted of colluding with foreign militants – from the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Lebanon’s Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement – to organize a mass prison break.
He was being held at Wadi Natroun prison in January 2011 when armed men overcame the guards, freeing thousands of inmates.
Mohamed Morsi and his co-defendants, including the Brotherhood’s general guide Mohammed Badie, were also found guilty of the murder and kidnapping of guards, damaging and setting fire to prison buildings and looting the prison’s weapons depot.
In June 2015, a court upheld the death sentence against Mohamed Morsi and 98 others after consulting Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Shawi Allam.
It was not immediately clear why the Court of Cassation overturned the sentences on November 15, but Brotherhood lawyer Abdel Moneim said it had applied the law correctly.
Mohamed Morsi has also been sentenced to life in prison for allegedly conspiring to commit terrorist acts with foreign organizations and to another 40 years for allegedly leaking state secrets and sensitive documents to Qatar.
The former president was sentenced to 20 years after being convicted of ordering the unlawful detention and torture of opposition protesters during clashes with Brotherhood supporters outside a presidential palace in Cairo in December 2012.
Mohamed Morsi’s prosecution has taken place amid a wider crackdown on the Brotherhood, which President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has outlawed and vowed to wipe out. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands of people imprisoned in the past three years.
His supporters have said the trials are politically motivated and attempts to give legal cover to a coup. They claim they are based on unreliable witnesses and scant evidence.
Also on November 15, the Court of Cassation approved the decision to release Hosni Mubarak’s two sons from prison, the state-owned Mena news agency reported.
In October 2015, a lower court ruled that the time Alaa and Gamal Mubarak had spent in temporary detention exceeded the legal limit.
Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, who were arrested soon after the 2011 uprising, were sentenced along with their father to three years in prison for embezzlement in May 2015.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has suspended the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy.
Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for nearly five years, was given leave to appeal. No hearing date was set.
She denies insulting the Prophet Mohammed, saying her Muslim accusers were acting on a personal grudge.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan – critics argue laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores, often targeting minorities.
This is the first time in the case that there has been a glimmer of hope for Asia Bibi.
She was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and her case is one of the most controversial in Pakistan.
Thousands have protested against her and said they would kill her if she were ever released – including the imam in her own village. Her husband and four daughters live in hiding and say they have received many death threats.
Asia Bibi’s death sentence had been confirmed by the High Court in Punjab province in October, although no date was set.
However, on July 22, the Supreme Court suspended the sentence until the end of the appeal process.
“The execution of Asia Bibi has been suspended and will remain suspended until the decision of this appeal,” her lawyer told reporters outside the court.
He said key witnesses had failed to turn up during hearings by the High Court.
Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy but some people accused of the offence in the past have been lynched by crowds. Lawyers, judges and those seeking to reform the blasphemy laws have also been threatened, attacked or even killed.
Since the 1990s, scores of Christians have been convicted for desecrating the Koran or for blasphemy.
While most of them have been sentenced to death by the lower courts, many sentences have been overturned due to lack of evidence.
Muslims constitute a majority of those prosecuted, followed by minority Ahmadis.
Mexican immigrant Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, who escaped from prison while serving a murder sentence in Mexico, has been executed in Texas for a separate 1997 killing.
Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was in the US illegally when he killed a former university professor who had hired him to help with renovations on his home.
The execution by lethal injection went ahead after Texas’ parole and pardons board refused to delay his case.
Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas is the sixth Texas prisoner executed this year.
He was the second person this week to be executed in Texas by lethal injection with a new supply of pentobarbital.
Earlier this week, a US appeals court rejected a bid by lawyers for Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas and another death row inmate, Tommy Lynn Sells, to learn who is supplying Texas with the drug.
Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas escaped from prison while serving a murder sentence in Mexico and has been executed in Texas for a separate 1997 killing
They argue they need to know the source to ensure the executions will not be botched.
But Texas officials have refused to identify the source of the sedative, saying secrecy is needed to protect the provider from threats of violence.
Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas was pronounced dead at 18:28 local time at the Texas state death chamber in Huntsville.
In a final statement, Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas asked forgiveness from the victim’s family and said he was at peace, the Associated Press reports.
In 1997, Glen Lich, 49, hired Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas to work for him to help renovate his ranch near the city of Kerrville.
Unbeknownst to Glen Lich, Hernandez-Llanas had recently escaped from a Mexican prison where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 murder.
Several days later, Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas lured Glen Lich away from his house by telling him falsely there was a problem with a generator. He beat the man to death with a length of steel rebar, then entered the house and attacked Glen Lich’s wife.
Sentenced in 2000 for Glen Lich’s murder, Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas was among more than four dozen Mexican nationals awaiting execution in the US in 2004 when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled they had not been properly informed of their consular rights when arrested.
Another one of those Mexican nationals, Edgar Tamayo, 46, was executed by Texas in January despite objections of both the Mexican and US governments.
Euclides del Moral, a Mexico foreign ministry official, said on Tuesday “the execution of a Mexican national is of great concern”.
But the issue did not play a large part in Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas’ appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty.
Jodi Arias swapped the prim collared shirts and business-like attire that she sported throughout her lengthy murder trial for the standard issue stripes now that she is behind bars as a convicted murderer of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander.
Jodi Arias, 32, made her first court appearance since the jury was dismissed after they were unable to decide whether she deserved life in prison for the murder of Travis Alexander or if she should be given a death sentence.
The procedural hearing lacked the sizzle of the five-month trial that attracted a global following and had spectators waiting in line in the middle of the night to get a coveted seat in the courtroom.
Last week, the courtroom was about two-thirds full, the hearing was not televised, and there were no arguments in open court.
That verdict will come even later than previously expected, as the judge ruled today that the next hearing is scheduled for July 18.
Jury selection alone could take weeks, given the difficulty of seating an impartial panel in the high-profile case.
Jodi Arias tries the prison stripes and shackles look instead of her skirts and blouses in court appearance
Prosecutors have the option of taking the death penalty off the table, and Judge Sherry Stephens would then sentence Jodi Arias to one of two punishments: life in prison or the more unlikely life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.
If prosecutors do pursue death, a new panel must be seated to determine a sentence.
If another deadlock occurs, the death penalty would automatically be removed, leaving the judge to sentence Jodi Arias to one of the life-in-prison options.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said last week his office continues to prepare for a retrial aimed at securing a death sentence.
He had previously said he is confident an impartial jury can be seated to determine Jody Arias’ punishment but added that he is open to input from defense lawyers and the victim’s family about possibly scrapping a new trial in favor of a life sentence for Arias.
Meanwhile, after losing motions for mistrials, appeals to higher courts and efforts to quit the case altogether, Jodi Arias’ attorneys tried a new tactic this month, appealing to the court of public opinion while hoping to influence Bill Montgomery’s decision.
“It is solely for them to determine if continuing to pursue a death sentence upon Ms. Arias, who is already facing a mandatory life sentence, is a good and proper use of taxpayer resources,” defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott wrote in a statement provided to The Arizona Republic.
Taxpayers footed the bill for Jodi Arias’ court-appointed attorneys at a cost so far of nearly $1.7 million, a price tag that will only balloon if the case moves forward.
Jodi Arias admitted she killed Travis Alexander, but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.
Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage after the victim wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman.
Members of jury for the Jodi Arias court case were sent home at 4.30 p.m. local time after spending the entire day deliberating whether or not they should sentence the convicted murderer to death or to spend her life in prison.
Earlier in the day on Wednesday the jury returned to the courtroom after deliberating for two and a half hours saying that they were unable to reach a unanimous decision, but that did not sit well with Judge Sherry Stephens.
Sherry Stephens ordered the jurors to go back and talk more until they came to a decision.
The rest of the afternoon was not enough, however, as they were sent home and ordered to return at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
There are three options going forward: they will either decide to sentence 32-year-old Jodi Arias to death, or to sentence her to spend her life in prison with the prospect of parole after 25 years. The third option would be if they fail to unanimously agree on those two sentences, making them a hung jury.
In that case, the judge will be forced to declare a mistrial and a new jury will be picked.
The new jury will not have any power to change her guilty conviction, and they will be solely tasked with determining how Jodi Arias will “pay” for the first degree murder.
The decision follows a trial that has staggered on for five months over the 2008 slaying of Travis Alexander, Jodi Arias’ on-again off-again boyfriend who she killed in his home in 2008. She sta**ed him nearly 30 times, s**t his throat, and shot him.
Even for the most fastidious of court followers who have developed a sense of who Jodi Arias is over the past five months of the trial, her behavior in the past week has been confusing as she gave conflicting statements about her desire thoughts on a possible death sentence.
Immediately after her guilty verdict was handed down two weeks ago, Jodi Arias granted a local news station an interview where she said that she was “in shock” and that she would rather be given the death penalty as opposed to a life sentence in prison.
Members of jury for the Jodi Arias court case were sent home after spending the entire day deliberating whether or not they should sentence her to death or to spend her life in prison
Speaking to the local Fox affiliate KSAZ, Jodi Arias said that she would “prefer to die sooner than later”.
“Longevity runs in my family, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place. I’m pretty healthy, I don’t smoke and I’ll probably live for a long time so that’s not something that I am looking forward to.
“I believe death is the ultimate freedom and I’d rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it.”
Those comments prompted courthouse officials to order that Jodi Arias be placed in a psychological hold and on suicide watch, which inevitably delayed the second portion of the sentencing- where jurors were forced to decide if the murder was especially aggressive.
During the ensuing testimony, called the aggravation portion of the trial, jurors heard from both sides who were able to call witnesses arguing that she should and shouldn’t be forced to die, respectively.
When she addressed the court in her own defense, Jodi Arias pledged, if allowed to live, to donate her hair to cancer patients and start a prison recycling program.
“I have made many public statements that I would prefer the death penalty to life in prison,” Jodi Arias told jurors.
“In each of those cases, I lacked perspective,” she said.
“Until very recently I could not imagine standing before you all and asking for you to give me life,” she said.
“But as I stand here now I cannot in good conscience ask you to sentence me to death.”
Jodi Arias made the statements as she tried desperately to humanize herself to jurors by sharing childhood photographs, talking about her “red-headed stage” and displaying the drawings she has created while in prison.
She followed up her case with a surprise jailhouse interview on Tuesday where she placed blame on her legal team.
The most emotional portions of the entire trial came last week, when Travis Alexander’s siblings told the court how their lives have been wrecked in the wake of their brother’s brutal murder.
The victim’s brother Stephen Alexander told how he has since been put on several different antidepressants, had to have several hospitalizations for his ulcers, and frequently wakes up in the middle of the night with vivid nightmares.
His sister Samantha told the court that even though she has been a police officer in California for 11 years, the photos of her brother’s crime scene were by far the most gra**ic she has ever seen.
They both said how difficult it was for them to see his murderer in court and on her many television appearances, so the judges’ move to force the jury to a decision deadline may be in light of the victim’s family’s wishes.
India’s Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai.
The judges also rejected his claim that he had been denied a fair trial.
Mohammad Qasab, 24, was convicted of murder and other crimes in May 2010. His first appeal was rejected by the Mumbai High Court in February 2011.
The November 2008 attacks claimed 166 lives. Nine gunmen were also killed.
“In view of the nature of the gravity of his crime and the fact that he participated in waging war against the country, we have no option but to uphold his death penalty,” Supreme Court Justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad ruled.
Legal experts say it could still be months or even years before Mohammad Qasab’s sentence can be carried out.
India's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai
He has the right to appeal to the same two judges to review his case. If that fails he can take his appeal to other Supreme Court judges. His last hope lies with a plea for clemency to the president.
There will now be huge pressure for the death sentence to be carried out soon.
A spokesman for India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, said there should be “no delay” in executing Qasab.
“Those who wage war against the country and kill innocents deserve no mercy,” he said.
Prosecutor Gopal Subramaniam hailed the verdict as “a complete victory of the due processes of law”.
“It was a case argued in a completely professional and dispassionate manner,” Gopal Subramaniam said.
Defence lawyer Raju Ramachandran told reporters outside the court that he had made his arguments and “the court considered them”.
“I bow to the verdict,” he added.
The trial court in Mumbai had found Mohammad Qasab guilty on 3 May 2010 of murder, terrorist acts and waging war on India and sentenced him to death.
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Mohammad Qasab argued that the prosecution had “failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt” the charges against him.
He said he “may be guilty of killing people and carrying out a terrorist act but I am not guilty of waging war against the state”.
The 60-hour siege of Mumbai began on 26 November 2008, targeting luxury hotels, the main railway station and a Jewish cultural centre.
Mohammad Qasab and an accomplice carried out the assault on the station, killing 52 people.
India blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks.
After initial denials, Pakistan acknowledged that the assault had been partially planned on its territory and that Mohammad Qasab was a Pakistani citizen.
When Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, speculation began that the woman in court was a body double.
So what do these kinds of suspicions tell us about modern China?
As soon as footage of Gu Kailai appeared in the official report of the trial, rumors began to circulate on the internet about the identity of the woman in the dock.
Several posts and re-posts surfaced on Chinese social media sites on the same day, with a screen grab of the courtroom scene, suggesting that the woman – who appeared plumper than Gu Kailai- was a body double.
One internet user posted some “before and after” photos and asked: “Are we looking at the same woman? There are rumors that the woman who appeared in the court room is a body double, because whether you are thin or fat, your bone structure shouldn’t change.”
Another user said: “Please note the corner of the mouth, the bags under the eyes and the ears, especially the ears. You might flatten the bags, but you can’t change the shape of your ears.”
When Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, speculation began that the woman in court was a body double
This kind of speculation continued through the verdict and sentencing on 20 August and then newspapers joined the fray. One Hong Kong paper – Apple Daily – even reported rumors on 21 August that the stand-in was named Zhao Tianyun, who had been hand-picked by the wife of premier Wen Jiabao.
But the paper also quotes journalist Jiang Weiping, who was in contact with Gu Kailai and her husband Bo Xilai for a number of years, as saying that judging by the face and the gestures, it was really Gu.
The speculation also extended overseas – Britain’s Financial Times went as far as to consult two security experts familiar with facial recognition software who concluded that the person shown in state television footage of the trial was not Gu Kailai.
So do Chinese netizens really believe that a body double was used to shield Gu Kailai, or do they simply want to express their mistrust of the judicial system and of the authorities in general?
The answer perhaps lies in another microblog post by the famous Chinese writer Zhang Yihe.
“There are a lot of questions: did Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang put on a show during the Olympics? Did swimmer Ye Shiwen take drugs? Did Gu Kailai herself attend the trial?” she asked.
“All this reminds us of an ancient fable – crying wolf. In the story the boy only lied once, and nobody believed him afterwards and he was eaten by a wolf.
“The Chinese propaganda machine is luckier – they have been telling lies for over 60 years, and now, everything they say is doubted.”
In fact, Chinese netizens are skeptical about many other aspects of the trial as well. Many think it was overtly political, with no judicial independence and the verdict was a foregone conclusion.
Others are not convinced about the motive presented in the courtroom for killing Neil Heywood, and it is not clear what role, if any, Gu Kailai’s husband – a former high-flying politician – had in the dispute between his wife and the British businessman.
This is also not the first time in China that questions have been raised about the identity of the person in the dock.
In 2009, wealthy 20-year-old Hu Bin killed a pedestrian on the streets of Hangzhou. When the court passed a three-year sentence, allegations surfaced that the man who appeared in court and served the sentence was a hired body double. The authorities had to robustly refute such claims.
Underlying such allegations is a deeply-rooted mistrust of the authorities, the unfairness of the justice system and a perception that the wealthy can escape justice. People tend to err on the side of doubting than believing the official version of anything.
Gu Kailai’s trial was over in seven hours, with only a selected few to witness the proceedings, and both Chinese and foreign journalists were turned away at the door.
There has been very little media coverage about the trial except some standard pieces by Xinhua, the state news agency, that all media outlets dutifully carry. There have been few editorials or commentaries, compared with the extensive coverage over other issues such as the ongoing territorial dispute with Japan.
It is only natural that Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has become one of the few places where ordinary people talk about the trial and express their concerns. Now the phrase “body double” is blocked, however.
As to whether the real Gu Kailai or a stand-in appeared in court, one can say that the only pictures available from before the trial were taken several years ago, and show a successful lawyer at the peak of her career with a seemingly happy family. So it is possible that time and events have caught up with her.
One should also consider the enormous risks the authorities would have to take for a body double to appear, and wonder what benefit they would gain.
Still, those in power can learn a lot from these episodes on how they can build up public confidence and stop the “crying wolf” vicious circle.
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