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Texas resumes executions after 5-month delay due to coronavirus pandemic

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Texas is set to move forward with the execution of an inmate Wednesday, its first since a five-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Billy Wardlow, 45, was convicted of capital murder after he fatally shot an 82-year-old man, Carl Cole, in 1993 during a robbery at Cole’s home.

Wardlow was 18 at the time. The minimum age a person can receive the death penalty in Texas is 17 years old.

Wardlow’s attorney, Richard Burr, told ABC News Wednesday that there are three pending petitions in the Supreme Court that could possibly result in a stay of execution.

He called those petitions “the most serious and hopeful.”

One petition, which has been pending since June 10, has to do with the question of predicting future dangers, according to Burr.

In Texas, in order to be sentenced to death, a person has to be deemed someone who is likely to be dangerous in the future.

“You can scientifically know now it was impossible to predict future dangers of an 18-year-old because their brains are still not fully formed,” Burr said.

Prosecutors argued that society has long used the age of 18 as the point where it draws the line for many distinctions between childhood and adulthood, according to the Associated Press.

“Wardlow senselessly executed elderly Carl Cole to steal his truck, something that could have been taken without violence because the keys were in it,” according to a petition filed with the Supreme Court by the Texas attorney general’s office, the AP reported.

The two other petitions involve what Burr described as ineffective counsel and an incorrect waiving of another appeal in state and federal court.

Burr said he has also requested with the Texas Supreme Court to withdraw the execution order because of the risk amid the pandemic and the “huge rise of COVID-19 cases in Texas.”

A judge moved Wardlow’s execution date from April 29 to July 8 because of the pandemic. Six executions scheduled in Texas for earlier this year were postponed by the courts because of the outbreak.

Texas is among the states that have seen an increase in coronavirus cases, the daily rate of positivity, hospitalizations and deaths, according to an ABC News analysis.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a request to delay Wardlow’s execution or commute his sentence to life in prison on Monday, Burr said.

Wardlow’s execution time is set for 6 p.m. CST, but can occur any time after that until midnight, according to Robert C. Hurst, a spokesman at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Jason Clark, chief of staff at the state’s Department of Criminal Justice, told ABC News the agency can “carry out the process safely for those participating and witnessing the execution.”

Witnesses will have their temperature taken, will be provided with a mask and be spaced out, Clark said. No more than five witnesses are allowed for the inmate and victim each, a limit that predates the pandemic.

If carried out, it will be Texas’ third execution of the year. The two others took place in Jan. 15 and Feb. 6.

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UN Working Group Determines Detention of Iranian Pastor is Arbitrary

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Iran – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released an opinion that the continued detention of Iranian church leader Yousef Nadarkhani is arbitrary. The opinion, which was adopted at the working group’s 89th session in November 2020 was made public last week. In the opinion the working group wrote: “Through much of his life, (Pastor Nadarkhani) has been the target of religious discrimination, for which he has been arrested, tried, and imprisoned on multiple occasions. The working group has indicated that Nadarkhani’s continued detention contravenes multiple articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has called upon Iran to take the steps “necessary to remedy this situation of Mr. Nadarkhani without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was initially arrested in May 2016, along with four other Christians during a series of raids on Christian homes. In July 2017 the four men were found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of acting against national security by promoting Zionist Christianity. The men were released on bail but were re-arrested in a series of raids in July 2018 after being informed that their sentences had been upheld. They were taken to Evin prison in Tehran, to serve out their sentences. Evin prison is well known for its harsh treatment of prisoners, poor living conditions, and the use torture on inmates has been reported by many have been formerly incarcerated there. An appeal by Pastor Nadarkhani and a fellow Christian, Deacon Saheb Fadaie saw the court rule in favor of a reduction in their sentences to six years each (down from the initial ten year sentence handed down in 2017).

An Iranian church official has said: “this is an answer to prayer,” and called on the international community and the new U.S. administration, in particular, to make religious freedoms issues a priority as they resumed negotiations with Iran. This comes in the face of the situation in Iran, which continues to be highly concerning, as many Christians and other religious minorities continue to be imprisoned on arbitrary and spurious charges similar to those of pastor Nadarkhani.
Sources:persecution

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400 escape, 25 killed in riots after Haiti prison breakout

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Haitian authorities announced Friday that more than 400 inmates escaped and 25 people died in a prison breakout, making it the country’s largest and deadliest one in a decade, with the prison director and a powerful gang leader among those killed.

Some believe Thursday’s jailbreak at the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison in northeast Port-au-Prince was to free gang leader Arnel Joseph, who had been Haiti’s most wanted fugitive until his 2019 arrest on charges including rape, kidnapping and murder.

Joseph was riding on a motorcycle through the Artibonite area in the town of L’Est’re on Friday a day after his escape when he was spotted at a checkpoint, police spokesman Gary Desrosiers told The Associated Press. He said Joseph pulled out a gun and died in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Joseph ruled Village de Dieu, or Village of God, a shantytown in downtown Port-au-Prince, and other communities, including some in Artibonite, which is Haiti’s largest department.

Authorities have not yet provided much details on the breakout except to say that 60 inmates have been recaptured and the investigation is ongoing. State Secretary Frantz Exantus said authorities have created several commissions to investigate who organized the breakout and why. Among those killed was the prison director, identified as Paul Joseph Hector.

Residents who declined to be identified because they feared for their life told the AP that they saw gunmen shoot at prison guards on Thursday before inmates escaped from the Croix-des-Bouquets penitentiary.

The prison is known for a 2014 breakout in which more than 300 of the 899 inmates being held there at the time escaped. Some believed that attack was designed to free Clifford Brandt, the son of a prominent businessman, who had been imprisoned since 2012 for allegedly kidnapping the adult children of a rival businessman. Brandt was captured two days later near the Dominican Republic border.

After the 2014 breakout, officials said they were taking steps to up security at the prison that Canada built in 2012, including installing security cameras and placing ankle monitors on the most dangerous prisoners. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of those measures were taken. At the time of Thursday’s breakout, the prison held 1,542 inmates, nearly twice its capacity.

Haiti’s largest prison breakout in recent history occurred after the devastating 2010 earthquake in which more than 4,200 inmates fled the notorious National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince.

President Jovenel Mose tweeted on Friday that he condemned the most recent jailbreak and asked people to remain calm. He added that Haiti’s National Police ?is instructed to take all measures to bring the situation under control.”

Meanwhile, Helen La Lime, Haiti’s special representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a statement that she was deeply concerned with the mutiny and prison escape.

“I encourage the police to speed up investigations on the circumstances surrounding this incident, redouble its efforts to re-apprehend the escapees, and strengthen security around prisons throughout the country,” she said.

“This prison break further highlights the problem of prolonged preventive detention and prison overcrowding which remains matter of concern that must be urgently addressed by Haitian authorities.”

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