The poliTics of deaTh by etssetcf


The poliTics of deaTh

More Info
									                                                  updaTe ocT 06

The poliTics of deaTh
          By the time you read this, Leeds man
         Tahir Hussain may have been executed

The ‘war on terror’ may be about      1 October, but his execution date
to claim another – most unlikely      was postponed so as not to fall
– victim.                             in the holy month of Ramadan. A
     Tahir Hussain was just an        new date is likely to be set for the
ordinary Leeds teenager when he       end of October. When RepRieve’s
went on holiday to Pakistan to stay   Zachary Katznelson visited him in
with relatives. On the second day     early October, he was living in a
of his holiday, Mr Hussain hired a    10 foot by 12 foot cell, with two
taxi to take him to the village of    other men.
Bhubar, near Rawalpindi. On the            Pakistan President Musharraf
way, the taxi driver attempted to     has already issued three stays
sexually assault him at gunpoint.     of Mr Hussain’s execution and
During the ensuing struggle, the      is under pressure from Britain
gun went off, injuring the taxi       and elsewhere to use his power
driver, who later died.               to commute the sentence. The
     Mr Hussain immediately           president previously said he was
drove the injured man to the          ‘willing to find a solution to this
nearest police station, but he        case that goes over and above
was arrested and charged with         what the courts are able to do’.
murder when the man died. Mr          On his recent visit to Britain,
Hussain was subsequently tried        President Musharraf again said
and sentenced to death. The           he was searching for a solution
prosecution’s suggestion that a       within the law.
teenager from affluent Britain             However, the president faces
had brought a gun on a plane all      a predicament and it is possible
the way from home to rob a poor       that he could allow his supposed
taxi driver seemed improbable at      short-term political interests to
best. Both blood and ballistics       stand in the way of saving Mr
evidence appeared to have been        Hussain’s life. Next year, Pakistan
falsified. After several appeals,     will celebrate 60 years of inde-
his conviction was quashed by         pendence. The president has suf-
the Supreme Court and he was          fered severe domestic criticism for    
ordered to be released.               his lack of independence, and he
     However, the driver’s family     does not want to be seen to bow
intervened and succeeded in           to the British now. Yet it would be
having Mr Hussain’s case trans-       perverse if President Musharraf
ferred to Pakistan’s parallel         were to sanction Mr Hussain’s
Sharia religious courts. In 1998,     execution purely to counteract
the Sharia court by a two-to-one      perceptions in Pakistan of his
vote once again sentenced Mr          links with President Bush and
Hussain to death. The dissenter       Prime Minister Blair.
lambasted the decision as a ‘mis-          President Musharraf should
carriage of justice’.                 spare Mr Hussain not as a favour
     Now 36, Mr Hussain has           to Britain, but simply because
spent almost half his life under      it is the right thing to do – for
threat of execution. He was           Tahir Hussain, for justice, and for
scheduled to be executed on           Pakistan.
    GlimmeR of hope foR Kenny Richey
    Kenny Richey, who has been on        this successful appeal on a legal
    death row in Ohio since 1986,        technicality. Mr Richey, therefore,
    hopes to have his murder convic-     lost the prospect of immediate
    tion overturned for the second       release or retrial and was back on
    time, following an appeal court      death row.
    decision to look at his case             Now, however, there is
    again.                               another glimmer of hope. The
        Mr Richey’s conviction for       appeal court has announced
    murdering a child in a fire was      it will look at the case again in
    originally overturned in 2005,       January 2007.
    after his lawyers made represen-
    tations about the poor quality
    of defence at his original trial.
    However, in an unusual move, the
    US Supreme Court agreed to the       press_kenny_richey_
    prosecution’s request to overturn    update_140906.htm

    spiRiTed away
    In the five years since 9/11 the     secret prisons to Guantánamo
    US and its allies have questioned    Bay to face trial. He claimed
    thousands of suspected terror-       that there were now ‘no ter-
    ists. Almost none has ever seen      rorists in the CIA program’. The
    the inside of a courtroom.           maths begs a serious question:
         On a conservative estimate,     if there were 30 or 36 people
    America currently has around         there before, and 14 have been
    14,000 prisoners held indefi-        transferred, where are those 16-
    nitely without trial, around the     22 other people? If they are no
    world. The August edition of         longer in the CIA secret prison
    Congressional Quarterly – the        system, then what has happened
    publication that the US govern-      to them?
    ment created to keep Congress             The CIA’s program of ‘extraor-
    informed – estimated that 450        dinary rendition’ may hold a part
    prisoners are held in Guantánamo     of the answer. Under the rendi-
    Bay; around 500 in Bagram            tion program, suspected terror-
    Airforce Base in Afghanistan; 100-   ists are flown by the CIA to other
    200 in Kandahar, Afghanistan;        countries where the suspects
    12,800 in Iraq; and 30 in ‘other     face torture to try to get them to
    locations’.                          talk. In those countries, the sus-
         Those ‘other locations’ are     pects are at times held in a form
    secret CIA facilities around the     of joint custody, where coun-
    globe where those 30 prison-         tries like Afghanistan provides
    ers – or 36, by the Red Cross’s      jail facilities and guards, and the
    unofficial estimate – are kept       CIA provide the interrogators.
    deep within a legal black hole.      Under such a scheme, if the CIA
    On 6 September 2006, President       does not run the facility itself,
    George Bush announced that           President Bush’s statement may
    14 alleged al-Qaida operatives       be factually accurate, but has he
    had been transferred from those      really come clean?

    save a life This chRisTmas
                                         are two versions: one has a quote
                                         from exoneree Ryan Matthews
                                         on his release from death row:
                                         ‘Never give up hope’; the other
                                         reads: ‘Delivering justice, saving

                  RepRieve Christmas     lives’. Send an SAE and cheque
                  cards cost £4.99       for £2 to: RepRieve PO Box 52742,
    for a pack of 10 cards (plus         London, EC4P 4WS.
    postage), with the money going
    to help fund our vital, life-        Shopping and caring
    saving work. We have two dif-        Do your Christmas shop-
    ferent images this year, and the     ping on-line and donate to
    message inside both is: ‘Season’s    RepRieve at the same time.
    Greetings’. You can order cards is an
    directly from RepRieve’s website     on-line shopping website that
    (; or by         has links to hundreds of leading
    phoning: 020 7353 4640.              retailers, ranging from Amazon,
                                         to Boden, to Toys R Us. If you
    Dog tags                             sign up to support RepRieve, each
    Show support for RepRieve with       time you buy something, we will
    one of our stylish dog tags. There   receive a donation.
a yeaR of isolaTion
   Zachary Katznelson visits Shaker Aamer, one
   of the British residents held at Guantánamo
     Bay that our government refuses to help
24 September 2006 marked                     The air conditioner is often
one year that my client Shaker          turned off, leaving him swelter-
Aamer, a long-time British resi-        ing in the Cuban heat. At other
dent, has been held in isolation        times, it is kept on maximum so
in Guantánamo Bay.                      – with no blanket – he is freez-
                                        ing cold.
He has not been outside                      In June, Mr Aamer was beaten
   in 4 months. He is                   solidly for two-and-a-half-hours,
                                        after refusing to provide a retina
 not allowed to phone                   scan and fingerprints. He was
    or see his family                   strapped to a chair, with his head,
                                        arms and legs fully restrained.
Mr Aamer has been a prisoner in         The military police (MPs) inflicted
Guantánamo Bay since February           so much pain, he says he thought
2002, more than four-and-a-half         he was going to die. The MPs
years. He has been beaten, sub-         pressed pressure points all over
jected to temperature extremes,         his body: his temples, just under
and deprived of sleep. He has           his jawline, in the hollow beneath
not been outside in four months.        his ears. They choked him. They
He is not allowed to phone or           repeatedly bent his nose to
see his family. Mr Aamer has not        the side so hard, he thought it
been charged with any crime.            would break. They pinched his
Yet, he has neither prospect of a       thighs and feet constantly. They
trial, nor a certain date when he       gouged his eyes. They held his
might be released.                      eyes open and shined a torch in
     The     British    government      them for minutes on end, gener-
refuses to intervene to help Mr         ating intense heat. They bent his
Aamer because – although his            fingers until he screamed.
wife and four children are all
British citizens, and although          When he screamed, they
he previously lived in Britain for      cut off his airway, then
many years – he is officially a
British resident, rather than a          put a mask on him so
British citizen.                         he could not cry out
     Since the beginning of June,
Mr Aamer has not had any                This whole time the officer in
contact with fellow prisoners.          charge of the camp was outside
Apart from the guards, I am the         the cell, but did not intervene.
only person he has seen, when I             The Geneva Conventions,
visited him on two occasions in         which apply to Guantánamo Bay,
August.                                 state that every prisoner must be
     During my visits, I found him      treated humanely. The Geneva
living in a 6 foot by 8 foot cell,      Conventions are being violated in
with just a steel bunk and thin         Mr Aamer’s case.
mattress, steel toilet and sink,            RepRieve was finally able to get
and a Qur’an. Nothing else. The         information about Mr. Aamer’s
lights in his cell are never turned     treatment declassified in early
off. Mr Aamer wears thin cotton         September. We have now filed
orange trousers, a thin cotton          an emergency motion in the US
orange shirt and flip-flops. He is      federal court, asking it to inter-
not allowed any other items– not        vene and enforce his rights under
even a toothbrush or a cup.             the Geneva Conventions.
                                                             Zachary Katznelson
                                                    is Senior Counsel at RepRieve

                  whaT is RepRieve?
     RepRieve is a UK charity that fights for the lives of people facing
     the death penalty and other human rights violations.
         We provide lawyers and investigators to help those who
     cannot afford to pay for their own legal representation.
      We rely on donations and help from volunteers to carry on
     our work. See our website ( for infor-
     mation on how you can get involved; or send back the dona-
     tion form on the back page.
    a liTTle liGhT Relief
         Fiona Bawdon reports from RepRieve’s highly
         successful first-ever music & comedy benefit
               night at London’s Globe Theatre

                                 Stephen K Amos

    ‘Look around the room and             gave it 4/5 stars.
    catch the eye of a stranger. Say           Headlining    was      country
    to that person, “Hi! It’s great       legend Steve Earle, whose songs
    to be alive!”,’ gushed stand-up       included his 1988 single, ‘My Old
    comedian Stephen K Amos at the        Friend the Blues’, and a duet with
    outset of RepRieve’s fundraising      his wife, country singer Allison
    evening at Shakespeare’s Globe        Moorer.
    theatre.                                   Mr Earle is a long-standing
        Mr Amos – compère for the         campaigner against the death
    night – may have been being           penalty, which he described as
    deliberately cheesy, but there        ‘an unspeakable act’. He revealed
    was at least one person there         that he once witnessed an execu-
    with more cause than most to          tion, at the request of the man
    agree with that sentiment: Nick       who was to die. Mr Earle had,
    Yarris, who spent 23 years on         he said, regretted it ever since
    death row before being exon-          and had ‘never completely recov-
    erated. Since his release, Yarris,    ered from’ being exposed to such
    who acts as a RepRieve spokesper-     brutality.
    son, has rebuilt his life and now          Allison Moorer also per-
    lives in England.                     formed a solo set, which includ-
        The Globe event, held in early    ed her version of the soul classic
                                          ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. It was
                                          the second time the audience
                                          heard that particular song played
                                          that night. The original by Sam
                                          Cooke was chosen by death row
                                          exoneree Shareef Cousin as his
                                          favourite song. Cousin’s selection
                                          was one 14 tracks played during
                                          the course of the evening which
                                          had been chosen by those cur-
                                          rently or previously facing execu-
                                          tion. Other songs played selected
                                          by prisoners included Lynyrd
                                          Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’; Joss Stone’s
                                         ‘Right to be Wrong’; and Frankie
                Nick Yarris               Beverly’s ‘Happy Feelings’.
                                               During    their    set,   The
    summer, was RepRieve’s first such     Proclaimers dedicated ‘Sunshine
    fundraiser. It included a diverse     on Leith’ to Kenny Richey, cur-
    line-up of comedians and musi-        rently on death row in Ohio
    cians with one thing in common,       (‘Hopefully, one day soon, he’ll
    opposition to the death penalty.      be free’). The Scottish duo’s set –
    It was a moving, funny and            which would have raised the roof
    thought-provoking evening –           if the Globe weren’t an open air
    all the more remarkable given         theatre, – included favourites like
    that it was organised from start      ‘Letter from America’; ‘I’m on my
    to finish by RepRieve staff and       way’; ‘Scotland’s Story’ and ‘I’m
    volunteers in little over three       Gonna Be (500 miles)’.
    months. The Evening Standard               The other musicians who also
    newspaper’s subsequent review         gave their time free to perform
at the event were Dire Straits          should expect a degree of sur-
founder David Knopfler and              veillance when the sound of a
his regular collaborator Harry          passing police helicopter could
Bogdanovs, who were joined              be heard overhead.
by Scottish folk singer Karine               Kevin Eldon appeared as his
Polwart.                                alter ego poet Paul Hamilton
   RepRieve legal director Clive        performing works from his

                               The Proclaimers

Stafford Smith – who had                ‘Shadows Of Reflections: A
returned from one of his regular        Vision Of Words’ collection. He
trips to Guantánamo Bay the             reassured the audience of the
morning of the event – spoke            strength of his opposition to the
about the role of music in provid-      death penalty: ‘Those who advo-
ing solace to those on death row,       cate capital punishment should
and inspiration to their lawyers.       be strung up...’
‘Musicians have a lot more influ-           For many in the audience,
ence than lawyers when it comes         the highlight of the night was
to saving people’s lives,’ he said.     hearing from the former prisoner
‘Every time I’m doing a death           Nick Yarris. Yarris told the Globe
penalty case, I pick one song and       audience that he ended up on
play it over and over again.’ He        death row after a chain of events
also talked about the ‘remarka-         that began with being stopped
ble capacity for humour’ of death       for a traffic violation. After more
row clients.                            than two decades in solitary con-
    Comedians on the bill at            finement (‘locked in a room no
the Globe included the activist         larger than most people’s bath-
and human rights campaigner             room’) he finally ‘got [his] life
Mark Thomas; Kevin Eldon; and           back’ in 2004, when DNA evi-
Stewart Lee.                            dence proved his innocence. He
    Mr Thomas revealed that his         now lives in England with his wife
activism had once led him and           and baby daughter, Lara.
four mates to chain themselves              ‘My story is an example of
to the underside of an arms deal-       what goes wrong when govern-
er’s car. When a police officer         ments believe they have the right
inquired who was the ringleader         to kill people’, he said.
of the protest, all four yelled out:        Reprieve would like to
‘I’m Spartacus!’                        thank the Globe, lastminute.
    Stand-up comedian Stewart           com and all the performers
Lee had just finished irreverent-       who donated their time. A
ly warning the audience that,           similar event is planned for
by attending the event they’d           next year. More details will
be considered subversives and           be published in due course.


                                Mark Thomas
    spoTliGhT on RepRieve fellows
      As part of our regular look at the work of those
    on the frontline of the fight for the lives of people
    facing the death penalty, we report on the work of
                       Terrica Redfield
                                            resources for defence counsel,
                                            innocence, mental illness, and the
                                            importance of jury service, partic-
                                            ularly among African-American
                                                 Terrica explains: ‘Most people
                                            would rather avoid jury service at
                                            all costs. But this attitude when
                                            expressed by African-Americans
                                            and other racial minorities is par-
                                            ticularly dangerous for defend-
                                            ants. Studies have shown that
                                            racially diverse juries are less
                                            likely to recommend a death sen-
                                            tence. So, I try impress upon
                                            those present at the community
                                            meeting the historical injustices
    2006 RepRieve Fellow Terrica            inflicted upon African-Americans
    Redfield has begun her work             by law enforcement and other
    in Alabama and has gained a             criminal justice agencies and
    deeper understanding of what            members. I try to get those
    it means to stand up in court for       present to view jury service, not
    a capital client. ‘Being on death       as a burden, but as a small step
    row or facing the death penalty         that they individually can make
    is more than walking through the        toward enhancing the goal of
    “valley of the shadow of death”;        social justice.’
    it is living there. It is understand-
    ing every day that someone                 ‘Going into Alabama
    wants you dead and is deter-            communities to educate
    mined to kill you. And some-
    times what my clients need more              citizens about the
    than anything is to know that               importance of jury
    someone is on their side fighting         service and problems
    for them, protecting them, and
    caring about them.’                       in the criminal justice
         Terrica’s efforts on behalf         system is proving to be
    of her clients include drafting
                                                an enormous task.’
    motions and petitions, meeting
    with the defence teams, brain-
                                            But Terrica faces an uphill battle.
    storming case strategy, visiting
                                            She says: “Through this process, I
    her clients, and consulting with
                                            am introducing myself to leaders
    experts. She has four clients in
                                            and asking them to carry the
    Alabama and three in Georgia.
                                            message to members of their
         In addition to representing
                                            community. This is an exciting
    her clients in court, Terrica has
                                            adventure and one that I think
    been working with local com-
                                            over a period of time will have
    munity groups in Alabama,
                                            tremendous positive results for
    Mississippi, and Georgia, focus-
                                            defendants facing capital trials in
    ing on the problems of racial dis-
    crimination, lack of funding and

                          Classical Concerts
                  at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street
         St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London will be hosting a series
         of classical concerts during Lent 2007 in aid of Reprieve.
         The Miserere Music Festival will begin on Ash Wednesday,
         21 February 2007 and will be followed by three further
         Wednesday evening concerts, culminating with a gala perfor-
         mance of Handel’s Messiah on 18 April 2007.
         Details of how to buy tickets will be on Reprieve’s
         website in due course:
RepRieve people
         RepRieve’s work is only possible because
         of the dedication of its small staff and
        larger volunteer group. In this issue, we
          profile two key members of our team

Clemmie Harrison, volunteer,            Helen Wood, volunteer,
US; staff member, London                London office
                                        Helen remembers watching the
One of Clemmie’s earliest tasks as      film ‘14 days in May’, as a teenag-
a RepRieve intern at the Louisiana      er. The 1987 BBC documentary is
Capital Assistance Center (LCAC)        a searing account of the last two
was driving through the night to        weeks in the life of Edward Earl
Mississippi to get a death row          Johnson, as his defence lawyer,
prisoner’s signature on a vital         Clive Stafford Smith, fought
legal document.                         (and failed) to save him from the
     She describes the work as          gas chamber. ‘It had a powerful
‘utterly compelling’. Although          effect on me,’ says Helen.
Clemmie originally planned a                 Helen, a former corporate
three-month stint, starting at          lawyer, describes her opposition
the end of 2004, she ended up           to the death penalty as ‘a core
staying for double that time – and      belief; a core value’.
returned in 2005 for a further               Since the beginning of the
eight months.                           year, she has worked two days a
     ‘After three months, I felt I      week in the RepRieve office, fund-
was just getting useful to the          raising and organising events. ‘It’s
office. It didn’t feel right to leave   a fun office to be in. The char-
and luckily I had the flexibility to    acter of it is constantly changing
stay on.’                               because of the interns. It’s nice
     Her second visit in summer         to be surrounded by young, pas-
2005 coincided with the after-          sionate people,’ she says.
math of Hurricane Katrina, so                Helen has already helped pull
she was temporarily relocated           off two spectacular fundraisers
to Houston. She spent a couple          – a gala performance of the play
of months working with local            The Exonerated at the Riverside
attorneys desperately trying to         Studios in west London (which
save the life of a prisoner already     included veteran actor and human
under warrant of death. They            rights     campaigner      Vanessa
didn’t succeed. Texas is a ‘ruth-       Redgrave among the cast); and,         
lessly efficient machine’ when it       more recently, RepRieve’s first ever
comes to executions, she says.          evening of music and comedy at
     A key part of her intern work      Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (see
– which covered everything from         pages 4-5).
filing to driving families on prison         Of the latter, Helen says:
visits – was providing the social       ‘It was a total leap in the dark.
contact to prisoners that the           We had no idea what we were
overworked attorneys couldn’t           doing! None of us had done a
manage. ‘I met so many impres-          fundraising event on this scale
sive people. People who had lives       before.’ Despite this, the evening
I could never possibly have imag-       was a great success and Helen is
ined beforehand. ’                      already working on a similar event
     Clemmie is now working             for next year. She is also organis-
three days a week in the RepRieve       ing an event at St Bride’s Church
London office.                          on Fleet Street for next Lent.
    sTandinG up aGainsT The deaTh
    penalTy wiTh a sTandinG oRdeR
    Please support RepRieve’s frontline work on behalf of people facing
    the death penalty by asking your bank to set up a regular donation.
    All you have to do is fill in the form below and send it to: Annabel
    Harris, RepRieve, PO Box 52742, London, EC4P 4WS.

    acT now!
    Name: Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss/



        We would like to send you our newsletter and updates on our projects,
        campaigning and fundraising. If you don’t want to receive this information by
        mail, please tick this box.
        We may occasionally send our members information about organisations who
        have similar aims. If you do not want to receive this information, please tick this


        We might occasionally phone you to tell you about our projects, campaigning
        and fundraising. If you would prefer not to be contacted this way, please tick
        this box.

    If you would like email updates on our projects, campaigning and fundraising, please
    give us your email address. You can cancel these updates at any time.


    Please pay RepRieve £5 per month / £10 per month / £50 per month /

    £_____ per month / a one-off payment of £               (please delete as apppropriate),

    starting on:         /         / 20     and debit my account no:

    Signed:                                                             Date:           /      / 20

    Bank’s name:                                          Sort code:


    Pay to: RepRieve, Co-operative Bank, PO Box 250, Delf House, Southway,
    Skelmersdale, WN8 6WT Account number: 65071605 Sort code 08-92-99

    UK taxpayers only:   Gift Aid – you give £1, we get an extra 28p from the tax man.
        I would like RepRieve to reclaim the tax I pay and have paid on all my donations
       made since 6 April 2000 and any further donations I may make. I pay, and have
        paid, income tax or capital gains tax in the UK equal to the tax that RepRieve will
        reclaim. UK Registered charity no. 1080147

               Do not send this form to your own bank. Please send to:
                         RepRieve, PO Box 52742, London EC4P 4WS

    Our patrons:
    Alan Bennett, Sir John Mortimer, Marina Warner and Charles Wheeler
                                          thank you for your support

                             RepRieve    PO Box 52742 London EC4P 4WS
                                            tel: 020 7353 4640

To top