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Breaking World News: Death sentences for Indian gang rapists

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Four guilty of Delhi gang rape sentenced to death
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: All four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman in Delhi were sentenced to death today, nine months after a crime whose savagery triggered furious protests across India and rare national debate about violence against women.

“Everybody got the death penalty,” defence lawyer A.P. Singh told reporters outside the Delhi courtroom, where dozens of police had formed a barricade to keep crowds back.

One of the four men sentenced to death by hanging, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, was dragged out of the court crying.

The victim, who was raped for an hour and tortured with an iron rod on a moving bus, became a symbol of the dangers women face in a country where a rape is reported on average every 21 minutes and acid attacks and cases of molestation are common.

“This has shocked the collective conscience of society,” Judge Yogesh Khanna told the court, referring to the attack.

The four men were sentenced to death despite their lawyers’ pleas to ignore popular and political pressure for a penalty handed down in only the “rarest of rare” cases.

Lawyer A.P. Singh, who represented two of the convicts in the trial, said hours before the sentencing that it would be “based on the emotions of the people”.

“This sentencing is under political pressure,” he said.

The sentencing capped a seven-month trial, often held behind closed doors, that was punctuated dramatically by a fifth defendant hanging himself in his jail cell. A sixth, who was under 18 at the time of the attack, was earlier sentenced to three years detention, the maximum allowed under juvenile law.

It was one of the biggest tests in years of India’s paradoxical attitude towards the death penalty.

The country’s judges hand down, on average, 130 death sentences every year but India has executed just three people in the past 17 years. Despite its apparent reluctance to carry out the sentences, last year India voted against a U.N. draft resolution calling for a global moratorium on executions.

In November, India ended what many human rights groups had interpreted as an undeclared moratorium on capital punishment when it executed a man convicted for the 2008 militant attack on the city of Mumbai. Three months later, it hanged a Kashmiri separatist for a 2001 militant attack on parliament.

“In the past year, India has made a full-scale retreat from its previous principled rejection of the death penalty,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The hanging of the two militants came after a seven-year gap in executions, the last being a man who was convicted of raping and killing a schoolgirl in the city of Kolkata.

Prosecutors had called for the “harshest punishment” to be given to Sharma, bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh for last December’s murder to signal that such attacks cannot be tolerated.

The four men were found guilty of luring the woman onto a bus, raping and torturing her with a metal bar and then throwing her naked and bleeding onto the road. She died two weeks later.

Violent protests exploded in several cities after the crime, a reaction commentators and sociologists said reflected a deep well of frustration that many urban Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social issues.

The government, seen as out of touch with the aspirations of the burgeoning urban middle class, was caught off guard by the protests.

Divided on death

The Delhi case led to the introduction of tougher rape laws in March, and for the first time open conversation about gender crime in television debates, social media and even Bollywood.

Still, sex crimes remain commonplace in India, and social commentators say patriarchal attitudes towards women have not been diluted by more than a decade of rapid economic growth.

Comments on social media websites and elsewhere ahead of the sentencing suggested that popular opinion was in favour of executing the men, although a survey by CNN-IBN-The Hindu newspaper in July showed Indians were divided on the merits of capital punishment.

The victim’s parents have said their daughter’s dying wish was for her attackers to be “burned alive”.

A potentially years-long appeals process lies ahead for the four men. The case will go to the High Court and then Supreme Court. If they confirm the sentences, the final decision will lie with the president, who has the power to grant clemency.

Although the Supreme Court ruled in the 1980s that the death penalty should be imposed only in the “rarest of rare” cases, opponents say the reality is quite different.

Indian courts sentenced 1,455 prisoners to death between 2001 and 2011, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

There are 477 people on death row. Many have been there for years. Human rights groups have been alarmed, however, by the vigour with which President Pranab Mukherjee, who was sworn into office in July 2012, has acted in clearing the backlog of clemency pleas. He has rejected 11, confirming the death penalty for 17 people.

Retired Delhi High Court judge R.S. Sodhi attributes the country’s low execution rate to former presidents being “too soft”, wary of any backlash from what he described as a divided public.

Sodhi, who said he sentenced five people to death during his time on the bench, now opposes the death penalty.

“A life sentence is the biggest sentence you can give. Imagine rotting for the rest of your life in jail,” he said.

It is a view echoed by some women’s rights groups and legal experts who had opposed executing the physiotherapist’s attackers. Others have invoked the Gandhian principle that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

But top politicians, including the interior minister, had said the death penalty was assured in the case. Such comments were seen by some as adding to pressure on the court to make a populist ruling to satisfy the public outrage over the attack.

“Public opinion and particularly media channels are adding fuel to the fire. It is putting the judiciary on the back foot,” said Colin Gonsalves, a lawyer who has appeared in the Supreme Court and is founder director of the Human Rights Law Network.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe

Maya Taylor

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France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Andreas Selter on Unsplash

The leaders of France and Germany are once again having to introduce national lockdowns as the Covid-19 virus continues to surge across Europe. France is now recording over 36,000 (+36,437 yesterday) new cases a day, while Germany, which fared slightly better than other European countries during the first wave of the virus, is now seeing a dramatic rise in cases as winter approaches (+16,202 yesterday).

In announcing the new lockdown in France, President Emmanuel Macron warned that the country faces a second wave that could be worse than the first. Strict measures come into effect from tomorrow, with people not permitted to leave their homes unless it is to seek medical attention, purchase essential items, or to exercise for a maximum of an hour a day. However, schools remain open and people can still go to work if it is not possible for them to do their job from home.

“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated. Like all our neighbours, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus. We are all in the same position: overrun by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first.”

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | News by The Thaiger

Over in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed that from next Monday, November 2, to the end of November, all bars, restaurants, and theatres will close. Schools will remain open and shops will be permitted to operate under strict conditions. The chancellor warns that the measures are vital to protect the country’s healthcare system.

“We need to take action now. Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections, it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks.”

Confirmation of lockdowns in Europe’s biggest economies caused stock markets around the world to plummet, with European markets closing at their lowest level since late May. The S&P 500, which measures the performance of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the US, was down 3%.

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | News by The Thaiger

Meanwhile, with just 5 days to go before the presidential election, the US continues to set records with its rising numbers of virus cases. President Trump, however, remains undeterred, as he continues to hold public rallies, with many supporters not wearing masks.

France and Germany back in lockdown amid resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: SBS News

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World

Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38

Maya Taylor

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Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Scoop

The son of the Sultan of Brunei has died at the age of 38, the government of Brunei has confirmed. Prince Azim, who was 4th in line to the throne, passed away on Saturday morning. While the cause of death has not been confirmed, his Wikipedia entry says he succumbed to a long illness.

CNN reports that the prince had made a name for himself as a Hollywood film producer, where he was known for hosting extravagant parties with celebrity guests that included Mariah Carey, Pamela Anderson, and Janet Jackson, among others. His success in film came despite international condemnation of his father’s harsh rule in Brunei, where parts of Sharia law are in force and capital punishment involves death by stoning.

The nation of Brunei has entered a 7-day mourning period, with leaders from neighbouring countries expressing their condolences on the death of the prince. A statement from the Indonesian embassy in Brunei said Prince Azim, “will always be remembered fondly.” The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, described him as someone who was, “known for his kind and generous spirit, and for his dedication to charitable, educational, and youth causes.”

SOURCE: CNN

 

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Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis

Caitlin Ashworth

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Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Muhyiddin Yassin

While protesters in Thailand are calling on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign, the Malaysia PM Muhyiddin Yassin is experiencing similar calls after he attempted to declare a state of emergency amid a rise in Covid-19 infections, but the request was rejected by the Malaysian King.

Some say the prime minister’s attempt to impose the order was intended to suspend parliament and “curb the government process”. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently claimed he had the majority of support in parliament and challenged the prime minister. He suggested the call for a state of emergency was to avoid a vote on the annual supply bill which he may have lost, effectively a vote of no confidence in the current PM and his government.

When Muhyiddin requested a state of emergency, Anwar said the Malaysian PM was trying to “curb the parliamentary process.” He said using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to suspend sessions is an “abuse of power” and called the state of emergency request a “descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”

“A state of emergency is declared when there is a threat to our national security. But when the government is itself the source of that threat, then a state of emergency is nothing more than the descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism. I strongly advise Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to consider the legacy of these actions he is taking out of self interest and selfishness.”

Anwar released another media statement after the Malaysian King’s refusal saying it “affirms the strength of the constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.”

King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected the emergency order request yesterday. The prime minister holds a slim majority in parliament, but with his request rejected by the King, his hold on power is now palpably weaker. Now some leaders are calling on Muhyiddin to resign.

Ahmad Puad Zarkashi, a senior leader in the United Malays National Organisation made a Facebook post calling on the prime minister to resign.

“Thankfully, His Majesty the King was not influenced by the political game that could drag the country into more critical territory… The people’s wellbeing is more important. By right, Muhyiddin should step down.”

Opposition lawmaker Wong Chen calls the proposal for a state of emergency “malicious” and says the prime minister should resign or fire ministers who proposed the emergency orders.

SOURCES: Reuters | Twitter: Anwar Ibrahim

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