US Supreme Court reinstates Boston Marathon bomber’s death sentence

US Supreme Court reinstates Boston Marathon bomber’s death sentence
The Supreme Court has reinstated the death sentence for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 04 March 2022

US Supreme Court reinstates Boston Marathon bomber’s death sentence

US Supreme Court reinstates Boston Marathon bomber’s death sentence
  • The court's six conservative justices were in the majority, with its three liberals dissenting
  • Lawyers for Tsarnaev have argued that he played a secondary role in the marathon bombing to his brother

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Friday reinstated convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence for his role in the 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, ruling in favor of the federal government.
In a 6-3 decision, the justices sided with the Justice Department’s challenge to a 2020 federal appeals court ruling that had upheld Tsarnaev’s conviction but overturned his death sentence.
The Supreme Court faulted the Boston-based 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals on its findings both that Tsarnaev’s right to a fair trial under the US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment was violated and that the trial judge wrongly excluded certain evidence about a separate crime.
“Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes. The Sixth Amendment nonetheless guaranteed him a fair trial before an impartial jury. He received one,” conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court.
The court’s six conservative justices were in the majority, with its three liberals dissenting.
President Joe Biden as a candidate promised to work to pass legislation in Congress to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and set incentives for states to do as well, instead endorsing life sentences without probation or parole. But his administration last year opted to proceed with an appeal initially launched by the Justice Department under his predecessor Donald Trump to defend Tsarnaev’s death sentence.
In a dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer agreed with 1st Circuit that evidence about the separate crime, a 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts linked to Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan, was improperly excluded.
Lawyers for Tsarnaev, who is 28 now and was 19 at the time of the attack, have argued that Tsarnaev played a secondary role in the marathon bombing to his brother, who they called “an authority figure” with “violent Islamic extremist beliefs.” As such, the evidence about another crime Tamerlan allegedly committed would be relevant, they argued.
“This evidence may have led some jurors to conclude that Tamerlan’s influence was so pervasive that Dzhokhar did not deserve to die for any of the actions he took in connection with the bombings, even those taken outside of Tamerlan’s presence,” Breyer wrote.
“And it would have taken only one juror’s change of mind to have produced a sentence other than death, even if a severe one,” added Breyer, who in the past has questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty.
The primary source of the evidence about the other murders, a man named Ibragim Todashev, was killed by an FBI agent in 2013 when he attacked officers during an interview.
The Supreme Court also found that US District Judge George O’Toole, who presided over the trial, did not violate Tsarnaev’s right to a trial in front of an impartial jury by failing to properly screen jurors for potential bias following pervasive news coverage of the bombings.
CONVICTED ON ALL COUNTS
The Tsarnaev brothers detonated two homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line on April 15, 2013, and days later killed a police officer. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after the gunfight with police.
Jurors convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in 2015 on all 30 counts he faced and determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed Martin Richard, 8, and Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 23. Restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, was killed by the second bomb.
Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg in the second blast, said the Supreme Court “did the right thing” and that the three justices who dissented “should be ashamed.” But Fucarile said he has no confidence that the death sentence would ultimately be carried out, especially under the Biden administration.
“He got what he deserves,” said Fucarile, 43. “I think we need to send a message, you can’t just kill innocent people and set off bombs in crowds of people.”
No federal inmates were executed for 17 years before Trump oversaw 13 executions in the last six months of his term. Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, last July imposed a moratorium on federal executions while the Justice Department reviews the death penalty.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in March 2021 that Biden continues to have “grave concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness.”


Zelensky to host Lviv talks with UN chief, Turkish leader

Zelensky to host Lviv talks with UN chief, Turkish leader
Updated 37 sec ago

Zelensky to host Lviv talks with UN chief, Turkish leader

Zelensky to host Lviv talks with UN chief, Turkish leader
LVIV, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to host the UN chief and Turkey’s leader Thursday for talks on the recent deal to resume Ukraine’s grain exports, the volatile situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant and efforts to help end the nearly six-month-old war.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres arrived Wednesday in Lviv, near Ukraine’s border with Poland, where he will meet Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is making his first trip to Ukraine since the war started.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that among other issues, Guterres will discuss “his overall efforts to do what he can to essentially lower the temperature as much as possible with the various authorities.”
Last month, Turkey and the UN helped broker an agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia invaded Feb. 24. A separate memorandum between Russia and the UN aimed to clear roadblocks to shipments of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets.
The war and the blocked exports significantly exacerbated the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers.
Grain prices peaked after Russia’s invasion, and while some have since returned to prewar levels, they remain significantly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developing countries have been hit particularly hard by supply shortages and high prices. Even though ships are now leaving Russia and Ukraine, the food crisis hasn’t ended.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters this week that Guterres’ trip to Ukraine will allow him “to see first-hand the results of an initiative … that is so critically important to hundreds of millions of people.”
Dujarric added that he expects “the need for a political solution” to the war to be raised in Thursday’s talks.
He said the three leaders will also discuss the situation at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling.
In his nightly video address Wednesday, Zelensky reaffirmed his demand for the Russian military to leave the plant, emphasizing that “only absolute transparency and control of the situation at and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant for the Ukrainian state, for the international community, and for the IAEA can guarantee a gradual return to normal nuclear safety.” The International Atomic Energy Agency is a UN agency.
Russia has rejected the demand.
Erdogan’s office has confirmed that he would discuss the grain deal during the talks as well as ways to end the war through diplomatic means.
Earlier this month, the Turkish leader met on the same issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In March, Turkey hosted a round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, who discussed a possible deal to end the hostilities. The talks fell apart after the meeting in Istanbul, with both sides blaming each other.
Erdogan has engaged in a delicate balancing act, maintaining good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has provided Ukraine with drones, which played a significant role in deterring a Russian advance early in the conflict, but it has refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia over the war.
Facing a major economic crisis with official inflation near 80 percent, Turkey increasingly relies on Russia for trade and tourism. Russian gas covers 45 percent of Turkish energy needs, and Russia’s atomic agency is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
During their meeting in Sochi this month, Putin and Erdogan agreed to bolster energy, financial and other ties between their countries, raising concerns in the West that Ankara could help Moscow bypass the US and European Union sanctions.
On Wednesday night, Russian forces shelled Kharkiv and the surrounding region in northeast Ukraine, killing at least seven people, wounding 20 others and damaging residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, authorities said.

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights
Updated 49 min ago

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights
  • Over 150 countries voted in favor of the UN Global Compact on Migration with the exception of five countries
  • Saudi Arabia has signed 23 agreements with labor-exporting countries, the contents of which conform to international standards

DUBAI: Philippine migrant workers secretary Susan Ople has cited Saudi Arabia’s commitment to support migrant workers’ rights, as she announced stricter measures to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly domestic workers.

The official, in a statement highlighted Saudi Arabia’s “public expression of support for the UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which declares that the protection of migrants and migrant workers is a shared responsibility among States.”

“Even countries where the sponsorship or ‘Kafala system’ is in place have signed this UN document, signifying their support to sound migration governance and humane treatment of migrant workers, including those in vulnerable occupations such as domestic work,” Ople said in her statement.

Over 150 countries voted in favor of the UN Global Compact on Migration with the exception of five countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland and the United States.

Sattam Alharbi, Deputy Minister of Human Resource and Social Development, in an earlier UN forum in New York, reiterated the robust partnership between the Philippines, as the labor-sending country, and Saudi Arabia, a country of migrant labor destination.

Saudi Arabia has signed 23 agreements with labor-exporting countries, the contents of which are per international standards, to ensure a partnership based on the promotion of human rights between employees and employers.

In 2021, about 1.6 million overseas Filipinos comprised Saudi Arabia’s 13.49 million expatriate population. Saudi Arabia is the leading destination for OFWs, making about 26.6 percent of those being deployed.

“Safeguarding the rights and welfare of our migrant workers is at the heart of the DMW’s programs, services, and agreements. We will always strive to do our best amid so many challenges in the world we live in,” Ople said.

Some of the initiatives to be put in place to ensure protection of OFWs include the performance review and assessment of licensed recruitment agencies and their foreign counterparts, the issuance of country-specific employment contracts taking, stricter guidelines to only qualified and fully trained household workers are deployed abroad and white-listing of ethical recruitment agencies and foreign recruitment agencies.

Meanwhile, the names of foreign employers and recruitment agencies, both local and foreign, that have been blacklisted due to recruitment and labor violations would be published as a warning to the public.


Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21
Updated 15 min 24 sec ago

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21
  • No immediate claim of responsibility for the attack
  • Several children were reported to be among the wounded

KABUL: A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33 others, eyewitnesses and police said Thursday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack Wednesday night, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power. Several children were reported to be among the wounded.

The Daesh group’s local affiliate has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents’ takeover last August as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, the extremists claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.

Khalid Zadran, the spokesman for Kabul’s Taliban police chief, gave the figures for the bombing at the Siddiquiya mosque in the city’s Kher Khanna neighborhood. An eyewitness said the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The slain cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the explosion and vowed that the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and will be punished.”

There were fears the casualty numbers could rise further. On Thursday morning, one witness to the blast who gave his name as Qyaamuddin said he believed as many as 25 people may have been killed in the blast.

“It was evening prayer time, and I was attending the prayer with others, when the explosion happened,” Qyaamuddin said. Some Afghans go by a single name.

AP journalists could see the blue-roofed, Sunni mosque from a nearby hillside. The Taliban parked police trucks and other vehicles at the mosque, while several men carried out one casket for a victim of the attack.

A US-led invasion toppled the previous Taliban government, which had hosted Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Since regaining power, the former insurgents have faced a crippling economic crisis as the international community, which does not recognize the Taliban government, froze funding to the country. On Thursday, the Taliban hosted a gathering of 3,000 tribal elders, religious scholars and others in Kandahar, their state-run Bakhtar News Agency reported. It wasn’t immediately clear what topics they planned to discuss.

Separately, the Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that they had captured and killed Mehdi Mujahid in western Herat province as he was trying to cross the border into Iran.

Mujahid was a former Taliban commander in the district of Balkhab in northern Sar-e-Pul province, and the only member of the minority Shiite Hazara community among the Taliban ranks.

Mujahid had turned against the Taliban over the past year, after opposing decisions made by Taliban leaders in Kabul.


Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no

Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no
Updated 18 August 2022

Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no

Former Malaysian PM Najib’s lawyer wants out of case; court says no
  • Defense lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik says he made an error of judgment in accepting the case
  • Najib is seeking to overturn his jail sentence for corruption in a high-stakes legal gambit 

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Malaysia’s top court on Thursday began hearing ex-leader Najib Razak’s appeal to overturn his jail sentence for corruption in a high-stakes legal gambit that could see him locked up or potentially launching a political comeback.
The Federal Court on Tuesday dismissed the former prime minister’s plea for a retrial, clearing the way for the hearings, which will be held until August 26.
But as the hearing started, defense lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, surprised the court by telling the panel of five judges that he wanted to be discharged from the case.
“I would like to start by tendering the following apology from the bottom of my heart. I am unable to proceed with this appeal,” Hisyam said.
“It was an error of my judgment when I accepted the case,” he said.
The court had earlier dismissed Hisyam’s request for three to four months to prepare.
Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat told the lawyer that he cannot just discharge himself and called for a break.
“You still want to discharge yourself and leave your client unrepresented? In our mind, you cannot discharge yourself. You have to carry on,” the chief justice said.
Najib, 69, and his ruling party were roundly defeated in 2018 elections following allegations of their involvement in a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
He and his associates were accused of stealing billions of dollars from the country’s investment vehicle and spending it on everything from high-end real estate to pricey art.
Following a lengthy High Court trial, Najib was found guilty of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust over the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.1 million) from a former 1MDB unit to his personal bank account.
He was sentenced to 12 years in jail in July 2020, and an appellate court last December rejected his appeal, prompting him to mount a final plea before the Federal Court.
Najib had been hoping the court would grant a full retrial but that request was unanimously rejected on Tuesday.
Dressed in a dark suit and white mask, Najib arrived in court Thursday and waved to around 70 supporters, who shouted “bossku,” meaning “my boss,” which has turned into a rallying cry among his defenders.
If the conviction is upheld, Najib will begin serving his jail sentence immediately, lawyers said.
An acquittal, however, could propel him into contention for his former political post, as he remains popular in Malaysia despite the scandal that plagued his administration.
He remains an elected member of parliament with the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the leading party in the current government.


UN rights chief says conditions ‘not right’ for Rohingya repatriation

UN rights chief says conditions ‘not right’ for Rohingya repatriation
Updated 18 August 2022

UN rights chief says conditions ‘not right’ for Rohingya repatriation

UN rights chief says conditions ‘not right’ for Rohingya repatriation
  • Bangladesh PM presses organization to move forward with plans
  • Scheme has failed to launch despite repeat pleas from Dhaka

DHAKA: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that the repatriation of more than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh is not yet possible due to the situation in Myanmar.

Although Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it has hosted and provided humanitarian support to the Rohingya Muslims who fled neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017.

Most of the refugees live in dozens of cramped settlements in Cox’s Bazar District, a coastal region in the country’s southeast. Hosting the refugees costs Bangladesh about $1.2 billion per year.

Bachelet arrived in Bangladesh on Sunday for a four-day working visit — her first to the South Asian country.

Despite multiple attempts from Bangladesh in past years to advance a UN-backed repatriation process, the organization has yet to move forward with a plan.

“The conditions are not right,” Bachelet told reporters. “Repatriation must always be conducted in a voluntary and dignified manner, only when safe and sustainable conditions exist in Myanmar.”

The UN human rights chief spoke after meeting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who said that the Rohingya must go back home to Myanmar.

Hasina’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters that during the meeting, the prime minister had pushed for the repatriation process to finally begin.

“The Rohingyas are the nationals of Myanmar, and they have to be taken back,” he quoted Hasina as saying.

With the arrival of the Rohingya, Cox’s Bazar became the world’s largest refugee settlement. Few employment opportunities are available, sanitation is poor and access to education limited.

“The presence of Rohingyas in Bangladesh has created a number of security concerns for Bangladesh,” Prof. Delawar Hossain of the International Relations Department at the University of Dhaka, told Arab News.

Security in the camps came back into focus earlier this month when two refugee community leaders were shot dead, reportedly by an insurgent group active in the Cox’s Bazar camps that has been accused of killing scores of opponents.

Reports of criminal organizations using refugees as drug traffickers have also been on the rise.

International financial support for Bangladesh’s hosting of the Rohingya has fallen since 2020, multiplying the challenges the developing country battered by the COVID-19 pandemic is already facing.  

“Any community with a number of 1.3 million people definitely is a pressure on the economy and society,” Hossain said, adding that a return to Myanmar is an “urgent need” for the Rohingya as only then will they be able to start to live normal lives.

He said: “We should do everything possible so that the repatriation starts, because this is the only solution that we have for the Rohingya crisis.”