Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Ban on Publishing Names of Certain Government Workers

From the blog The Huffington Post

Ban on Publishing Names of Certain Government Workers

Posted July 31, 2007 | 03:44 PM (EST)

Missouri just enacted a new statute (2007 House Bill 820, revising Rev. Stat. Mo. § 546.720), which provides in relevant part:

3. A person may not, without the approval of the director of the department of corrections, knowingly disclose the identity of a current or former member of an execution team [i.e., a group of people chosen to perform executions] or disclose a record knowing that it could identify a person as being a current or former member of an execution team. Any person whose identity is disclosed in violation of this section shall:

(1) have a civil cause of action against a person who violates this section;

(2) be entitled to recover from any such person:

(a) actual damages; and

(b) punitive damages on a showing of a willful violation of this section.

A state is free to demand that its employees, and others with whom it contracts, not reveal certain confidential information. It is probably also free to impose civil or even criminal liability for people who violate such confidentiality obligations -- consider, for instance, the law barring the disclosure of income tax records. But a state may not punish third parties (such as reporters, commentators, activists, bloggers, and the like), who never entered into any confidentiality agreements, for revealing accurate information about whom the state is using to perform this important government function.

Perhaps in rare circumstances a state may restrict publishing employees' names when doing so would risk violent attack on the employees, though even there I have argued the First Amendment should generally prevail, since knowing even the names of undercover policemen and the like can often be important for the public's evaluation of government actions. I'm unaware, however, of any real risk of violence to people who are on execution teams, nor is the law limited to situations in which such a risk of violence is present.

Nor should this speech be punishable, I think, on the grounds that whoever republishes it must be aware that it was originally illegally leaked by some government employee. First, sometimes the information may indirectly come from incautious statements by the execution team members themselves, or their relatives or friends who know the team members' identities. But second, the government generally may not punish the redistribution of speech by third parties simply because the original leaker was violating some confidentiality obligation -- if it could, then a wide range of investigative journalism, for instance reporting on corporate or government misconduct, would be legally punishable, on the theory that it reports on information that employees were duty-bound to keep confidential. See generally the Supreme Court's decision in Bartnicki v. Vopper for a discussion, albeit not entirely conclusive, of a related issue.

Of course, people who participate on execution teams may suffer social ostracism or even private discrimination -- not from me, but perhaps from some people who are strongly opposed to the death penalty. But the government may not punish people from publishing accurate information simply because this information might prove embarrassing and socially troublesome for some people.

And this is especially so when the information is connected to such an important government activity, and may be relevant to whether it's being carried out soundly. The Missouri law, according to a New York Times story published yesterday, was enacted following a controversy over supposedly flawed executions: "A Missouri doctor who had supervised more than 50 executions by lethal injection testified last year that he sometimes gave condemned inmates smaller doses of a sedative than the state's protocol called for, explaining that he is dyslexic. 'So it's not unusual for me to make mistakes,' said the doctor, who was referred to in court papers as John Doe I." The identity of the doctor may be quite relevant to deciding whether the state was negligent in using him; and the identity of doctors who deny making mistakes may be relevant to deciding how credible they are.

Thanks to M. Louis Offen for the pointer.

After Flawed Executions, States Resort to Secrecy

After Flawed Executions, States Resort to Secrecy

Published: July 30, 2007

A Missouri doctor who had supervised more than 50 executions by lethal injection testified last year that he sometimes gave condemned inmates smaller doses of a sedative than the state’s protocol called for, explaining that he is dyslexic. “So it’s not unusual for me to make mistakes,” said the doctor, who was referred to in court papers as John Doe I.

Skip to next paragraph
Harry Campbell


"Executioner Identities: Toward Recognizing a Right to Know Who Is Hiding Beneath the Hood" by Ellyde Roko (Fordham Law Review, April 2007)

California First Amendment Coalition v. Woodford, in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in 2002 that the press and public have a First Amendment right to view executions.


Adam Liptak’s column about the legal world appears on Mondays. Columnist Page »

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified him last July as Dr. Alan R. Doerhoff, revealing that he had been a magnet for malpractice suits arising from his day job as a surgeon and that two hospitals had revoked his privileges. In September, a federal judge barred Dr. Doerhoff from participating “in any manner, at any level, in the State of Missouri’s lethal injection process.”

Naturally, state lawmakers took action to address the issue.

A new law, signed this month by Gov. Matt Blunt, makes it unlawful to reveal “the identity of a current or former member of an execution team,” and it allows executioners to sue anyone who names them.

The governor explained that the law “will protect those Missourians who assist in fulfilling the state’s execution process.”

In the wake of several botched executions around the nation, often performed by poorly trained workers, you might think that we would want to know more, not less, about the government employees charged with delivering death on behalf of the state.

But corrections officials say that executioners will face harassment or worse if their identities are revealed, and that it is getting hard to attract medically trained people to administer lethal injections, in part because codes of medical ethics prohibit participation in executions.

The Missouri law addresses that point, too. It bars licensing boards from taking disciplinary actions against doctors or nurses who participate in executions.

The job of executioner has never been a high-status profession, of course, which accounts for the hoods that hangmen wore. But in the old days, as John D. Bessler wrote in a history of executions, killing condemned prisoners “called for no expertise apart from the ability to tie a knot.”

Lethal injections are different. They require executioners to insert catheters and to prepare three chemicals and inject them, in the right dosage and sequence, into intravenous lines. If the first chemical is ineffective as a sedative, the other two are torturous.

Yet a federal judge in California found last year that prison execution teams there had been poorly screened and included people who had been disciplined for smuggling drugs and who had post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a decision a week ago Sunday, a state court judge in Florida, Carven D. Angel, halted the execution of a death row inmate, saying, “We need to have people with competence and experience” to perform executions.

But, according to lethal injection procedures issued by Florida’s corrections department in May, there is only one job requirement to be an executioner there: you must be “a person 18 years or older who is selected by the warden to initiate the flow of lethal chemicals into the inmate.”

Those credentials struck Judge Angel as a little thin.

“I don’t think that any 18-year-old executioner,” the judge said from the bench, “with the pressure of a governor’s warrant behind him to carry out an execution, and with the pressure of the whole world — the press and the whole world — in front of him and looking at him is going to have enough experience and competence to stop an execution when it needs to be stopped.”

The concern is not hypothetical. In December, Florida executioners had to inject Angel N. Diaz, a convicted murderer, with a second dose of lethal chemicals after the first set did not do the trick. It took Mr. Diaz 34 minutes to die, and witnesses said he continued to move, squint and mouth words after the first dose hit.

It would be good to know more about who is performing executions in Florida. But that state’s law, like Missouri’s, forbids the disclosure of “information which identifies an executioner.” Quite a few states have similar laws, and a new Virginia law shielding executioners came into effect this month.

A forceful and persuasive article published in the Fordham Law Review in April argued for “a right to know who is hiding behind the hood.”

Its author, Ellyde Roko, who will start her third year of law school at Fordham in the fall, said in an interview that society’s interest in knowing how the death penalty is administered should outweigh the relatively flimsy interests supporting secrecy. “Not knowing who the executioners are takes away a huge check on the system,” she said.

A 2002 decision of the federal appeals court in San Francisco allowing the press and public to view executions in California supports Ms. Roko’s position.

“Even assuming an execution team member were identified by a witness, the notion of retaliation is pure speculation,” Judge Raymond C. Fisher wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel. “No execution team member has ever been threatened or harmed by an inmate or by anyone outside the prison because of his participation in an execution.”

Indeed, Judge Fisher continued, there are far more likely targets for retaliation, including the warden, the governor and the judges who rejected the condemned prisoner’s appeals. And all of their names are public.

Online: Documents and an archive of Adam Liptak’s articles and columns: nytimes.com/adamliptak.

Florida remains closer to no more executions than to the next one.

Stay of the death penalty

Palm Beach Post Editorial

Monday, July 30, 2007

Florida remains closer to no more executions than to the next one.

On July 18, Gov. Crist signed the first death warrant since former Gov. Bush suspended capital punishment. In December, the Department of Corrections botched the lethal injection of Angel Diaz by injecting drugs into his soft tissue, not his veins. The usual 15-minute execution took more than twice that long. A special panel recommended procedural changes, so the state would not violate the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

But since medical personnel won't participate in executions, it seemed unlikely that the changes would satisfy the courts. Sure enough, last week a judge in Marion County issued a stay of execution and asked for a rewrite of the state's death-penalty protocols. The case does not involve the inmate whose death warrant the governor signed, but the judge's order may hold up all executions, including the one now scheduled for November.

Support for capital punishment nationwide has been slipping. In Florida, which leads the nation in exonerations from Death Row, more juries are handing down assured sentences of life without parole. There always will be cases that rekindle the spark for the death penalty. But then there's the difficulty of writing a law to cover all cases, and of devising a system to carry out the punishment. Florida is failing in both areas.

Cyberspace Casts Light on the Lives of Death Row Inmates



Cyberspace Casts Light on the Lives of Death Row Inmates

By Newton Sibanda

LUSAKA, Jul 29 (IPS) - "Can governments solve urgent social or political problems by executing a few or even hundreds of their prisoners?" asks Benjamin Mawaya, sweltering on death row in Zambia's Mukobeko high security prison in Kabwe, 150 kilometres from the capital of Lusaka.

Before anyone in the cyberspace community has time to click on a reply button, he posts an answer. "Nowhere it has been shown that the death penalty has any special power to reduce crime or political violence; everywhere experience shows that execution brutalizes those involved in the process. It is imposed and inflicted arbitrarily and it is used disproportionately against the poor."

Mawaya then swiftly concludes with a question for anyone who wants to go on debating with him: "If today's penal system does not sanction the burning of an arsonists home, the rape of a rapist or the torture of a torturer, it is not because they tolerate the crimes. Instead, it is because societies understand they must be built on a different set of values from those they condemn. Why not apply these principles to capital punishment …?"

The internet platform allowing Mawaya to address an audience outside his stifling cell has been provided by the Canadian Coalition against the Death Penalty, a voluntary organisation. "We make webpages for death row prisoners anywhere in the world," says its director, Tracy Lamourie.

Zambia's death row inmates -- who presently number 304 -- are the first in Africa to use this opportunity to pour out grief, seek moral and financial assistance, and make friends beyond their prison walls. Just how they found out about the website, Lamourie does not know for certain. But one likely possibility is that the link was passed on during an internet Bible class run from churches in Britain.

"Now every week we are getting more requests. One prisoner will tell another saying 'These people have helped me get some friends and contacts in the outside world'," Lamourie says.

Mawaya, who is waiting for the appeal against his death sentence to be heard, gives away little about himself on his webpage. His first aim is to exchange opinions about the death penalty, executions, torture and Christianity.

Job Kasonda Kapita, a former police officer, tells every would-be pen pal right away why he was sentenced to death in 1994. "I shot and subsequently killed a violent suspicious suspect I wanted to arrest for disorderly conduct … all occurred within the station yard five metres from my office."

Behind bars he has become a writer, publishing poetry on his webpage.

Certain inmates use their pages to seek "assistance" as well as "mutual fellowship". Evans Fundula, 33, is one. "Before conviction, I was blessedly married with two children aged 14 years and 11 years, both girls," he explains. His wife left him when she heard of his sentence and now his family needs help to look after the children.

He also tells of the "injustice" of not having the money to hire a lawyer for his defence. "You are the bridge to us vulnerable…in this darkest and uncompromising place."

One of the most powerful of entreaties comes from Lewis Kalumba, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is the father of three daughters and a son, he writes. His wife has also left him and is now married to another man and living in a "far-away" town.

He needs money for his family to visit him: "I am a poor suffering soul. Reproach has broken my heart. I am full of heaviness."

Bishop Enocent Silwamba, executive director of the support organisation Prison Fellowship of Zambia, praises the websites for reducing the isolation and suffering on death row. There are six times more inmates in this prison than it was built for. They are shut away from the rest of the prison community. One has been on death row for 30 years, according to prison authorities.

It is highly unlikely that any of the inmates will be executed – at least as long as President Levy Mwanawasa is in office. He has pledged not to sign any death warrants, and has also indicated that he will soon commute all death sentences to life terms.

But until there is an amendment to the constitution, the courts will continue to condemn people to death -- and the webpages from death row to accumulate on the internet. (END/2007)

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity

Full text available here:


Fort Lauderdale child killer to learn fate

On Monday, a panel of jurors will be selected to decide whether to sentence convicted child killer Howard Steven Ault to life in prison or death by lethal injection.

At a Friday hearing, Broward Judge Marc Gold ordered jury selection to proceed -- despite a request from the defense attorney to hold off.

''I'm not delaying this anymore,'' Gold said from the bench. ``We're going to trial.''

Ault, 41, was sentenced to die in 2000 after he was convicted of killing two sisters, ages 11 and 9, and stuffing their bodies in his Fort Lauderdale attic. In 2003, the sentence was overturned on appeal.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Freed Bulgarian Nurse Kristiyana Vulcheva: I Am Proud to Be Bulgarian

Freed Bulgarian Nurse Kristiyana Vulcheva: I Am Proud to Be Bulgarian

27 July 2007, Friday

Click to enlarge the photo
Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia Photo Agency)
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Kristiyana Vulcheva is one of the Bulgarian nurses, who have just returned from Libya after spending more than eight year behind bars over accusation of delibaratelly infecting about 400 children with HIV in a Benghazi hospital.

Interview by Evgeniya Marcheva, Darik Radio

Q: Let's first go back to the night when you were freed. The end has probably come as fast as the whole tragedy started. What happened Monday night exactly?

A: We have watched the news until midnight and we understood about Libya's new demands. We thought that the end was not near yet. All of go to sleep when at 5 o'clock Sofia time a policewoman came and told us that we should go to the women's prison head. Then he said: "Pack your suitcases. In one, two or three hours you are flying back to Bulgaria with Mrs. Sarkozy." We were ready in about an hour. Our luggage is still in Tripoli. We took only one bag each. All of us left the prison just as we entered it - only with our clothes on.

Q: You got off the plane first and were wearing white clothes. Does the colour symbolize something special for you?

A: Yes, it symbolizes the mercy and my profession, which I have exercised for so many years with love.

Q: In the past when you wanted to make the Libyans angry you put on red clothes and so appeared in the court hall...

A: Yes, it was on purpose as for me red is the colour of the truth, love and sincerity. That is why I died my hair red as well.

Q: What did you think when you got off the French presidential plane and saw so many people waiting for you? Have you felt at home?

A: I cannot describe my feelings at that moment. The only thing I realized was I have got rid of something really awful.

Q: What have you felt when Libya's High Judicial Council commuted your death verdicts to life sentences?

A: Nothing. It did not matter to me at all. I have not take the decision as glad news. The only glad thing the judges could have said was that we were not guilty and free to go at that moment although it was too late.

Q: And how about the other pardoning you received - that from Bulgaria's President Georgi Parvanov?

A: Then I felt happy because of the fact that the presidential decree proved the ordinary Bulgarians as well as the politicians are sure we are not guilty. Besides I knew the people I accepted my enemies will hear it as well, no matter they were few hundreds kilometres away. I felt also proud of being Bulgarian and my country supported me.

Q: Do you feel malice and anger at those, who hurt you so much during all the eight years?

A: No, I am profoundly indifferent to them. I think it is worse than hatred. Besides they are just representatives of somebody. They are nobody themselves.

Q: Are you going to testify against your Libyan torturers?

A: Yes, I am going to give evidence. The probes against the Libyan officers are a continuation of the cause of proving we are innocent.

Q: Can you imagine what your life will be in the future?

A: To some extend. I imagined that even behind bars in Libya. I just want to be happy with the people, whom I love.

Q: Do you think you could get what you want?

A: I will fight for it!

Q: Will you put the white overall on again?

A: It is hard for me say. My occupation requires great responsibility. To love it is not enough. I don't know if my psyche would allow me to do it again.

Q: What are you going to do in a month?

A: I hope I will adapt to my new old life. I want to take a computer course, to go to the fitness hall, to swim. I am impatient to see all my relatives and friends, who have not forgotten about me for eight years, as there are some, who have.

Translated by Margarita Stoyancheva

One Bulgarian's Libyan ordeal

One Bulgarian's Libyan ordeal

By Patrick Jackson
BBC News

Zdravko Georgiev is the husband of one of the six Bulgarian medics imprisoned in Libya for infecting children with HIV. He too was held in Libya, and was released with his wife and her colleagues. Shortly before the seven of them were flown to Sofia, Dr Georgiev spoke to the BBC News website about his eight-year wait for freedom.

Zdravko Georgiev emerges from his plane back in Sofia on 24 July
Dr Georgiev flashed a victory sign on returning to Bulgaria

Dr Georgiev did not come to Libya to swim in the Mediterranean or read the novels of Dickens and Dumas.

But having survived the horrors of the Libyan prison system, that is how he spent much of the last three years.

He had arrived in 1991 along with his wife, nurse Kristina Valcheva, to practise medicine and earn a living.

Arrested in 1999, he was accused with other Bulgarians of deliberately infecting children at a hospital with HIV.

The charge against him was dropped, but he spent five years in detention before being convicted in 2004 of currency speculation - "another fabrication", he says. His sentence was cancelled out against time already served, and he was released.

Nonetheless, he was denied permission to leave Libya, and so he lived at the Bulgarian embassy in Tripoli, doing what he could for the Bulgarians who were convicted and sentenced to death in what he insists was a gross miscarriage of justice.

The disappeared

Back in 1999, he was working in the Sahara Desert, far away from Benghazi, where his wife and other Bulgarian nurses were working at a kidney hospital.

They said we were agents of the CIA and Mossad, but if I had been an agent, why did I not try to escape back then?
Zdravko Georgiev

"Then I got a call from a friend, who told me that she (his wife) and the others had vanished, and nobody knew where they were," he recalls.

After travelling to Benghazi, he began a frantic search. It was only later that he found out the nurses had been seized, blindfolded and gagged, beaten and taken to the capital, Tripoli.

"Within a week, the police arrested me too," Dr Georgiev says.

"I had been searching for the Bulgarian nurses all over Benghazi, and they understood I was a dangerous man. I was not afraid of them, because I had done nothing wrong in Libya and I just thought there had been some mistake.

"They said we were agents of the CIA and Mossad but if I had been an agent, why did I not try to escape back then?"

Into the cauldron

Speaking of his prison experiences, the doctor says he lived for two years in filth with only salty water to drink, sharing a cell measuring 1.9m (6ft) by 1.7m (5.5ft) by 3m (9.8ft) with up to eight people at a time.

I could not lie down to sleep for two years - I could only sit
Zdravko Georgiev

"Even with three people, it was horrible in there," he says.

"I could not lie down to sleep for two years - I could only sit. You cannot imagine it. In the summer it got so hot, people were passing out."

He never met another European in jail. His fellow prisoners were from all over Africa, most of them murderers or drug-traffickers.

He says he was beaten up by guards, and had four teeth knocked out when investigators attacked him with clubs.

But that was nothing compared to the electric shocks given to the nurses, he says.

"They tortured and treated them like animals - in fact, you would not treat animals like that."

Torture charges were brought against nine policemen and a Libyan doctor, but they were acquitted.

Passing time

Dr Georgiev says the dropping in May 2004 of the HIV charge against him was "stage-managed".

Zdravko Georgiev with his wife Kristina Valcheva in Libya (photo: Dr Georgiev)
Dr Georgiev was able to visit his wife once a week

"The police investigators who beat and tortured us decided they wanted to show how fair Libyan justice was so I was declared innocent and the nurses were declared guilty," he says.

After his release, he was denied an exit visa without ever being given a reason, and moved into the Bulgarian embassy.

Allowed to visit the nurses only once every Thursday, he would spend his time doing shopping for them.

Otherwise, unable to practise medicine, he would divide his time between swimming in the Mediterranean, fishing, reading novels, watching TV and meeting friends.

"Many ordinary people in Tripoli know me and I have no problem with them," he says.

"They didn't believe this stupid case and they were really good to me."

'We were hostages'

Dr Georgiev believes his government waited too long to help the medics, and that the big change only came when Bulgaria gained the clout of the European Union after joining the bloc this year.

The Libyan government kidnapped us because it knew we were a very weak country at that time
Zdravko Georgiev

He speaks of his hurt at how, by his account, Libyan police poisoned the minds of the families of the HIV children against the Bulgarians.

"You know, I worked as a paediatrician for 25 years and I loved my job," he says.

"I never had a problem with ordinary Libyans. We are very good doctors and nurses. Libyans trusted us and liked us because Bulgarian medics had been coming to their country for more than 30 years.

"We came here only for money because the situation in our own country was very bad. It was to make some money - nothing else.

"The Libyan government kidnapped us because it knew we were a very weak country at that time.

"We feel very bad. We have been humiliated. We are innocent people who have been treated very badly for eight years. We have been hostages and that is the truth."

Profiles: The imprisoned medics

Profiles: The imprisoned medics

Six foreign medical workers who were serving life sentences in Libya have arrived in Bulgaria following their release, ending their eight-year incarceration. They were immediately pardoned by Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.

The five nurses and a Palestinian-born doctor were convicted of deliberately infecting Libyan children with HIV - charges they have always denied. A Libyan court earlier cleared nine policemen and a doctor of torturing the foreign workers into signing confessions.

Sofia-based journalist Virginia Savova looks at each of their cases for the BBC News website.


Ashraf Alhajouj

Ashraf Alhajouj was a trainee at the al-Fateh Paediatric Hospital in Benghazi when he was arrested on 29 January 1999 along with the five Bulgarian nurses who were also working in the city.

It took Mr Alhajouj's family 10 months of searching to find the exact jail where he was being held.

"We were startled when Ashraf came into the room, we simply could not recognise him," his father said in an interview for Bulgarian media.

I was tortured like the rest of the accused and there are marks on the bodies of us all
Ashraf Alhajouj

"He had been tortured with electricity and different devices. He had been locked in cages."

Mr Alhajouj was born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 1969 and went to Libya when he was two years old.

His Egyptian mother Afifa was a computer literacy teacher and his Palestinian father Ahmed was a professor of mathematics.

Mr Alhajouj has said it is inconceivable he could harm Libyan children.

"I am innocent on all of the charges," he said at the final court hearing in 2006. "I was tortured like the rest of the accused and there are marks on the bodies of us all."

Mr Alhajouj's father insists his son is not yet a doctor but a student, as the Libyan authorities claim.

"If he really is a doctor, then Libya should show his diploma to the world," he said.

Mr Alhajouj's family also denies claims by the Libyan authorities that at the time of his arrest he lived in a luxurious property in Benghazi, and says he lived on a student campus.

After Mr Alhajouj's detention, his mother was sacked from her job and his sisters were expelled from university.

The family left Libya in December 2005 and went to the Netherlands, where they were granted political refugee status.

On 19 June, 2007 Bulgaria announced that it had granted citizenship to Mr Alhajouj, a decision that would enable him to leave Libya with the rest of the medics, if they are eventually freed.


Valia Cherveniashka

Valia Cherveniashka, 52, is a nurse from the small north-west Bulgarian town of Biala Slatina.

She worked in a hospital in the Libyan city of Tarbouha from between 1984 and 1997 before moving to the al-Fateh Hospital.

She says she was beaten by Libyan guards but did not confess to infecting the children.

In 1999, Mrs Cherveniashka's husband, Emil Uzunov, was the first to bring the arrest of the medics to the public's attention in Bulgaria. In 2003, he staged a hunger strike at the Libyan embassy in Sofia.

If Bulgaria wants to wipe off the shame on its face, it should convict the inquisitors of the medics
Emil Uzunov
husband of Valia Cherveniashka

Mr Uzunov and Mrs Cherveniashka's two daughters, Gergana and Antoaneta, have criticised Sofia's handling of the case, saying dozens of nationals from Poland, Thailand and other countries were also arrested but later released.

Mr Uzunov plans to initiate court proceedings against Bulgarian government officials, including the former foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Nadezhda Mihailova and Solomon Pasi, for failing to secure the release of the medics.

"If Bulgaria wants to wipe off the shame on its face, it should convict the inquisitors of the medics," he said.

Dr Anton Antonov, who was head of the paediatric ward of the hospital in Biala Slatina, where Mrs Cherveniashka first worked, told reporters that in a letter she wrote a month before her arrest, she wrote about the HIV/Aids outbreak in her ward and expressed fear for herself.

Dr Antonov described Ms Cherveniashka as a very good specialist and a lively person.

"It's absurd [to think of] her committing such an infernal act," added the doctor.


Snezhana Dimitrova

Snezhana Dimitrova, 54, worked as a nurse in two hospitals in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. She applied for jobs in Libya in the hope of earning a better salary, so that she could support her family.

She was arrested six months after her arrival at the al-Fateh hospital in 1998. She says it is inconceivable that a nurse and a mother could commit the crime of which she has been convicted.

Mrs Dimitrova claimed that during the initial stage of detention she was subjected to torture and inhuman treatment.

She has diabetes, had a nervous breakdown in 2005 and broke her leg last autumn.

Her husband George refuses to talk about his wife and family's ordeal.

Mrs Dimitrova has a daughter, a son and a seven-year-old granddaughter, whom she has only seen in pictures.

The health of her father, Ivan Klisurski, has suffered during the trial. After suffering a stroke 20 years ago, Mr Klisurski suffered another one after the announcement of the death sentence for his daughter in 2006.

He has only been able to speak with Mrs Dimitrova on the phone, and in an interview in 2007 he said he thought that he would not live long enough to see her again.


Nasya Nenova

Nasya Nenova, 41, began her career as a nurse at the main hospital in the eastern Bulgarian city of Sliven, where she remained until she left the country to work in Libya.

She arrived in Libya in 1998 and started working at the al-Fateh. She was arrested just when she was preparing to return to Bulgaria.

During the investigation, she signed confessions, in which she stated that she had deliberately infected Libyan children in order to receive money.

At a court hearing in June 2001, Mrs Nenova and co-accused Kristina Vulcheva withdrew their testimony, explaining that they had been coerced by torture to confess to offences they had not committed.

Libya will trade the Bulgarian medics at the price it wants
Ivan Nenov
husband of Nasya Nenova

Mrs Nenova told her husband Ivan later that she had been beaten with a cable on her hands and feet. As a result she said she could not walk for a week. A month later, she says she was subjected to electric shocks and threatened to be infected with HIV if she did not confess.

After three months in jail, she tried to commit suicide. Asked by a judge whether her suicide attempt was a result of a guilty conscience, she replied that she had tried to end her life because she could not bear to be tortured.

Ivan Nenov, an anaesthetist in the Intensive Care Unit of the Sliven's hospital, has strongly criticised the Bulgarian authorities for not succeeding in freeing the medics. He and Antoaneta Uzunova, the daughter of Valya Cherveniashka, were the first relatives to visit the medics in 2001.

From Libya they issued a joint declaration in which they accused the Bulgarian authorities of hiding the information about the tortures on their relatives for more than a year.

"Now the authorities are concerned about our relatives, but it is hopelessly late," Ms Uzunova and Mr Nenov said at the time.

"Libya will trade the Bulgarian medics at the price it wants," Mr Nenov said in 2005.

Mrs Nenova has had the unanimous support of her colleagues at the city hospital in Sliven throughout the past eight years.

They have held rallies calling for her and her colleagues' freedom.

Mrs Nenova has a son who was in secondary school when she was arrested and is now at a university in France.


Valentina Siropoulo

Valentina Siropoulo, 48, was a nurse for 18 years in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital of the Bulgarian city of Pazardjik. She went to Libya so that she could earn more money to send her only child to university.

Mrs Siropoulo had been working at the al-Fateh since February 1998.

She says she is innocent and that she showed compassion to the children in the Aids ward where she worked.

"They... have done to me so many things but they can't take my innocence from me," she said in court in 2006.

The belief in good and truth, in the fact that you exist, that there is someone thinking about me, that I want very much to see you, gives me strength to fight the evil and to continue to live
Valentina Siropoulo

She said beatings and torture with electric shocks during the investigation left her with partial paralysis to her face and unable to talk for months.

In her first card to her family after 22 months of detention, she wrote:

"Hello, dear family. I am allowed to write you a letter, which doesn't mean it will reach you or that there'll be another one. Physically I am relatively fine, but my soul is incurably ill.

"The belief in good and truth, in the fact that you exist, that there is someone thinking about me, that I want very much to see you, gives me strength to fight the evil and to continue to live."

Ms Siropoulo's former colleagues from the hospital in Pazardjik have held rallies and silent vigils.


Kristina Valcheva

Kristina Valcheva, 48, arrived in Libya from Bulgaria with her second husband, Dr Zdravko Georgiev, in 1991.

She was working in the Hauari Hospital in Benghazi when she was arrested over the outbreak of HIV/Aids among children in the Paediatric Hospital.

Libyan prosecutors say she is the mastermind behind the case, basing their evidence on HIV-infected blood bags found in her house in Libya, although she never worked in the Paediatric Hospital itself.

Mrs Valcheva has said that during the investigation she was subjected at least 10 times to electric shocks. She was undressed and beaten with an electric cable.

I'll hold her and won't let her leave my arms for a whole night
Zorka Nachkova
mother of Kristina Valcheva

In February 1999, her husband was also arrested when he went to look for his wife in the police office. Dr Georgiev was detained and accused with the five other Bulgarians although he did not work in the same Paediatric Hospital.

On the day his wife was sentenced to death in 2004, Dr Zdravko Georgiev was released from jail, but he is still not allowed to leave Libya. He is staying at the Bulgarian Embassy in Tripoli.

Mrs Valcheva has a 29-year-old son from her first marriage.

Zorka Nachkova, Mrs Valcheva's mother, says she dreams of the day she returns home.

"'I'll hold her and won't let her leave my arms for a whole night," she said.

Freed doctor 'tortured in Libya'

Freed doctor 'tortured in Libya'

Dr Ashraf Alhajouj speaking to reporters in Bulgaria after his release
Dr Alhajouj and his colleagues were freed on Tuesday
One of the medics jailed in Libya on charges of infecting children with HIV has said he was tortured in custody.

Palestinian-born Dr Ashraf Alhajouj, held for eight years along with five Bulgarian nurses, said he was given electric shocks to his genitals.

The doctor, a Bulgarian citizen, told Dutch TV how police dogs were set on him, but he was later forced to pretend that he had been treated well.

The six medics were freed on Tuesday and have been pardoned in Bulgaria.

Dr Alhajouj and the five nurses - who initially faced the death penalty before their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment - all denied the charges against them.

We can forgive, but we cannot forget
Nasya Nenova
Bulgarian nurse

In an interview conducted in Arabic on Dutch TV's Eenvandaag programme, Dr Alhajouj said the Libyan authorities had drugged him and attached electrodes to his feet and genitals.

"They asked me how many days it had been since I had eaten, I said four days - I thought they were being compassionate," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The Libyans then said "roasted chicken", before tying his arms and legs to a metal bar and spinning him around like a chicken on a rotisserie, the doctor said.

He said some of the cells they were held in were so hot he could peel the skin from his forehead.

The six medics were arrested in Benghazi in February 1999 and eventually convicted in a Libyan court of knowingly infecting 438 children with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

The EU's External Affairs Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, made many trips to Libya in an attempt to secure their release.

France stepped up the diplomatic effort this month by sending Cecilia Sarkozy, the wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The medics were released from Libyan custody on Tuesday and flown to Bulgaria, where they were pardoned by Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.

Dr Alhajouj was made a Bulgarian citizen while he was in detention.

Abolition of the death penalty -- a step forward in human rights protection - BULGARIA

News Service: 243/98
AI INDEX: EUR 15/21/98
11 DECEMBER 1998


Abolition of the death penalty --
a step forward in human rights protection

The decision to abolish the death penalty in Bulgaria -- made on the day in which the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- signals an important new commitment to protect fundamental human rights in the country, Amnesty International said today.

Following the National Assembly's vote to remove the death penalty from the Penal Code, Bulgaria joins the growing number of countries that have irrevocably renounced the use of this cruel and inhuman punishment. More than 100 countries around the world have so far abolished it either in law or practice.

The last execution in Bulgaria took place on 4 November 1989 -- a year in which 14 people were subjected to this irrevocable sanction. Throughout the 1980s Bulgaria had one of the highest execution rates in Europe, with 27 people executed in 1986, 20 in 1987 and 26 in 1988.

A moratorium on executions was introduced in July 1990. However, the courts continued to pass death sentences on those convicted of aggravated murder. According to an unofficial report published in May 1998, 19 men were under sentence of death. In October and November three more men were sentenced to death.


In the course of 1998 the Bulgarian authorities launched what appeared to be a concerted effort to abolish the death penalty. In February President Petar Stoyanov made a proposal to this effect to the Advisory Council on National Security. In July an amendment to the Penal Code came into force abolishing the death penalty for the offence under Article 324, paragraph 3 -- intentionally causing death to one or more persons as a result of a transport accident. In October the Legal Committee of the National Assembly recommended that the death penalty be abolished for all offences.

The first vote in the National Assembly on 27 November -- when the majority voting in favour of abolition included members of all parliamentary factions -- was a strong indication that the authorities were on the right course to finalize this decision on the day when Bulgarians joined the world in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries

Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries

More than half the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The numbers are as follows:

Latest news

Abolitionist for all crimes: 89
Abolitionist for ordinary crimes only: 10
Abolitionist in practice: 30

Total abolitionist in law or practice: 129
Retentionist: 68

Following are lists of countries in the four categories: abolitionist for all crimes, abolitionist for ordinary crimes only, abolitionist in practice and retentionist.

At the end is a list of countries which have abolished the death penalty since 1976. It shows that in the past decade, an average of over three countries a year have abolished the death penalty in law or, having done so for ordinary offences, have gone on to abolish it for all offences.

1. Abolitionist for all crimes

Countries whose laws do not provide for the death penalty for any crime

(View this information in table format)


2. Abolitionist for ordinary crimes only

Countries whose laws provide for the death penalty only for exceptional crimes such as crimes under military law or crimes committed in exceptional circumstances

(View this information in table format)


3. Abolitionist in practice

Countries which retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes such as murder but can be considered abolitionist in practice in that they have not executed anyone during the past 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions. The list also includes countries which have made an international commitment not to use the death penalty

(View this information in table format)


4. Retentionist

Countries and territories which retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes


Countries which have abolished the death penalty since 1976

1976: PORTUGAL abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1978: DENMARK abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1979: LUXEMBOURG, NICARAGUA and NORWAY abolished the death penalty for all crimes. BRAZIL, FIJI and PERU abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

1981: FRANCE and CAPE VERDE abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1982: The NETHERLANDS abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1983: CYPRUS and EL SALVADOR abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

1984: ARGENTINA abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

1985: AUSTRALIA abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1987: HAITI, LIECHTENSTEIN and the GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (1) abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1989: CAMBODIA, NEW ZEALAND, ROMANIA and SLOVENIA (2) abolished the death penalty for all crimes.


1992: ANGOLA, PARAGUAY and SWITZERLAND abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1993: GUINEA-BISSAU, HONG KONG (4) and SEYCHELLES abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1994: ITALY abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1995: DJIBOUTI, MAURITIUS, MOLDOVA and SPAIN abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1996: BELGIUM abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1997: GEORGIA, NEPAL, POLAND and SOUTH AFRICA abolished the death penalty for all crimes. BOLIVIA abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

1998: AZERBAIJAN, BULGARIA, CANADA, ESTONIA, LITHUANIA and the UNITED KINGDOM abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

1999: EAST TIMOR, TURKMENISTAN and UKRAINE abolished the death penalty for all crimes. LATVIA (5) abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

2000 : COTE D'IVOIRE and MALTA abolished the death penalty for all crimes. ALBANIA (6) abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

2001: BOSNIA-HEZEGOVINA (7) abolished the death penalty for all crimes. CHILE abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

2002: CYPRUS and YUGOSLAVIA (now two states SERBIA and MONTENEGRO (9)) abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

2003: ARMENIA abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

2004: BHUTAN, GREECE, SAMOA, SENEGAL and TURKEY abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

2005: LIBERIA (8) and MEXICO abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

2006: PHILIPPINES abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

2007: ALBANIA (6) abolished the death penalty for all crimes.


(1) In 1990 the German Democratic Republic became unified with the Federal Republic of Germany, where the death penalty had been abolished in 1949.
(2) Slovenia and Croatia abolished the death penalty while they were still republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The two republics became independent in 1991.
(3) In 1993 the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic divided into two states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
(4) In 1997 Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule as a special administrative region of China. Since then Hong Kong has remained abolitionist.
(5) In 1999 the Latvian parliament voted to ratify Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, abolishing the death penalty for peacetime offences.
(6) In 2007 Albania ratified Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances. In 2000 it had ratified Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, abolishing the death penalty for peacetime offences.
(7) In 2001 Bosnia-Herzegovina ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.
(8) In 2005 Liberia ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.
(9) Montenegro had already abolished the death penalty in 2002 when it was part of a state union with Serbia. It became an independent member state of the United Nations on 28 June 2006. Its ratification of Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances, came into effect on 6 June 2006.

Last updated: 23/05/2007

This important fundraiser sponsored by the Texas Moratorium Network

Dear Friends,

Please support this important fundraiser sponsored by the Texas Moratorium Network tomorrow. Half of the profits go to the Kenneth Foster Committee and half go to the October 27 Texas March to Stop Executions to be held in Houston this year.

Also, before the fundraiser, stop by Monkey Wrench Books for a lecture and Q & A on this must-read book on the death penalty by Houston writer and activist. Here's the info:

Author and activist L. V. Gaither lectures and signs Loss of Empire @ Monkey Wrench Books


Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28, 2007 (Lecture/Q&A)


Monkey Wrench Books,

110 E. North Loop

Austin, TX

Drawing from his experiences as a social activist and independent historian, L. V. Gaither radically theorizes capital punishment, the massive imprisonment of African Americans, and the ominous predicament of African American intellectualism in the twenty first century.

“While some books appear before we are prepared for their contents, others come to us as pleasing or challenging afterthoughts,” writes Joyce A. Joyce, Professor, English Department, Temple University Author, Black Studies as Human Studies: Critical Essays and Interviews. And, “Passionately argued and beautifully written, L.V. Gaither has produced an enlightening and stimulating book that is essential reading for our times,” writes Gerald Horne, author, Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith & Radical Black Sailors in the U.S. and Jamaica.

His writings have appeared in several publications, including The Source Magazine, Black Scholar, Quarterly Black Book Review, Socialism & Democracy, Race & Class, and Radical Philosophy Review.

He has lectured in a variety of settings across the United States , including Rutgers University , Syracuse University , University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston , University of Houston , Alvin Community College , and University of Rhode Island , S.H.A.P.E. Community Center , and Pan-African Connection Bookstore and Cultural Center, and Northeastern University's Jacob Carruthers' Center for Inner City Studies .

As an activist, Gaither managed and worked on several political campaigns throughout the country from 1986-92. In 1993 he founded The Gaither Reporter, an independent journal of politics, literature and culture. The journal has featured interviews and writings encompassing a wide range of literary, cultural and political thought. From 1993-2000, he worked with the Gary Graham Justice Coalition, an anti death penalty organization based in Houston , TX .


Benefit July 28 in Austin

WHO: Texas Moratorium Network
WHAT: "It Came From Austin!!!!" - A Benefit for Texas Moratorium Network and the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign
WHEN: Saturday July 28, 2007 - 8:00 PM
WHERE: The Scoot Inn, 1308 E. 4th, Austin TX 78702 www.eastinns.com
ADMISSION: $5-$10 sliding scale, 21+


AUSTIN, TX - Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is holding a benefit show to help raise awareness of current death penalty issues in Texas, raise money to fight the death penalty and gain new members. The benefit is July 28 in Austin at the Scoot Inn. Doors open at 8 PM.

Fifty percent of the proceeds of the benefit will be donated to the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign. The State of Texas intends to execute Kenneth Foster on August 30, despite the fact that he did not murder anyone. Unlike any other state in this country, Texas utilizes a unique statute called the Law of Parties which allows the State to subject a person to death even though he did not kill, intend to kill, help or encourage anyone to do so.

The other fifty percent of the proceeds will be used for the 8th Annual March to Stop Executions in Houston on October 27.

Several Austin performers will participate, including the Austin Chronicle's winner of 2006 BEST NEW BAND, the Texas Sapphires. There will also be clowns, dancers, and various other performances.

The show's sponsors have donated various products and services which will be raffled to attendees. Diablo Rojo, The Boiling Pot, Antone's Records and Epoch Coffee will be donating gift certificates.

Bands and Performers:


Death Penalty Uneven

Death Penalty Uneven

Where you live is a factor in whether you die
12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thirty-five years ago this summer, the Supreme Court struck down state death penalty laws because the punishment was handed out too arbitrarily. At the time, few rules were in place for how and when a jury could apply the ultimate punishment.

States rewrote their laws, and executions resumed just a few years later. But one very simple measure – geography – indicates that the death penalty is still just as arbitrary as it was in 1972.

This week marked the 100th execution of a Texas inmate convicted and sentenced by a Harris County jury. This one county has sent more people to the death chamber than any other state.

The uneven distribution in death sentences is disturbing and one of the reasons this editorial board has reversed its longtime support of the death penalty. It seems unjust that serial killers rot in prison while an armed robber who takes one life is executed when the deciding factor can be as simple as where they committed their crimes.

In some counties, district attorneys don't even bring life-or-death decisions to juries. They avoid seeking the death penalty because of the cost and complexity of the cases and the necessary appeals. While a large county can take on more capital cases, that does not fully explain the vast difference between Harris County and the rest of the country. Why are so many killers there sent to death row?

Maybe because Houston and Dallas are large cities with murder rates far higher than other Texas cities? More killers, more death sentences. That makes sense – until you consider that Harris County inmates on death row outnumber their peers from Dallas County 125 to 45.

Besides, noting Houston's higher-than-average murder rate undermines the argument that the death penalty deters crime. If that were true, Houston probably wouldn't have the fifth-highest murder rate among U.S. cities over 500,000 in population, according to the 2006 preliminary FBI crime statistics.

Sadly, this peculiar cycle of violence is not likely to be broken any time soon. Lady Justice wears a blindfold, but she seems to know when she's in Houston, and she acts differently there. U.S EXECUTIONS SINCE 1976

Texas, 398

Harris County, 100

Virginia, 98

Oklahoma, 85

Mississippi, 66

Florida, 64

North Carolina, 43

Georgia, 40

South Carolina, 37

Alabama, 36

Louisiana, 27

Arkansas, 27

I believe that Florida Corrections are in the market to mystify the whole sick process;

Historically, the hood was used as a further inducement to terrorize the poor guy about to get his broken on the wheel, or get his head cut off. This is a purely an Anglo-Saxon-Germanic thing, the French executioners NEVER wore hoods. When executions became private, there was no need for the executioner to hide his shame at killing, but the custom persisted well up to now. With witnesses of all stripes looking at the execution, most states do not hood the execution, but do not hide him. Thus Bob Elliott and John Hoover, two of New York's executioners, never wore hoods to hide their identity, but were not recognized as such for a long time, and for Hoover, never.

I believe that Florida Corrections are in the market to mystify the whole sick process; if he believes in what he is doing, the hangman, like Pierpont in England should be public. The old Irish hangman used to wear a Hunchback of Notre Dame suit, complete with hump back and bizarre face mask, to scare more of his victims. .

Partly because deep inside, the executioner knows that what s/he is doing wrong, he cannot look the victim in the face, or be identified. Florida in its fantasy world is asking a doctor to do the opposite of what medicine is all about, and hooding the killer-doctor is just part of the phantasy. While Desfournouux and Sampson were both only active, were clearly identifiable with the public executions in France, I am not aware of them either getting serious threats, let alone serious ones, in their long careers. Nor did Gröppler. Hitler's headsman wearing formal attire, white gloves and a high hat. Only the guillotine is Goon proof, but then again, pour goons can even screw that up.

Shame on those willing doctors! Shame on Florida culture that demands something as grotesque that it was discarded in such executing states as Ohio, New York and California.

If he wants to be an executioner--I don't know why-- let him be proud of it and go public; he can reach in the chest and grab out a livingheart.

Ol Grouch
Charlotte NYSA

Rethink death penalty, ex-DA says

Rethink death penalty, ex-DA says

A moratorium would allow study
Saturday, July 28, 2007
News staff writer

The prosecutor who put Darrell Grayson on Death Row 27 years ago now says he would like Alabama to rethink capital punishment.

The day after Grayson's execution by lethal injection Thursday for the 1980 rape-murder of Annie Laurie Orr of Montevallo, Billy Hill said he had no doubt of Grayson's guilt but still would like to see changes in Alabama's laws.

"I would welcome a moratorium on the death penalty and the appointment of a study group," Hill said. "I don't question that the state has the right to do it. I do question whether it is a wise and humane use of our resources."

Hill, 56, was the district attorney for Shelby, Coosa and Clay counties from 1979 until 1986. Today he is Shelby County public defender. The move from prosecution to defense has helped him change his perspective, Hill said.

As it stands now, Hill said, murder can become capital murder in Alabama for a wider array of reasons than in any other state. Some examples are when murder is combined with a robbery, rape or other violent felony; or when there is more than one victim; or when the victim is younger than 12.

"Do you realize that if two people are arguing on a street corner and one of them pulls a gun and kills the other one, that is simple murder?" Hill said. "But, take the same scenario and put one of them in a car, and it becomes a capital case."

Victims' families suffer, too, with executions often set and canceled several times during repeated appeals. "It just never goes away for the victim's family," Hill said.

"In some cases there is the question of certainty. Two guys on Alabama's Death Row have been exonerated. With the limited resources the state has available, so many are sentenced to death who have not had the benefit of top-flight representation," he said.

And finally, "in 30 years of observing violent offenders," he said, "I find three factors present in almost all of them: some kind of childhood abuse, either physical or sexual; some type of chemical dependence, either alcohol or drugs; and neurological damage."

The state needs to provide the costly resources such as testing for those problems if it wants to apply the penalty fairly, he said.

Hill said he is not advocating turning the offenders loose. "A lot of people do not realize that in Alabama life without parole means you are not leaving prison except with your toes turned up," he said.

"And, too, remember that we are the only modern, industrialized nation in the world that still has capital punishment," he said.

E-mail: nwilstach@bhamnews.com

© 2007 The Birmingham News