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The bodies of 23-year-old Hanna Witheridge and 24-year-old David Miller were discovered in September 2014 on a beach on Koh Tao, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand.

They were partially undressed and had sustained severe head injuries. Witheridge had been raped.

Two Burmese men, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo — also known as Win Zaw Htun — were arrested almost two weeks after the bodies were found. In 2015, they were both found guilty and sentenced to death. Now, they will instead face life imprisonment, said Nakhon Chompuchat, the two men’s defense lawyer.

On Friday, the Thai king passed a mass royal pardon for those on death row who have exhausted all appeal options and have never before received a royal pardon.

“This time will be their first time. So for this time, they are entitled to receive it,” said Chompuchat. “They are no longer in the execution queue.”

The royal pardon was created in the spirit of the king’s birthday, to offer convicted prisoners the opportunity to “reverse their behavior and become good citizens,” says the text of the law.

High profile case

The two men, from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, were working in the hospitality industry on the island at the time of the killings. After their arrest, they confessed but later recanted, saying their admissions of guilt were made under duress.

The murders on the popular dive island of Koh Tao drew intense media attention from across the world. Defense lawyers for the two men later alleged that police had rushed the investigation to preserve Thailand’s image as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

The defense argued that the investigation was flawed due to “alleged mishandling of forensic evidence, abuse of suspects and intimidation of witnesses,” according to a previous statement issued by the Migrant Worker Rights Network, a rights group assisting the defense team.

Thai police said forensic evidence, including DNA samples from cigarette butts found near the bodies, tied the men to the scene.

The first appeal upheld the guilty verdict in 2017. The case was appealed again, leading the Supreme Court to uphold the verdict and death sentence. The Supreme Court ruled that the forensic evidence was “clear, credible, and detailed,” and refuted suggestions that the police had mishandled the case.

In 2018, Thailand lifted a de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, executing a man by lethal injection in the country’s first execution since August 2009, rights groups said.

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Australia’s coronavirus lockdown strategy worked. Could this be a model for the US?

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But Andrews — a Labor Party politician who has run Australia’s second-largest state since 2014 — has remained popular with Victorians throughout the lockdown, local polls show. And this week, his hardline approach was thoroughly vindicated.
On Sunday, Victoria recorded just 11 new coronavirus cases, down from over 670 at the height of the most recent outbreak last month. Next week, Melbourne will begin lifting some restrictions if new cases remain below a fortnightly average of 50 per day. A nightly curfew is slated to remain in effect until October 26.
“We can do this,” Andrews tweeted Sunday, echoing his words at the beginning of the lockdown: “We are Victorians — and we will get through this as Victorians. With grit, with guts and together.”
And while it may have provoked outrage from some elements of the Australian media, and criticism from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victoria’s experience shows once again that targeted lockdowns are effective in containing the coronavirus: driving down infections, relieving pressure on hospitals and medical staff, and creating space for contact tracing and mass testing.
This was first shown in China, where the government imposed an intense lockdown on Wuhan, the city where cases of the virus were first detected late last year. Wuhan spent 76-days under lockdown, which was finally lifted as the daily caseload slowed to a trickle.
That was back in April, and now Wuhan is basically back to normal, even able to host massive water park raves without much concern. And the model has been successfully applied to other cities across China, including the capital Beijing, suppressing new spikes as they appear and keeping national figures down.

“The Covid-19 epidemic in our country has gone through four waves,” Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Saturday. “Besides the first wave (in Wuhan), the other epidemic waves were clusters that were regional and small-scale and were effectively controlled.”

For some lockdown skeptics, China’s experience was easy to dismiss: the country is an authoritarian, one-party state, and its methods could not necessarily be applied in democracies.

But the situation in Victoria proves that the lockdown strategy does work elsewhere, and that, given the proper information and reassurances, people are willing to make the sacrifices required to contain the virus.

With the outbreak in Victoria contained, the number of cases throughout the rest of Australia has continued to trend down. On Sunday, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reported four new cases, while Queensland state reported just one.

New Zealand too, which on Monday began reducing social distancing regulations after daily cases dropped to zero, has seen positive results from lockdowns, enabling the country to return to relative normality far faster than nations which did not take such measures.

Elsewhere, however, lockdown strategies have been less successful, with partial closures bringing with them the misery of a full lockdown while not actually containing infections. This could make it far more difficult to introduce further restrictions in future, such as when infections spike in winter months, as most experts believe will happen.
There is also considerable political resistance to lockdowns, or even partial shutdowns, in some countries, particularly the United States, where last week Attorney General William Barr said a nationwide closure would be the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in history “other than slavery.”
Potential lockdowns have also provoked backlash in the European Union and United Kingdom in recent days, despite a spike in case numbers across the continent.

The US, however, remains the worst hit country in the world, with more than 6.7 million coronavirus cases and almost 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. As those figures potentially rise through winter, and with less and less reason to go outside, some people may start to reconsider their anti-lockdown sentiment.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that authorities in Melbourne would consider lifting a nighttime curfew next week. The curfew is currently in effect until October 26.

CNN’s Angus Watson and Eric Cheung contributed reporting.



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Cruz: Ginsburg was ‘one of the finest Supreme Court litigators to have ever lived’

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“He obviously worked every day with Justice Ginsburg, and I will say he admired what a careful lawyer she was,” he said. “Consistently of the lawyers on the left, of the judges on the left. Chief Justice Rehnquist was always most willing to give an important opinion to Justice Ginsburg because she wrote narrow, careful opinions.”

Cruz also honed in on the importance of filling Ginsburg’s vacancy with a constitutionalist judge ahead of the November election. The senator had been on President Donald Trump’s shortlist of Supreme Court nominees.

“We’re one vote away from seeing our religious liberty rights stripped away, from our free speech stripped away, from our Second Amendment stripped away,” he added. “This election matters, and I think it is the most important issue in 2020 — electing presidents and a Senate who will nominate and confirm strong constitutionalists to the court.”

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Matt Hancock Says “Everybody” Should Report Their Neighbours If They Flout Coronavirus Rules

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Matt Hancock has urged people to shop their neighbours if they fail to follow coronavirus rules (Credit: PA)


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Matt Hancock has urged people to report their neighbours for flouting coronavirus rules as he announced heavy new penalties for those who fail to self-isolate when asked.

The health secretary said he would not hesitate to alert the authorities if he became aware of anyone breaking the new “rule of six” restrictions and that “everybody should” do likewise. 

It comes after the government revealed new legal powers to hand out £10,000 fines to people who do not quarantine if they test positive for the virus, rates of which are rising rapidly across the country.

The measures also include a £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who have to self-isolate and cannot work from home, and a penalty for employers who punish employers for doing so.

Mr Hancock said the UK was at a “tipping point” and could face tougher national restricions if people fail to heed new guidelines.

“I don’t want to see more measures but unfortunately if people don’t follow the rules that’s how the virus spreads,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge.

“Everyone faces a choice and it comes down to individual moments – should I go to that party where there might not be social distancing? 

“The answer is no, you should not.”

Mr Hancock said local lockdowns had brought cases “right under control” in parts of the country, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned the capital could be placed under additional curbs as soon as Monday.

And the health secretary said he would “not rule out” Londoners being asked to work from home, as he prepared to meet City Hall officials on Sunday.

He told Times Radio: “I’ve been talking to the Mayor of London over the weekend about what’s needed in London and that’s an example of local action in the same way that I was talking about the councils in the north east.  And then we took action in Lancashire…and we had to bring in more measures in Wolverhampton.

“The conversation is…an ongoing one with the mayor.”

PoliticsHome is maintaining a live map of local lockdown restrictions across the UK, which is viewable here.

A source close to the mayor said on Saturday: “It’s clear that cases in London are only moving in one direction, we are now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East.

“We can’t afford more delay. Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again.”

Mr Hancock promised the UK has “got the cavalry coming over the next few months; the vaccine, the mass testing and the improvement in treatments”.

“But we’ve got to all follow the rules between now and then to keep people safe,” he told the BBC.

Asked what he expected the death rate could be if people failed to do so, the health secretary said: “It’s unknowable, because it depends on the behaviour of every single person in this country.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned new legal powers were not a “silver bullet” and urged ministers to fix the struggling test and trace programme.

He said Boris Johnson should apologise to the nation for the system’s failings and restart daily press briefings “so everybody knows what’s going on”.

“I don’t think a national lockdown is inevitable.  I think it’s more likely because testing is all over the place,” he told Sky News.

“I think one of the conerns I have and a lot of people have is because the government has lost control of testing, it doesn’t know where the virus is.”

He added: “We are in this position just when we need testing to be at its best.”

The Labour leader also called for schoolchildren to be prioritised for testing to avoid mass school closures, with tests and results offered within a 48-hour period.

 

 

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