International Death Penalty News 2023, Issue 09: Japan, Iran, Israel, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, United States of America



International Death Penalty News

A high court has approved a retrial for a man who died on death row in 2011. The family of Hiromu Sakahara, who was 75 years of age when he died, has been seeking a retrial and ultimately, an acquittal. Sakahara was convicted of murdering a 69-year-old woman in 1984. His death sentence was finalized in 2000 by the Japanese Supreme Court. He was found guilty of murdering Hatsu Ikemoto, a liquor store manager, and stealing her cash box. Although he confessed to the crime, Sakahara later argued that he was coerced into confessing. He was appealing his case at the time of his death. Since his initial trial new evidence, including forensic evidence has come to light, calling into question his conviction.


On Monday, February 20, 2023, 28-year-old Alireza  Mohammadpour and 31-year-old Safar Mohammadpour were executed in Torbat Jam Prison. Alireza and Safar were brothers. They were convicted and sentenced to death on drug-related charges. The brothers insisted upon their innocence. The executions have not yet been reported by state officials or the media.


The Ministerial Committee on Legislation has approved a bill that gives terrorists a death sentence. The bill also stipulates that if a crime is committed in the West Bank and a military trial is held, the terrorist would still be sentenced to death, even if the ruling is not unanimous. This bill comes shortly after two Israeli citizens were murdered in a terrorist attack. The bill would only apply to a terrorist “with the purpose of harming the State of Israel and the rebirth of the Jewish people in its homeland.” The Israeli attorney general, however, has issued some concerns regarding the constitutionality of the bill. The bill still needs to be approved entire Knesset.


One of the men convicted and sentenced to death for beheading two Scandinavian tourists has committed suicide while on death row, according to prison officials. In December 2018, two young Scandinavian women, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark and Maren Ueland from Norway, were backpacking in the Atlas Mountains. They were kidnapped and later beheaded, which was recorded and posted online. Those convicted of the slayings were found to be affiliated with the Islamic State. Now prison officials have announced that one of the men committed suicide while in prison. Morocco has not carried out an execution in over 25 years.

Saudi Arabia

Six former prominent judges of the Specialized Criminal Court and four former judges of the High Court have been arrested and charged with “high treason,” a crime that can result in a death sentence. Allegedly, the accused has been denied legal counsel and has not been permitted to speak to anyone since their arrest. Some claim that the arrests and charges are an attempt by the Crown Prince to gain power over the judiciary system in the kingdom.

United States of America

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Arizona death row inmate John Cruz. Cruz was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering 40-year-old police officer Patrick Kent Hadesty on May 26, 2003, in Tucson, Arizona. However, during his sentencing, the jury was not informed that if he was sentenced to life in prison, he would never be eligible for parole. Before the Supreme Court, he argued that the jury should have been informed, as it may have affected their decision. This ruling by the Supreme Court, agreeing that the jury should have been informed, could affect nearly 30 other death row inmates in Arizona.

In November, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey ordered a review of the state’s death penalty procedures, following the cancellation of three executions due to the inability to establish IV lines. Now, Governor Ivey has announced that Alabama is ready to resume executions. Several internal changes have been made regarding staffing and equipment used in executions. Additionally, per Governor Ivey’s request, the Alabama Supreme Court has established that execution warrants will now last longer than 24 hours. They previously expired at midnight. A request to schedule an execution has already been made.

A bill has been filed in Florida that would permit the death penalty for adults who sexually batter children under the age of 12. Previously, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that capital punishment can only be applied to individuals convicted of murder. The sponsors of the bill are seeking to challenge that ruling.

In 1969, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian refugee, was sentenced to death for assassinating US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison after California banned the death penalty and his death sentence was never reinstated. Now, for the 16th time, Sirhan has been found unsuitable for release by the California parole board. He can again apply for parole in three years. Interestingly, three years ago, the board recommended his release and Governor Gavin Newsom overruled their decision. It was not stated why the board changed its opinion. Robert’s widow and six of their children opposed Sirhan being released on parole, while two of their children supported it.

Source: The Forgiveness Foundation