Police chief must quit over report

Shaun Wright is a former Labour councillor in Rotherham and was head of children’s services

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is facing calls to resign after the publication of a report into widespread child abuse in Rotherham.

A victim of sexual abuse in Rotherham told BBC’s Panorama: “I was a child and they should have stepped in”

Muhbeen Hussain, founder of the Rotherham Muslim Group: “There is nothing in the Pakistani or Muslim culture that condones such actions…we are asking for prosecutions”

Former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton and Sarah Champion MP say they are concerned implicated staff could still be working with vulnerable children

Rotherham councillor Paul Lakin says he was “not aware of the depth and breath of child exploitation” in the town

“It’s about what councillors may have known. If people don’t know, then they’re not really in a position to do anything about it.

“I can categorically say that until I came into children’s services in 2010, I was not aware of the depth and breadth of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.”

Mr Lakin refused to say whether he thought Mr Wright should resign.

A spokesman for Mr Wright said: “The commissioner is pleased that the inquiry conducted by Alexis Jay finally shines a light on the errors made in relation to safeguarding children in Rotherham and that constructive action can be taken to protect young people as a result of the report and recommendations.

“The commissioner has previously apologised for the failure of Rotherham Council while he was in its cabinet from 2005 to 2010.

“He repeats that apology today and he fully accepts that there was more that everyone at Rotherham Council should have done to tackle this terrible crime.”

The death list that names 5,000 victims

Portraits of those who were executed

A year ago, a Dutch prosecutor published a list of 5,000 names, which immediately led to scenes of public mourning in Afghanistan. These were the names of people killed after a communist coup d’etat in 1978 – and some of those with blood on their hands are now living in Europe.

According to Dutch prosecutors there is enough evidence to charge several Afghans living in the Netherlands with war crimes, and a number living in other European countries – though some countries are pursuing the cases more vigorously than others.

The suspects do not know they are being investigated and it was only when one died before he could be brought to justice that the list was published.

This man was known in court papers only as “Commander O” but his full name Amanullah Osman can now be revealed.

In the Netherlands, he made no secret of his past as a secret policeman in Afghanistan, believing that it would assist his application for asylum. He reasoned that if he disclosed it, he could not be returned to Afghanistan, where his life would be in danger. He did not imagine he would end up facing trial as a war criminal instead.

Listen to David Loyn’s documentary The Saur Death List of Afghanistan

When asked if anybody had been maltreated in his custody, he said: “Of course, and I was responsible for that maltreatment. That is how things go in Afghanistan.”

A mass of evidence was collected in preparation for his prosecution, including original documents signed by Commander Osman, transferring people for torture and execution.

After Osman’s death, State Prosecutor Thijs Berger published part of his evidence online as a public service to the relatives of the victims – a list of around 5,000 names of people executed in 1978 and 1979.

Among the names are students, traders, shopkeepers, teachers, farmers, a bus driver, a postman and a retired judge – some of those killed are pictured at the top of this article.

The publication of the death list had a huge impact in Afghanistan. There were immediate ceremonies of remembrance for those who died.

Some on the list had in fact survived. Those with powerful friends had been quietly released instead of being murdered – among them a man who would later add the name “Sayyaf”, meaning “skilled swordsman”, to his name Abdul Rassul.

Sayyaf went on to become a notorious guerrilla leader. It was he who invited Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan, and although he has denied involvement in war crimes in the 1990s, he has been accused in several authoritative investigations. He was a failed candidate for president this year.

But others who survived by chance were simply overlooked in the chaos of mass executions. One of the people on the death list, Habib Rahman, says he has lived most of his life on borrowed time. He was arrested and tortured in the chaos that followed the Saur revolution in 1978, named for the Afghan month of Saur when it took place.

“I was asleep. They smashed the door and entered the house. They told me you have to go with us. When we walked out of the door there were about 20 military cars and even an armoured tank. They took me to the investigation department of the secret police.”

For eight days and nights he was beaten and electrocuted, before he was taken to Pul-i-Charki prison near Kabul. He was held there for more than a year.

After his release, Rahman emigrated to Australia, where he became a successful businessman. When he saw his name on the list published on the internet, he returned to Pul-i-Charki for the first time since 1979.

“Every midnight they would come, call the names and kill them. From midnight, if your name was not on the list, you had a chance to live for another 24 hours,” he says.

Those named were taken out and shot on a patch of waste ground outside the prison known as the “polygon”, their bodies bulldozed into mass graves. From inside, the other prisoners could clearly hear the shots. “They were doing this on purpose to frighten the others,” Rahman says.

Relief came in the depths of winter in 1979. The prisoners heard the sky fill with helicopters and felt the ground shake with heavy armoured vehicles. A knife cut through the plastic sheeting the prisoners had wrapped around the bars of the prison, and a blond Russian head came through to announce that they would be freed.

When freedom came a few days later, Rahman was shocked because no family members had come to see him.

“There were 10,000 people getting out of the jail and everybody was received by their families or loved ones. When I walked out of the jail I couldn’t see any member of my family… I was very upset, very depressed.”

When he finally made his way home he found his brother who started to cry – the family were in mourning as Rahman’s name had appeared on a list of those executed.

The new regime imposed by Moscow had publicly displayed the list to demonstrate the tyranny of the regime they had overthrown. But it was taken down again after only a few days. It was a partial version of that list that would emerge as part of the Dutch criminal investigation.

Patti Gossman, who has been investigating Afghanistan for many years for Human Rights Watch, says that original documents from conflict areas are very rare. But what made the evidence in the Dutch case so vital was that it humanised the victims.

“It has been very hard to get hold of any kind of paper trail, which is why this list being published was so important,” she says.

The violence in the year before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 is not as well known as the horrors that came later. But Gossman says the scale of this orgy of murder is unique. “There was nothing quite like it in the years that followed,” she says.

The Dutch death list represents only a small fraction of many tens of thousands who died, she points out. In an effort to keep control as they imposed radical reforms, the communists carried out mass murder, particularly in the countryside.

“Their approach was not to put these people on trial as traitors or anything but just to get rid of them,” she says.

But those responsible have never faced justice, nor have the mujahideen who defeated the communists, or indeed the Taliban who followed them for any of the excesses committed during their periods of rule.

Far from investigating the record of the warlords, the post-Taliban government suppressed an exhaustive report into the crimes of the past, that mapped all of the conflicts during more than three decades, village by village.

Nader Nadery, who wrote that report, faced death threats and was dismissed from running the Afghan Human Rights Commission by President Karzai for daring to look into past war crimes. And the Western powers which had defeated the Taliban did not prevent the cover-up.

Nader Nadery said that the moment for action was in 2001 when the US-led forces were all powerful. He said that “the strongest man in this country” would not have stood up to them, believing them capable of anything.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary at the time, Jack Straw, wrote that warlords were a “fact of life” in Afghanistan.

He said that things had to be taken one step at a time. “In this kind of situation you are always in an area of acute moral hazard, which is why I am sure I made the point that we had to deal with the warlords. At the time it was better to deal with them than to have them contributing to the chaos.”

He said it was never too late for justice. But the warlords, particularly the former mujahideen from the 1980s and 90s, have reclaimed much of their power. It was they who pushed through immunity from prosecution for past crimes.

Afghanistan’s rampant corruption, and the weakness of its democracy are intimately connected to its failure to deal with war crimes. The communists at the beginning of the long war and the Taliban at the end were both brutal. But many of those entrenched in power now are conservative rural powerbrokers who have blood on their hands too.

And apart from a few isolated examples, such as the prosecutors in the Netherlands, painstakingly building cases with elusive documents, the world has preferred to look the other way.

For technical reasons, Afghanistan is not covered by the International Criminal Court for any war crimes committed before the fall of the Taliban, and a controversial law approved by President Karzai conferred immunity from prosecution inside Afghanistan.

But countries have an obligation to pursue war criminals if they come into their jurisdiction.

“We’re talking about over 30 years of war crimes being committed by all sides,” Thijs Berger told the BBC. “And nothing is really being done about it.”

Listen to David Loyn’s documentary The Saur Death List of Afghanistan

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Was innocent man executed?

(escort16.com) — More than a decade after his execution, Cameron Todd Willingham is still a pawn in the debate over the death penalty.

Opponents of capital punishment say Willingham’s is a clear case of an inmate being wrongfully executed, while the original prosecutor and state of Texas have been steadfast in their assertion that Willingham should be no one’s cause célèbre.

Willingham was a psychopathic killer who murdered his three children, John H. Jackson, the former Navarro County prosecutor who handled the case in 1992, wrote in an e-mail. He submitted to a polygraph with predictable results, he confessed the murders to his wife, the trial evidence established two prior incidents when he tried to kill his children in utero by vicious attacks on his wife

Willingham was executed in February 2004 after being found guilty in an arson that killed his children, 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron His family has fought to have his name cleared ever since

The Innocence Project filed a grievance Monday with the State Bar of Texas, asking that it investigate the now-retired prosecutor. The grievance alleges Jackson fabricated and concealed evidence including documents indicating that a jailhouse informant received special treatment in exchange for his testimony, which Jackson and the informant both claimed was not true during the original trial.

A story in The Washington Post on Sunday, written by the Marshall Project, a journalistic group focusing on criminal justice matters, said Willingham’s case is especially important to death penalty opponents because it could provide the first case showing conclusively that an innocent man was put to death in the modern era of capital punishment.

The story points out that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in upholding Kansas’ death penalty in 2006, said opponents had failed to show a single case in which a convict was executed for a crime she or he didn’t commit

Evidence and testimony at trial showed that Willingham had been involved in criminal activity since his teens and had been verbally and physically abusive with his family. Witnesses alleged that during the blaze, Willingham seemed more concerned with rescuing his car than his daughters

Appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, declined to stop Willingham’s execution, yet in his final words, he claimed to be “an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit.” Since his conviction, the science employed by investigators to determine that the fatal fire was an arson, as well as a post-conviction claim by his ex-wife, Stacy Kuykendall, that Willingham confessed to her, have been matters of debate

An alleged alliance

The Marshall Project story reports that informant Johnny Webb, whose testimony was integral to convicting Willingham, now says he lied on the witness stand in exchange for favors from Jackson. The story also alleges that correspondence between Jackson and Johnny Webb indicate the two were in cahoots.

Jackson told CNN the letters are being misconstrued.

In one letter, Webb writes that his testimony against Willingham resulted in retaliation from other inmates.

Here, the state offered me certain benefits in exchange for my testimony, which resulted in sending a man to death row. This resulted in a murder contract being placed on my head. Because I kept my end of the promise, the state is bound to uphold theirs until my release from incarceration Webb wrote to Jackson in 1996

Other documents cited in the Marshall Project report indicate Jackson worked to have the charges on which Webb was convicted reduced, to have Webb released early on a robbery conviction and to have him moved to a less dangerous prison.

In a 1996 letter to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice official, Jackson wrote that Webb should be afforded an “out-of-sequence parole hearing” based on his cooperation in the Williingham case and the subsequent threats against him.

Jackson wrote in closing that incarceration would not aid Webb’s rehabilitation and would jeopardize the Willingham conviction. Thus Webb’s cooperation in the murder prosecution without expectation of leniency should be accorded some consideration, he said.

Webb was granted parole in 1998, but within months was back in jail on drug charges, which constituted a parole violation. In 2000, Webb said in a handwritten letter that he wished to recant his testimony. The Marshall Project alleges the note was never placed in Webb’s file or disclosed to Willingham’s attorneys.

I am given no other choice but to make this motion to recant testimony at this time, Webb wrote. I was forced to testify against Mr. Willingham by the DA’s office and other officials. I was made to lie. Mr. Willingham is innocent of all charges.”

Patently untrue

Reached at his Corsicana, Texas, office, Jackson declined a chance to present his side of the allegations in a phone interview. Despite CNN messages left via phone and e-mail, he said he was “skeptical CNN wants to present my side of the story

(escort16.comwasn’t given a chance to ask Jackson specific questions about the allegations — namely, reports that numerous fire investigators now say the original conviction was based on outdated arson science and a Marshall Project allegation that a wealthy businessman with connections to Jackson provided Webb money and favors.

Jackson did, however, provide a 250-word response to some of the allegations against him.

“The new tack is that I promised the jailhouse witness Webb leniency if he would testify that Willingham confessed,” Jackson wrote. “This is patently untrue and I interviewed Webb before others and very sincerely advised him that I could offer him nothing in return for his testimony

After supposedly reputable journalists whom Jackson didn’t name, outed Webb as a snitch who had cooperated with authorities, the white supremacist gang, the Aryan Brotherhood, began threatening Webb. There were also efforts by Willingham’s defense team and prison guards colluding with the Aryan Brotherhood to coerce Webb to recant, and a journalist even tried to bribe the informant, Jackson wrote.

AFTER (emphasis Jackson’s) the Willingham trial I did everything in my power to prevent his being killed by the (Aryan Brotherhood),” he said. “Webb wrote letters warning that he would be forced to write a recantation because of death threats from the (Aryan Brotherhood) and their stooge prison guard, but that the recantation would be false

Jackson also alluded in his e mail to Willingham’s ex-wife’s claim that Willingham confessed to her before his execution. Indeed, in 2010, responding to the Willingham family’s push to have her former husband’s name cleared, Stacy Kuykendall told reporters gathered at an Austin courthouse that Willingham admitted setting the blaze.

Todd murdered Amber, Karmon and Kameron. He burnt them she said. He admitted he burnt them to me, and he was convicted for his crime. That is the closest to justice that my daughters will ever get

She would later tell the Chicago Tribune and The New Yorker magazine that Willingham made no such confession to her, according to their reports.

Arson or no arson

In his e-mail to CNN, Jackson did not address the arson science used in the investigation, but he wrote in a 2009 guest column for the Corsicana Daily Sun that there was sufficient evidence of Willingham’s guilt without the problematic findings in the arson report.

The Willingham trial has become a sort of cause celebre by anti-death penalty proponents because it seems to be an example of outmoded scientific techniques which led to a miscarriage of justice, he said. “In fact, the trial testimony (the newspaper) reported in 1991 contains overwhelming evidence of guilt completely independent of the undeniably flawed forensic report

He pointed to seven factors that he said helped establish Willingham’s guilt, including his violent past, evidence showing someone had blocked the door’s back home with a refrigerator, the “superficial” nature of Willingham’s burns and an analysis suggesting Willingham hadn’t inhaled excessive smoke, as he claimed, during his rescue attempt.

Little seems certain in Willingham’s case, outside the fact that death penalty opponents and proponents staunchly disagree over his guilt. Disagreement has been a mark of the case, as Willingham’s own defense attorney told CNN in 2009 that he thought his client was guilty, while one of the jurors who convicted him expressed doubts.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has defended his decision not to stay Willingham’s execution, calling him a “monster.” Meanwhile, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said in the Monday news release that not only should the verdict be called into question, but so should the man who prosecuted Willingham.

We are asking the State Bar of Texas to investigate and prosecute this matter, which we believe is of profound importance to all citizens in this country. Whether one supports or opposes the death penalty, the execution of an innocent man is, as Justice (Sandra Day) O’Connor has said, a ‘constitutionally intolerable event,'” Scheck said.

Jackson has seen his case under fire before, and he stands by the verdict today, just as he did when it was handed down in 1992 and when he penned his guest commentary for the local paper in 2009.

“While anti-death-penalty advocates can muster some remarkably good arguments, Todd Willingham should not be anyone’s poster child,” he wrote then.

LSE rights issue to raise almost £1bn

Xavier Rolet, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange

The London Stock Exchange is raising £938m ($1.55bn) from shareholders in a rights issue to help fund a £1.6bn acquisition.

The LSE said in late June it was buying index compiler and asset manager Frank Russell Company, from Northwestern Mutual.

The fully underwritten rights issue will be priced at £12.95 a share.

That is a 30.1% discount to Thursday’s closing price of £20.05, which valued the LSE at £5.46bn.

News of the rights issue sent LSE shares down 1% to £19.86 in Friday morning trading.

The acquisition of Frank Russell – the largest in the LSE’s history – gives the exchange ownership of the Russell 2000 small-cap US stock index.

It will also make it the third-largest player in the growing market for exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Xavier Rolet, chief executive of LSE, said the deal would help to expand its global footprint, particularly in the key US market.

This is a strong strategic acquisition for the group, which will accelerate development in one of our core strengths, intellectual property, and offers significant growth potential, he said

We have seen a resurgence in the IPO market

Shareholders must approve the deal at a general meeting on 10 September 10.

LSE also announced results for the three months to the end of June, which gave investors details of its latest financial performance in connection with the Frank Russell deal and rights issue.

Adjusted pre tax profit rose 26% to £129.8m, with revenue up 20% to £299.9m.

Mr Rolet said: We have seen a resurgence in the IPO market with an increase in both the number of companies joining our markets and the amount of money raised. While the summer period is seasonally slower, our diversified business is very well positioned for further growth

Revenues from capital markets was up 16% as the number of new issues in primary markets more than doubled, while secondary markets benefitted from improvements in fixed income trading and Italian cash equity volumes