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January 04, 2004 

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Children sentenced to death in Philippines

Larina Perpinan was sentenced to death in 1998, along with 10 others, for the kidnap for ransom of an elderly woman, who was later released unharmed. Larina Perpinan is reported to have been 17 years old when she was arrested. She says she barely saw her lawyer before the trial and lied to the judge about her name, age and address for fear of getting into trouble at home. When she finally proved that she was 17 at the time of the crime, the judge had already passed the death sentence and reportedly refused to reverse the decision. Larina, who was pregnant at the time of her arrest, later gave birth to a baby boy in prison.

Saturani Panggayong, sentenced to death for a crime committed when he was only 15 years old. Saturani Panggayong was sentenced to death in May 2001 for murder with robbery, a crime allegedly committed when he was only 15 years old. He says that when he was first interrogated there was no lawyer present and he did not understand much of the proceedings. He says that during his trial, he was not asked to testify.

At least seven child offenders are currently under sentence of death in the Philippines. The six men and one woman, now in their twenties, have had their death sentences hanging over them for years.

According to Philippine law, these seven young offenders should not have been sentenced to death. However, there is no requirement in the law to establish whether or not a suspect is a child - below the age of 18. This means that children are sometimes detained as adults.

All the seven child offenders have been detained with adults since they were first arrested. Some of them have reported being beaten or subjected to torture or ill-treatment on arrest, sometimes to force them to confess. The six young men were, until recently, locked in their cells for more than 23 hours a day.

A bill on abolition of the death penalty is currently before the Philippine Congress.

The first conviction under Anti-Terror law
John Allen Muhammad became the first person convicted under a unique Virginia anti-terrorism law enacted after Sept. 11, all but guaranteeing the statute will be put to the test on appeal. Defence lawyers will almost certainly argue that the law is too vague to have been used to convict Muhammad in the sniper slaying of a man at a gas station.

The anti-terrorism law, passed by Virginia lawmakers last year, makes a killing punishable by execution if the crime was intended to intimidate the public or influence the government. Prosecutors argued that Muhammad and his alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, tried to intimidate the public in the Washington area in order to extort $10 million from the government.

They portrayed Muhammad as the `captain' of a two-man killing team. The case will automatically be reviewed by the Virginia Supreme Court if he is sentenced to death, and an appeal is likely even if he gets life imprisonment. ``The fact that it's the first case under this new and untested law guarantees the appellate court will look hard at the application of this statute,'' said Anne Coughlin, a University of Virginia law professor.

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican who drafted the legislation, said he believes the law was applied correctly to Muhammad. But whether prosecutors proved he was the mastermind of a terrorist act, with enough control over Malvo to command the killings, is questionable, some lawyers said.

``The question has always been whether (the law) includes the type of psychological relationship that may have existed here between Muhammad and Malvo,'' said Richard Bonnie, a criminal law professor at the University of Virginia.

Source: Amnesty International & Guardian.

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