Victims File Suit Against CIA Torture Architects for ‘Systemic Brutality’

Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who thus far escaped accountability, face charges of ‘cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; non-consensual human experimentation; and war crimes.’

— by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Suleiman Abdullah Salim, who survived the CIA’s brutal torture regime, was released after five years of being held without charge. (Photo via ACLU)

The two psychologists credited with creating the brutal, post-9/11 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture regime are being sued by three victims of their program on charges that include “human experimentation” and “war crimes.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Tuesday filed the suit against CIA contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, on behalf of torture survivors Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, as well as the family of Gul Rahman, who died of hypothermia in his cell as result of the torture he endured.

The suit, which is the first to rely on the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, charges Mitchell and Jessen under the Alien Tort Statute for “their commission of torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; non-consensual human experimentation; and war crimes,” all of which violate international law.

The pair, both former U.S. military psychologists, earned more than $80 million for “designing, implementing, and personally administering” the program, which employed “a pseudo-scientific theory of countering resistance that justified the use of torture,” that was based on studies in which researchers “taught dogs ‘helplessness’ by subjecting them to uncontrollable pain,” according to the suit.

“These psychologists devised and supervised an experiment to degrade human beings and break their bodies and minds,” said Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “It was cruel and unethical, and it violated a prohibition against human experimentation that has been in place since World War II.”

In a lengthy report, the ACLU describes each plaintiff’s journey.

After being abducted by CIA and Kenyan agents in Somalia, Suleiman Abdullah, a newly wed fisherman from Tanzania, was subjected to “an incessant barrage of torture techniques,” including being forced to listen to pounding music, doused with ice-cold water, beaten, hung from a metal rod, chained into stress positions “for days at a time,” starved, and sleep deprived. This went on for over a month, and was continually interspersed with “terrifying interrogation sessions in which he was grilled about what he was doing in Somalia and the names of people, all but one of whom he’d never heard of.”

Held for over five years without charge and moved numerous times, Abdullah was eventually sent home to Zanzibar “‘with a document confirming he posed no threat to the United States.” He continues to suffer from flashbacks, physical pain, and has “become a shell of himself.”

Mohamed Ben Soud was captured in April 2003 during a joint U.S.-Pakistani raid on his home in Pakistan, where he and his wife moved after fleeing the Gaddafi regime in Libya. Ben Soud said that Mitchell even “supervised the proceedings” at one of his water torture sessions.

Describing Ben Soud’s ordeal, the ACLU writes:

The course of Mohamed’s torture adhered closely to the “procedures” the CIA laid out in a 2004 memo to the Justice Department. Even before arriving at COBALT, [a CIA prison in Afghanistan] Mohamed was subjected to “conditioning” procedures designed to cause terror and vulnerability. He was rendered to COBALT hooded, handcuffed, and shackled. When he arrived, an American woman told him he was a prisoner of the CIA, that human rights ended on September 11, and that no laws applied in the prison.

Quickly, his torture escalated. For much of the next year, CIA personnel kept Mohamed naked and chained to the wall in one of three painful stress positions designed to keep him awake. He was held in complete isolation in a dungeon-like cell, starved, with no bed, blanket, or light. A bucket served as his toilet. Ear-splitting music pounded constantly. The stench was unbearable. He was kept naked for weeks. He wasn’t permitted to wash for five months.

According to the report, the torture regime designed and implemented by Mitchell and Jessen “ensnared at least 119 men, and killed at least one—a man named Gul Rahman who died in November 2002 of hypothermia after being tortured and left half naked, chained to the wall of a freezing-cold cell.”

Gul’s family has never been formally notified of his death, nor has his body been returned to them for a dignified burial, the ACLU states. Further, no one has been held accountable for his murder. But the report notes, “An unnamed CIA officer who was trained by Jessen and who tortured Rahman up until the day before he was found dead, however, later received a $2,500 bonus for ‘consistently superior work.'”

The ACLU charges that the theories devised by Mitchell and Jessen and employed by the CIA, “had never been scientifically tested because such trials would violate human experimentation bans established after Nazi experiments and atrocities during World War II.” Yet, they were the basis of “some of the worst systematic brutality ever inflicted on detainees in modern American history.”

Despite last year’s release of the Senate Torture Report, the government has prosecuted only a handful of low-level soldiers and one CIA contractor for prisoner abuse. Meanwhile, the architects of the CIA’s torture program, which include Mitchell and Jessen, have escaped any form of accountability.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a statement saying they welcomed the federal lawsuit as “a landmark step toward accountability,” and urged the U.S. Department to follow suit and criminally “investigate and prosecute all those responsible for torture, including health professionals.”

In the wake of the Senate report, the group strongly criticized Mitchell and Jessen for betraying “the most fundamental duty of the healing professions.”

In Tuesday’s statement, Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director, said: “Psychologists have an ethical responsibility to ‘do no harm,’ but Mitchell and Jessen’s actions rank among the worst medical crimes in U.S. history.”


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Legally Married and Legally Fired

— by CAP Action War Room

The Fight For Equal Rights For LGBT Americans Does Not End At Marriage

We’ve been talking a lot about a certain Supreme Court case over the past month, with the Affordable Care Act under attack for a second time. Next up, the Supreme Court will hear another important case in April on whether to legalize marriage for committed same-sex couples throughout the country. While proponents of equality are hopeful for a historic decision to finally ensure marriage equality nationwide, regardless of the outcome, the fight for LGBT equal rights will not end in June. One aspect of that fight is securing basic non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.

While the fundamental right to marry the one you love has been extended to Americans in over thirty states, we still have a ways to go in enacting meaningful anti-discrimination laws across the country. As the graphic below demonstrates, LGBT Americans are still vulnerable to discrimination in many other ways. And click here to learn more about all the protections that LGBT Americans don’t have.

LGBT-Discrimination

BOTTOM LINE: While the Supreme Court may soon rightly decide that marriage equality is constitutional, the fight for fairness and full equality will not be over this summer. Congress and the States need to act to ensure equal protections for LGBT Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

In Ferguson, DOJ Probe Only Confirms What Community Has Long Known

‘What the DOJ has memorialized on paper, we will memorialize in action.’
—Tory Russell, Hands Up United

"Hands up!" sign displayed at a Ferguson protest. (Photo:  Jamelle Bouie/flickr/cc)
“Hands up!” sign displayed at a Ferguson protest. (Photo:  Jamelle Bouie/flickr/cc)

 

 

— by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A Department of Justice probe into the now-notorious Ferguson Police Department confirmed Wednesday what residents of this majority-black city in Missouri have long charged: racism is endemic throughout the local “justice” system—manifesting in everything from traffic stops to predatory court fines to physical attacks.

Now, the activists whose sustained protests put Ferguson in the global spotlight are responding to the revelations with observations of their own. They say the abuses documented in the DOJ’s 102-page review are not new information to municipal residents; they are not unique to Ferguson; and, ultimately, they constitute a call-to-action.

“What the DOJ has memorialized on paper, we will memorialize in action,” said Tory Russell, cofounder of Hands Up United, which was formed shortly after the August fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Russell continued in a public statement:

Ferguson is just a symptom of an international problem, one that is fueled by social, economic, and racial inequality, by a lack of access to education, resources, employment, and one that wont go away until we take an introspective look at ourselves as a nation and as a global community facing daily flashpoints between the privileged and the repressed.

“Ferguson is a microcosm of how marginalized communities interact with the state, but also a spark that inevitably stokes that flames of justice in the hearts and minds of people of all creeds peppered throughout this country.” —Tory Russell, Hands Up United

The DOJ, is an organ in these systems of inequality.  The same CS gas that police used to disperse our assemblies in Ferguson, is the same CS gas, manufactured here in the US with support from US taxpayers, that is used to disperse assemblies in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  For those of us on the receiving end of this gas our struggles are intertwined.

Moreover, our socio-economic systems appear to thrive in (or at the very least, understand) the chaos of flashpoints between the haves and have-nots.  What is harder, for everyone to understand to and address, is how to challenge the predicate series of systemic injustices that fuel and fertilize these flashpoints.

Ferguson is a microcosm of how marginalized communities interact with the state, but also a spark that inevitably stokes that flames of justice in the hearts and minds of people of all creeds peppered throughout this country.

Additionally included in the press statement were remarks by Tef Poe, also a cofounder of Hands Up United, who said:

While we should not diminish the significance of the DOJ’s findings, and the prospect of subsequent attempts to reform policing in Ferguson and St. Louis, we also need to remain cognizant to the fact that Ferguson is but a microcosm of repressive and violent community-police interactions nation-wide.

Today the DOJ’s report has validated that traffic stops in Ferguson disproportionately target people of color and Ferguson courts have become sources of revenue – straying away from their purpose of protecting our communities. We who live this, every day, having been slapped with exhaustive series of tickets, or bench warrants, for our minor infractions, or due to simple mistakes, already knew this.

“This is not news for those of us who have felt a baton in our back or a boot on our neck— moreover, the incidents Ferguson Police choose not to document are perhaps the most frightening and hardest for us to forget.” —Tef Poe, Hands Up United

In incident reports filed by Ferguson Police, detailed in the DOJ report, nearly all of the situations wherein police used force were against people of color. This is not news for those of us who have felt a baton in our back or a boot on our neck— moreover, the incidents Ferguson Police choose not to document are perhaps the most frightening and hardest for us to forget.

To see what we have been saying and living for decades validated by the Department of Justice is not insignificant, but these problems are like a cancer—whether the symptoms spread through a body or a whole community, they cannot be addressed piecemeal. To isolate and exemplify Ferguson, is to infatuate over the finger while the organs of our State and the soul of our Country continue to metastasize.

To begin to address this cancer we must first begin by viewing it as such.  This cancer is one that saturates everything—like smoke lingering on your clothes after a night out—and it is not reserved for a specific demographic.  This smoke lingers on our clothes inasmuch as it lingers on Darren Wilson’s blood stained uniform —the only difference is that we’re ready to change that. ”

Organizers with Millennial Activists United, a youth-led, grassroots coalition in the St. Louis area, put it succinctly:

The DOJ’s release of the report, which coincided with its announcement that it will not prosecute Wilson for shooting Brown, prompted protests on Wednesday against racial disparities. Numerous eye witnesses say that police arrested those who gathered to demonstrate, sparking renewed outrage among local organizers, including the network Ferguson Action:

Raven Rakia pointed out in The Nation on Thursday that police practices in Ferguson, and local resistance, have nation-wide implications.

“The flames of Ferguson following Michael Brown’s death captured the country’s attention, and brought the Justice Department to town,” wrote Rakia. “But what of all the other small and big cities across the United States engaging in the same practices? If we are to look towards Ferguson as a lesson, changes may come only following a sustained grassroots movement from those directly affected.”


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America’s ‘Post-Racial’ Lie

White Americans have no right to judge the outpouring of black anger in Ferguson.

— by

Jill Richardson

Shortly before Michael Brown’s fateful encounter with Ferguson cop Darren Wilson, I was appointed as a teaching assistant in a class on race and ethnicity.

I’m white. I didn’t go to grad school to study race — I study agriculture. When it comes to race, I’m clueless.

I wish I could say that I was clueless — that I’ve since obtained a whirlwind education on race in the United States. But that’s not true. If anything, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of my blind spots.

I probably boast a more diverse group of friends than many of the folks I grew up with. But like the majority of white people, my social networks are still almost entirely white.

I could tell you the names of every single black kid in my grade in my childhood elementary school because there weren’t that many. At the time, I thought they were having the same social and educational experience that I was.

The Prejudicial System, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The Prejudicial System, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

I was wrong.

I recently reconnected with an African-American guy from my fourth grade class. Our teacher, he told me, was racist. “What?” I responded.

I mean, I was there. But I remember nothing. It was something I didn’t even think about as a kid.

What I do know is this: Whenever I had a run-in with a teacher — or anyone else for that matter — I never had to wonder if they treated me that way because I was white. Not so for my black classmates.

I’ve never had acquaintances come up and touch my hair as if they’re petting a dog. I’ve never had someone say something like, “You’re so cool, I don’t even consider you white!” or “You’re pretty, for a white girl.”

People of color hear statements like these all the time.

When I screw up, I don’t have to worry that I’m representing all white people and ruining things for all of us. When I get pulled over by a cop, I never wonder if it’s because I’m white.

And, what’s more, I never even have to think about this stuff. I can even claim I’m “colorblind” because we live in a “post-racial” America.

As an adult, I’m frequently shocked by how different my black friends’ experience of America is from mine. One friend told me that when she dresses in the morning, she consciously attempts to look “non-threatening” to white people.

Other friends worry about the safety of their teenage sons.

What do you do when your 13-year-old is six feet tall, and you see the police looking at him as if he might be up to something? How do you explain to your rambunctious, innocent nine-year-old that he can’t wear the hoods on his hoodies, just in case?

It’s hard to buy into the “post-racial” lie when you fear that a not-so-colorblind cop might shoot your kid.

Being white doesn’t give me a free pass in life. As a white person with a medical disability that impacts every day of my life, I struggle plenty. But my experience — any white person’s experience — of America doesn’t match what people of color experience.

If this makes you uneasy, there are a few small steps you can take to promote change.

First, admit your ignorance and withhold judgment. White folks don’t know what black folks are going through. How on earth can we judge the outpouring of anger in Ferguson right now?

True, burning down a strip mall won’t help anything. But with a legal system deeply biased against African Americans, white Americans need to understand that this anger comes from an entirely valid place — one that most whites simply don’t understand on their own.

Second, reach out. Make friends. Get to know someone who doesn’t look like you.

In fact, get to know many people who don’t look like you. Because the first step toward bridging the gap between the races in America is forging friendships.


OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. OtherWords.org

#WEMatter

What We All Can Do To Give Women And Families A Fair Shot At Getting Ahead

— by CAP Action War Room

Fifty years ago, most families were able to pay their bills, save for their children’s education and plan for their own retirement—all on one income. Now most women work outside the home and are either the sole breadwinner or share the role equally with their partner. Times have changed, yet many of our policies remain outdated and disconnected from the challenges women face.

CAP Action, along with American Women, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Service Employees International Union have announced the launch of Fair Shot Action, a new resource that will focus on ensuring that policymakers and candidates for elected office are responsive to the increasingly pivotal role women are playing in the economic stability and overall well-being of families by advocating for concrete solutions that can improve women’s lives.

The pillars of the Fair Shot Action campaign consist of 21st century policies that are essential to the overall economic stability and well-being of families. They include:

  1. Work-Life Challenges and Workplace Flexibility, such as paid sicks days, workplace flexibility laws, and paid family and medical leave which recognize the dual demands faced by today’s workers.
  2. Fair Treatment in the Workplace, including ensuring equal pay for equal work, raising the minimum wage, and strengthening existing laws against pregnancy discrimination to help women and their families get ahead.
  3. Healthy Families & Nondiscrimination, by closing the Medicaid coverage gap and getting all states to expand Medicaid, while at the same time working to make sure that women have access to preventative healthcare including contraception without co-payments.

FairShotClick here to become a fair shot voter today.

Fair Shot Action will continue to engage women and men across diverse constituencies, to ensure that voters are equipped with tools to push legislators and candidates to take actions in support of women’s economic security and women’s health, and to coordinate activity between other national and state organizations.

New resources include Fair Shot Voter, an online tool where voters can pledge support and commit to act on policies that affect women and their families. As part of the campaign, the website will also allow voters to share their story about why these issues matter to them, tactics that constituents can use to engage with legislators, and resources that help voters find information on state and local records on these issues.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s time for our workplace policies and public polices to keep up with our changing workplaces and families. We need women and their families to be at the center of our policy debates–and for politicians who forget to be held accountable. It’s time for all of us to become fair shot voters.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Obama to Issue Executive Order Against LGBTQ Discrimination

Campaigners say White House move ‘will begin to undo one of the last vestiges of legally sanctioned discrimination’

— by Lauren McCauley, staff writer, Common Dreams
(Photo: Sandburchick/ cc/ Flickr)

In what is being hailed as a major victory for LGBTQ rights, the White House confirmed on Monday that President Obama is going to issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity with taxpayer funds by all federal contractors will begin to undo one of the last vestiges of legally sanctioned discrimination,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who called the news “historic.”

According to a White House official who spoke to the Huffington Post, the president has “directed his staff to draft an executive order” banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors.

However, it was not said when the president was going to sign the order into law.

According to the unnamed official, the executive order will “build upon existing protections, which generally prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

The rights group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said that the forthcoming order is the “culmination of six years of advocacy” on the part of human and civil rights campaigners.

Thus far, efforts to pass legislation barring workplace discrimination have stalled in Congress. Though passing the Senate last November, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)— which would affect all employers nationwide—has not yet come up for vote in the House.

“By issuing an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people, the President will not only create fairer workplaces across the country, he will demonstrate to Congress that adopting federal employment protections for LGBT people is good policy and good for business,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. Griffin added that the White House statement is “promising,” saying that advocates “look forward to seeing the details of the executive order.”

Resources on LGBT Workplace Discrimination:

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States Act To Expand Voting Rights For Citizens

There have been a number of positive developments in the states on other issues, including efforts to expand voting access.  Here’s a run-down of some of the best from the last few weeks:

retro-voting-sign1. Wisconsin: Federal Judge Strikes Down Voter ID Law, Finds That ‘No Rational Person Could Be Worried’ About Voter Fraud. The April 29 decision, in an overwhelming win for plaintiffs who argued that the voter ID law suppresses ballot access in the state, could still be overturned on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. But U.S. district judge Lynn Adelman did not hold back: he found not just that the law disproportionately deters minorities and low-income individuals from voting; but also that purported instances of voter impersonation are so infrequent, if they exist at all, that “no rational person could be worried about it.”

2. Hawaii: Aloha State Enacts Strong Voting Rights Law Including Same Day Registration. In 2012, even with its native son Barack Obama atop the ballot, just a paltry 44 percent of eligible Hawaii voters showed up to vote–the worst turnout rate in the country. On April 29, though, Hawaii lawmakers passed legislation to fix that, allowing citizens instead to register to vote when they show up to cast a ballot. Academic studies have found that allowing same-day registration increases turnout between 7 and 14 percentage points.

3. Minnesota: One Day After Judge Orders Online Voter Registration Shut Down, Legislature Passes Law To Revive It. This Monday, a district judge ordered Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to shut down the state’s online voter registration portal by Tuesday night because he lacked legislative authority when he launched it in September. On Tuesday, the Minnesota state legislature passed and Gov Mark Dayton signed into law a bill giving him that authority. Minnesota becomes the 23rd state to have online voter registration, which makes it easier for anybody with access to a computer to register and is simply common-sense for the 21st century.

4. Georgia: 12,000 Citizens Use New Online And Mobile Voter Registration System, More Than Double Than Expected. The new online system rolled out in the end of March, expecting around 5,000 users in the first month. Instead, more than 12,000 enrolled, including 7,000 newly registered voters, according to Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
On a side note:  Last week was also a busy week for the minimum wage news:  first, Senate Republicans in Washington, D.C. blocked increasing the federal minimum wage; then, a coalition of business, labor, and community leaders in Seattle, Washington announced a deal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15.

And be sure to keep an eye out for…

5. Delaware: State Senate Set To Vote On Same Day Registration After Passing The House. The bill is an important step for expanding access to the polls in Delaware. But its not clear right now whether it’s a sure thing to pass.

BOTTOM LINE: Like we see with minimum wage legislation and so many other important issues for a more prosperous and just nation, cities and states are taking the lead while Congress stalls. When it comes to voting rights, at a time when some conservative-run swing states are doing whatever they can to roll back access, other states are showing the way forward for ensuring that voting is not a privilege, but a right.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Dash Cam Video Exposes Humbolt Deputy Abusing Already Abused State Forfeiture Law

Reading about state forfeiture laws that allow cops to seize money from citizens who have not broken any laws is infuriating as it is.

But watching it done on dash cam is absolutely enraging.

Especially when Humboldt County deputy Lee Dove gives a driver the choice between abandoning $50,000 and be on his way or having it seized along with his car under Nevada’s state forfeiture law.

One advantage of living in a relatively unknown rural area is that this unwelcome bad news didn’t hit a large number of main stream media channels.  Most outlets picking up the story are local Nevada or right-leaning sites.  Read more here:

Republican Secretary Of State in Indiana Convicted Of Voter Fraud

BY JOSH ISRAEL

Though President Ronald Reagan called the right to vote the “crown jewel of American liberties,” many Republicans around the country have begun demanding increased voting restrictions in the name of fighting “voter fraud.” Though actual cases of voting fraud are so rare that a voter is much more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls, one Republican official in Indiana has proved that lightning can strike himself.

Yesterday, a jury found Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) guilty on six felony counts of voter fraud, theft, and perjury. The conviction cost White his job, though he plans to ask the judge to reduce the charges to misdemeanors and hopes to perhaps regain the position.

In a statement, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) announced White’s deputy will take over on an interim basis:

I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge’s authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder… If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly.

But a second court case could ultimately give the job to Democrat Vop Osili, who lost to White in November 2010. A judge’s December 2011 ruling — currently on hold, pending appeal — held that due to the voter fraud charges, White’s election was invalid. Should that ruling survive the appeals process, Osili would assume the office.

Ironically, White’s now-removed 2010 campaign website listed election integrity as among his top concerns, and promised he would “protect and defend Indiana’s Voter ID law to ensure our elections are fair and protect the most basic and precious right and responsibility of our democracy-voting.”

NOTE:
In 2005, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed “the strictest voter ID requirements in the nation,” and Republicans said at the time that it was “needed to guard against voter fraud.”


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.


Editor’s Note:  The irony in this entire situation is that one of their own got caught and now, instead of being outraged and going after Mr. White, instead they want to downplay his heinous actions to mere misdemeanors, slap him on the hand, and put him back in the job that is responsible for policing such actions!  Had that been a Democratic Secretary of State committing such actions, they would be attempting to elevate his actions to the equivalent of treason and calling for his execution!