O’Brien to talk miscarriage of justice at Hay

Michael O’Brien is set to appear at the 2009 Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye.
O’Brien will take part in a question and answer session on his autobiography, The Death of Justice, which describes his wrongful conviction for murder, his battle to clear his name and an examination of what he believes went wrong in the investigation of the still unsolved murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders.
The 41-year-old, who served more than a decade behind bars for the murder, continues to campaign for other victims of miscarriage of justice.
South Wales Police has had a difficult week, having to issue two apologies in the space of 48 hours – the first to a 63-year-old musician who was mistakenly arrested and strip-searched by armed police officers and the second to a grieving widow to whom officers returned the rope her husband had used to kill himself.
O’Brien has never received an apology from the force.
: The time of the Hay Q&A is to be confirmed but it is likely to take place on Saturday, May 23.

Asylum Justice: Young Family to Stay in Swansea

Campaigners in Swansea are celebrating after young mum Venera Aliyeva was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
The UK Government had been trying to deport her and her two children to Azerbaijan.
But as What Is Wales? reported in 2007, locals began a campaign to have them returned from Yarl’s Wood detention centre to her home in South Wales.
Venera had previously suffered persecution on two counts in Azerbaijan: because she is a Baptist and an Armenian.
Today the Campaign for Asylum Justice revealed the family would now be allowed to stay in Swansea.

Number of executions rises around the world

The number of people being executed around the world rose significantly in 2008 compared to the previous year, according to Amnesty International.
There were 2,390 executions worldwide last year, with an overwhelming 72 per cent of those being carried out in China (the host of the Olympics).
Japan executed highest number for over 30 years, while Belarus remains the “last executioner in Europe”.
Amnesty’s annual survey of global death penalty use shows at least 2,390 people were executed in 25 countries last year, up from 1,252 in 2007.
Methods used included beheading, hanging, stoning, lethal injection and electrocution.
Only 13 “hardcore” countries have executed prisoners every year for the last five years: Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Vietnam, USA and Yemen.
Amnesty said there was “comparatively good news” in that only one in eight countries (25) carried out executions last year and only slightly more than a quarter (59) even retain capital punishment.
China alone carried out nearly three-quarters of the world’s executions (1,718), and 10 other countries from Asia – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Singapore and Vietnam – also carried out judicial killings.
Japan carried out 15 executions, the highest number in the country since 1975.
The Middle East is the other world region notable for its reliance on capital punishment, with Iran (at least 346) and Saudi Arabia (at least 102) especially prone to carrying out executions.
Amnesty recently revealed that Iraq (which last year executed at least 34 people) is set to execute another 128 prisoners, reportedly in batches of 20 at a time.
Meanwhile Belarus, which executed four people last year, is shown to be the last executioner in Europe.
Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said: “The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Beheadings, electrocutions, hangings, lethal injections, shootings and stonings have no place in the twenty-first century.
“Capital punishment is not just an act but a legalised process of physical and psychological terror that culminates in people being killed by the state. It must be brought to an end.”
Amnesty’s report, which was launched today, emphasised the risk of executing innocent prisoners.
The USA released four people from death row last year, taking to 130 the number of death row exonerees since 1973.

Tribute to Jimmy Murphy

A plaque was due to be unveiled today in memory of Jimmy Murphy, the coach who helped nurture Manchester United’s legendary Busby Babes and led Wales to their only World Cup finals.
Murphy, born in the Rhondda of a Welsh mother and Irish father, was the man who stepped into Matt Busby’s shoes after the Munich air disaster which killed eight players in 1958.
It was he who had to steer the grief-stricken club through a fifth-round FA Cup tie just 13 days after the tragedy.
United beat Sheffield Wednesday, and then West Brom and Fulham, before a 2-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers in the final spoiled what would have been an even more amazing cup story.
Murphy himself only missed the Munich crash because of his other job as Wales national team manager.
He had stayed behind to guide his country successfully through a World Cup playoff match against Israel in Cardiff.
“I usually sat next to Matt on the plane and had the next room to his at the hotel whenever the team went away and I had suggested that I went to Belgrade, with it being such an important European Cup game. He had said, ‘No, Jimmy, you have a job to do,’ so [the coach] Bert Whalley went to Belgrade in my place,” Murphy recalled later.
Whalley was one of the 23 players, coaching staff, journalists and crew who died in the crash.
Busby was a spectator on crutches at Wembley in 1958 when United lost to Bolton.
“It must have been a terrible time for Jimmy and everyone at the club after the crash,” Busby said in the book, The Team That Wouldn’t Die – The Story of the Busby Babes by John Roberts. “It needed someone who, though feeling the heartbreak of the situation, could still keep his head and keep the job going. Jimmy was that man.”
In the same year Murphy, who died in 1989, took Wales to the quarter finals of the World Cup.
The plaque was being unveiled at the house where he grew up at 43 Treharne Street, Pentre.

Battered over lack of ballot

During this month’s anniversary coverage of the 1984/85 miners’ strike much has been made of the lack of a national ballot among NUM members.
Lord Kinnock, in particular, has always used the union failure to ballot all its membership as a stick to batter Arthur Scargill.
But, at a distance of 25 years, that does not tell the whole story.
After all, six years previously, in 1978, with a Labour government in Downing Street, the NUM had held a national ballot.
This had concerned a bonus scheme which miners voted to turn down.
However, the Government and British Coal cast the ballot to one side and went ahead with the scheme in the Nottingham coalfield.
“It was that that destroyed our unity,” Tower Colliery chairman Tyrone O’Sullivan told me recently. “Where was Kinnock then?”
Following the wasted ballot of 1978 – ignored by the Government and the Coal Board as it suited them – the NUM changed its constitution to allow each area to hold ballots where job losses were threatened.
In March 1984 that is what Yorkshire miners did at the start of what would become a national strike and what other areas, such as South Wales, went on to do.
Nottingham, added O’Sullivan, “would never vote for strike action. In 1981 when five Welsh pits were threatened they did not support us”.
In 2005 Ian Lavery, Scargill’s successor as NUM president, stated: “I think ballots are fine, if everyone at the end of the day is going to have to experience the same outcome. I didn’t think it would be morally right that miners at Ellington [where he worked], which at the time had a huge future, should have the right to vote someone else out of a job…
“The ones that said we should have had a ballot were the ones who were against the strike, and wanted an excuse not to support the strike.”

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