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Wrongly Accused Black Men, Get a Pardon After 70 Years

Independent investigators have proved the men who were convicted without any evidence, during the notorious Jim Crow-era in the U.S., were innocent of the charge. 

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and a Cabinet granted posthumous pardons Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, to Shepherd, Irvin, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas, the four African-American men accused of raping a white woman in 1949 in a case now seen as a racial injustice. VOA

Four black men who were wrongly accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl in the southern U.S. state of Florida 70 years ago, received pardons Friday.

Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas became known as the Groveland Four.

All of them are dead.

Members of their families, however, are still alive.

The families attended the clemency hearing in Tallahassee Friday where officials voted unanimously to pardon the four men.

“It is never too late to do the right thing,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a statement. “I believe the rule of law is society’s sacred bond. When it is trampled, we all suffer. For the Groveland Four, the truth was buried.”

U.S., Shutdown
The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen beyond a chain fence during the partial government shutdown in Washington, Jan. 8, 2019. VOA

Thomas was killed by a mob shortly after the incident in 1949.

The other three were tortured into confessions and convicted by all-white juries.

Shepherd was shot and killed by a sheriff who was transporting him to a re-trial.

Greenlee and Irvin received life sentences.

Norma Padgett, the alleged rape victim, is still alive. She also attended the hearing Friday.

“I am not no liar,” she told the hearing.

Also Read: Reuters Journalists’ Appeal Gets Rejected by Myanmar Court

Independent investigators have proved the men who were convicted without any evidence, during the notorious Jim Crow-era in the U.S., were innocent of the charge.

Devil In The Grove, a book about the Groveland Four case, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. (VOA

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U.S. Envoy Advances Peace Talk Efforts In Afghanistan

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process.

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USA, afghanistan, taliban, peace talks
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Zalmay Khalilzad, the man responsible for overseeing America’s negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, arrived Tuesday night in Kabul, after making stops in India, the United Arab Emirates, and China. He is expected to visit Islamabad next.

His outreach to regional players continues despite what seems like a setback in talks with the Taliban.

“The [dialogue] process has halted for now so the venue and the date for a future meeting are not known,” a senior Taliban official who is privy to the developments confirmed to VOA earlier this week when asked whether their peace talks with the U.S. were still on track.

Talks scheduled with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia earlier this month were called off by the insurgent group after it came under pressure by the host government to meet with representatives of the current Afghan government.

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, May 2, 2015, site of several past negotioations with the Taliban. VOA

The insurgent group pushed to change the venue to Doha, Qatar, but later canceled those talks as well over disagreements on the agenda.

The last significant round of talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban was held in December in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the host government also took part in that round.

The Afghan government sent a delegation to Abu Dhabi in hopes of joining the talks, but the Taliban refused to meet them.

The group so far has resisted pressure from multiple actors, including the U.S., to meet with the Kabul administration, calling it a “puppet” regime unable to deliver on their demands.

The U.S. goal, according to a statement issued by its embassy in Kabul, is to “encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement.”

Afghanistan, Peace Talks
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, right in backgroud, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, left in background, meet in Kabul, Nov.10, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad will meet with President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah, and political leaders to “discuss the next steps in U.S. efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the statement added.

 

A feud among Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar also seems to be damaging the process, say various media reports. According to the Reuters news agency, Saudi and UAE diplomats refused to take part in any meeting held in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an unofficial political office. The two countries severed ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing the Gulf state of funding militants – a charge Doha denies.

In December, it was reported that President Donald Trump told the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American military personnel from Afghanistan, which would reduce the U.S. presence in the country by half.

Also Read: Peace Talks With The U.S. Stalled: Taliban

The U.S. fulfilled a major Taliban demand last year of talking directly to the Americans, in an effort to jumpstart a peace process. Since then, several rounds of negotiations between the two have been held, albeit without the Kabul administration.

Meanwhile, security in Afghanistan continues to present a major challenge. An attack in Kabul Monday killed several people and wounded dozens of others. (VOA)