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28 Aug

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Britain refuses to release prison report as 81-year-old is held for sedition

Shafik Rehman led to court

Shafik Rehman is led in to court following his arrest in Dhaka in April this year on charges of plotting to kill the Bangladesh prime minister’s son. Photograph: Alamy

The UK government is refusing to release a report that it secretly commissioned into Bangladeshi prisons as concern grows ahead of a court appearance on Tuesday of an elderly British journalist being held in a notorious Dhaka jail.

Shafik Rehman, 81, will face a supreme court hearing over allegations of sedition. His family claim that the Foreign Office has effectively abandoned him and fears that, if charged and convicted, he could be sentenced to death. Even though no charges have been brought, Rehman has been detained for four months, during which his health has deteriorated. A prominent figure in Bangladesh, Rehman is a former BBC journalist and talkshow host and is the third pro-opposition editor to be detained in the country since 2013.

The commercial arm of the UK’s Ministry of Justice – Just Solutions International (JSI) – completed a consultation on Bangladesh’s prisons last year. However, the findings of the report have never been made public, despite concerns over the treatment of elderly prisoners. Freedom of information requests have been rejected by the MoJ on the basis of “protecting national security”, alongside diplomatic reasons.

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  • Heather Bresch sold 100,200 of shares on same day as release of earnings
  • Transaction was ‘part of a 10b5 plan’, which curtails insider trading suspicions

EpiPen quickly delivers a proper dose of epinephrine to those suffering from anaphylaxis.

EpiPen quickly delivers a proper dose of epinephrine to those suffering from anaphylaxis. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Heather Bresch, the CEO at the center of EpiPen’s 471% price hike, sold 100,200 of her shares earlier this month and earned more than $5m from the sale.

The transaction took place on 9 August, the same day Mylan – the drugmaker that manufactures EpiPen – released its most recent earnings report. Mylan spokeswoman Nina Devlin told the Guardian that the sale was “part of a 10b5 plan”. Typically, executives and directors of public companies who want to sell their stock establish a written 10b5 plan to do so. Most of 10b5 plans include a waiting period spanning days or weeks to avoid any suspicion of trading based on material non-public information. Simply put, 10b5 plans are used to avoid being suspected of insider trading.

Yet Bresch did not need insider information to know that trouble lay ahead.

Early in June, Wells Fargo analyst David Maris put together a report detailing that since the beginning of this year, Mylan raised the prices of seven of its products by 100% or more and 24 products by 20% or more. At the time, Devlin called the report “flawed”.

The report came months after Marti Shkreli, former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, increased prices of HIV medicine Daraprim 5,000%. In his attempts to defend the decision, Shkreli become notorious and was even summoned before the US Congress to justify the price hike.

As a result, in June, Maris of Wells Fargo noted that price hikes could lead to similar trouble for Mylan.

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Harris County was named one of 16 ‘outlier’ counties in the US, where five or more death sentences were assessed between 2010 and 2015

Texas death chamber

Juries in Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, have imposed the death penalty more than any other county in the US since its reinstatement in 1976. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A Harvard Law School study has found that racial bias, overly aggressive prosecutions and inadequate representation for poor defendants affect death penalty cases in Harris County, Texas. Juries in the county, which includes Houston, have imposed the death penalty more than any other county in the US since its reinstatement in 1976.

The Fair Punishment Project also notes that the number of death sentences handed down in Harris County has fallen to 10 since 2010, from 53 between 1998 and 2003.

Harris County was named one of 16 “outlier” counties in the US, where five or more death sentences were assessed in between 2010 and 2015. In the eight counties examined by the study, 41% of the death sentences were given to black defendants and 69% to minorities overall. In Harris County, all defendants condemned since 2004 were from racial minority groups.

“When you look at what the death penalty actually looks like on the ground in Harris County, you see things that should disturb you,” Rob Smith, one of the researchers on the project, told the Houston Chronicle.

“There’s a pattern of overzealous prosecution that dates back for decades but is still present in the time period for the study, and is matched by under-zealous [defense] representation in cases.”

Harris County district attorney Devon Anderson said her office was judicious in its use of the death penalty.

“When we seek death, it’s because we have a solid guilt/innocence case and a very strong punishment case,” she said. “The death penalty is only appropriate for the worst of the worst.”

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