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Herbalist charged with fraud

A Nigerian herbalist has been charged with fraud at a Lagos magistrate’s court in Oshodi.

According to the prosecution, the 38-year-old herbalist, Deji Adewole, who resides at Unity Estate, Ojodu Berger on the outskirts of Lagos, fraudulently obtained N245, 000 from Mrs Omobolanle Olajide under the pretext of “casting out’’some evil spirits tormenting her.

Cpl. Kehinde Olatunde told the court that the Adewole committed the offences on April 19 at Oshodi.

“The accused met the complainant and he deceived her that he saw in a vision that there are some evil spirits covering her glory. That the evil spirits also caused her barrenness. Adewole demanded N245, 000 from her in a bid to solve her problems,’’ he said. Four days later, the accused came back to request for another N450, 000 to buy a one-eyed cow to use in preparing a medicine for her.

The complainant sensed that she was being swindled and she called in the police.”

Olatunde said that the offences contravened Sections 285 and 312 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.

Section 312 provides 15 years imprisonment for offenders on conviction.

The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Magistrate, Akeem Fashola, granted the accused bail in the sum of N100, 000 with one surety in like sum and adjourned the case to May 20 for mention.

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Is cannabis really that harmless?

With the number of teenagers smoking marijuana these days, you would be forgiven for thinking that this ‘herbal’ alternative to the cigarette might not be that bad.

The fact that in most Western countries the drug classification of cannabis has been downgraded simply helps to reinforce this view. The truth is that cannabis is a lot more dangerous than we think – and nowhere near as safe as most teenagers believe.

The first thing teenagers (and their parents) need to know is that the teenage brain appears to be particularly susceptible to the drug. A recent study in New Zealand found that children who began using cannabis before the age of 15 were nearly five times more likely to develop serious mental illness by their late twenties, compared with those who started at 18.

Neuroscientists believe this greater susceptibility is because the brain continues to develop during the teen years. This also explains why the risk of schizophrenia is almost seven times higher in regular (once-a-day) cannabis users.

Other psychological changes include poor memory, a shorter attention span and lack of judgment, as well as a certain degree of apathy. The fact that the cannabis sold today is much more potent than that of a decade ago simply compounds the problem.

What about the belief that cannabis is safer for the lungs than cigarettes? Well, drag for drag, it is actually more harmful. Cannabis smoke is far more caustic than tobacco and causes more damage to the lining of the airways. It is also packed with carcinogens, the cancer-causing baddies.

According to the British Lung Foundation, smoking three to four large joints a day causes the same amount of damage as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

As well as damage to the immune system and bones (cannabis may speed up the thinning of the skeleton), the physical effects of cannabis include adverse effects on the reproductive system in men and women. In women it may cause problems with ovulation and menstruation, and in men, shrinking of the testicles and low sex drive.

If you’re not that worried about your health, but do care about your unborn children, studies show that babies born to cannabis-smoking couples are, on average, shorter, have a lower birth weight and reduced head circumference. They are also more restless and nervous, have poorer memories and verbal ability, and do less well in intelligence tests up to the age of nine years.

They are also more likely to get a certain type of leukaemia. Of course, all these potential dangers need to be put in context – most people who try cannabis are fine. But for some, especially regular users, it could well leave a permanent scar on their lives.

Note: Despite the damning reports, there is one medical condition that might actually benefit from cannabis use. A recent study published in the journal Neurology found that half of the multiple sclerosis patients that took part in a trial of Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine, experienced a significant improvement in the reduction of both pain and insomnia.

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'Longest-serving' death row inmate granted retrial

TOKYO - A man believed to be the world's longest-serving death row inmate was Thursday granted a retrial in Japan over multiple murders in 1966, decades after doubts emerged about his guilt. Shizuoka District Court decided to "start the retrial over the case" of Iwao Hakamada, 78, who was convicted for the grisly murder of his boss and the man's family, a court official said. Delivering his ruling, presiding judge Hiroaki Murayama cited possible planting of evidence by investigators to win a conviction as they sought to bring closure to a crime that shocked the country. "There is possibility that (key pieces of) evidence have been fabricated by investigative bodies," Murayama said in his decision, according to Jiji Press.

The judge also ordered Hakamada's release, saying continued confinement "goes against justice".

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major industrialised democracy to carry out capital punishment, a practice that has led to repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

Hakamada is the sixth person since the end of World War II to receive a retrial after having a death sentence confirmed, and his case will bolster opponents of capital punishment, including rights group Amnesty, which has just launched its annual report on the practice.

Shizuoka prosecutors told Japanese media that they are undecided on whether to appeal the decision, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Hakamada initially denied accusations that he robbed and killed his boss, the man's wife and two children before setting their house ablaze.

But the former boxer, who worked for a bean paste maker, later confessed following what he subsequently claimed was a brutal police interrogation that included beatings.

He retracted his confession, but to no avail, and the supreme court confirmed his death sentence in 1980.

Doubts over evidence

Prosecutors and courts had used blood-stained clothes, which emerged a year after the crime and his arrest, as key evidence to convict Hakamada.

The clothes did not fit him, his supporters said. The blood stains appeared too vivid for evidence that was discovered a year after the crime. Later DNA tests found no link between Hakamada, the clothes and the blood stains, his supporters said.

But the now-frail Hakamada has remained in solitary confinement on death row, regardless.

His supporters and some lawyers, including the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, have loudly voiced their doubts about evidence, the police investigations and the judicial logic that led to the conviction.

Even one of the judges who originally sentenced Hakamada to death in 1968 has said he was never convinced of the man's guilt but could not sway his judicial colleagues who out-voted him.

Japan has a conviction rate of around 99 percent and claims of heavy-handed police interrogations persist under a long-held belief that a confession is the gold standard of guilt.

The decision came as Amnesty International issued its annual review of reported executions worldwide, which showed Japan killed eight inmates in 2013, the ninth-largest national tally in the world.

Hakamada's sister Hideko, 81, who has passionately campaigned for a retrial for decades, thanked dozens of supporters who gathered in front of the court house.

"I want to free him as soon as possible," she told a press conference held shortly after the court announced its decision.

"I want to tell him, 'You did well. You will finally be free'," she said.

Hakamada seems to have developed psychological illnesses after decades in solitary confinement, Hideko told AFP in an interview last year.

"What I am worried about most is Iwao's health. If you put someone in jail for 47 years, it's too much to expect them to stay sane," Hideko said in the interview.

Amnesty, which has championed Hakamada's cause and says he is the world's longest-serving death row detainee, called on prosecutors to respect the court's decision.

"It would be most callous and unfair of prosecutors to appeal the court's decision," said Roseann Rife, the organisation's East Asia research director.

"Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied more than four decades ago," she said.

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