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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Death Sentence for Afghan Student

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan court in northern Afghanistan sentenced a journalism student to death for blasphemy for distributing an article from the Internet that was considered an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, the judge in charge of the court said Wednesday.

The student, Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, 23, who also works for a local newspaper, was charged with insulting Muhammad by calling the prophet “a killer and adulterer,” the judge, Shamsurahman Muhmand, said in a telephone interview.

The sentence was denounced as unfair by Mr. Kambakhsh’s family and journalists’ organizations. Mr. Kambakhsh’s brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, denied that his sibling had committed blasphemy, and said that his brother was not given enough time to prepare his defense and was denied a lawyer.

Mr. Kambakhsh has the right of appeal to the regional court and the Supreme Court.

He is being punished for articles written by his brother, said Jean Mackenzie, director of the Institute for Peace and War Reporting in Afghanistan, which has printed some of Mr. Ibrahimi’s articles. Officials from the National Directorate of Security raided Mr. Ibrahimi’s home and seized his computer hard drive the day after his brother was arrested in October, she said. They were most interested in the sources for an article critical of a local militia leader and legislator named Piram Qol, she said.

The case is the third time that clerics have called for death for a blasphemer in the six years since the removal of the Taliban leadership and reflects the deep conservatism that prevails even under the more liberal government of President Hamid Karzai.

Mr. Kambakhsh is a student in the town of Mazar-i-Sharif and also works as a reporter for a daily paper, Jahan-e-Naw. He was accused of downloading a controversial article and adding some of his own words about the ignorance of the Prophet Muhammad on women’s rights.

Source: The New York Times

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