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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Two face politically-motivated execution in Bahrain based on torture ‘confessions’

Two Bahrainis who were tortured into ‘confessing’ to an attack on police officers in the wake of anti-Government protests last year could be executed at any moment, unless the country’s King pardons them.

Husain Moosa and Mohammed Ramadan were arrested in February and March 2014 respectively, shortly after demonstrations took place in Bahrain to mark the third anniversary of the ‘Arab Spring’ protests in the country.

February also saw a bomb attack in the village of al Dair, which injured two police officers, one of whom subsequently died. Mr Moosa and Mr Ramadan were arrested one week and one month after the event, respectively, and say they were subjected to extensive torture until they produced ‘confessions’ to being involved in the attack.

No evidence aside from these forced confessions and the testimony of police officers was produced in court to link either man to the attack. But despite this they were both convicted and sentenced to death in December 2014. Last month, Bahrain’s court of cassation rejected their final appeal, meaning they could now face execution at any moment, at the discretion of King Hamad.

Mr Ramadan has described how he was held incommunicado for four days and beaten until he produced the ‘confession’ that the authorities wanted, relating to the bombing. When he subsequently told a judge that the confession had been given under torture, he was taken to another prison and subjected to further beatings, and was forced to listen to other prisoners being tortured, for ten days.

Mr Moosa has described how he was hung from the ceiling and beaten with police batons. He says that officers threatened to fabricate charges against his relatives and rape his sisters unless he confessed. Mr Moosa subsequently recanted his confession in front of the public prosecutor, but like Mr Ramadan was then subjected to further torture as a result.

The case has been the focus of concern from both the European Parliament and UN officials. In July this year, MEPs warned that in Bahrain “…the use of the death penalty in politically motivated cases has expanded since 2011, with “at least seven individuals have been handed death sentences in political cases since 2011…four of these seven being sentenced to death in 2015 alone.”

Earlier this year, five UN human rights experts, including the Special Repporteur on Torture, raised concerns that both Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa had confessed under duress.

International human rights charity Reprieve is calling on the King of Bahrain to commute the sentences, and on the UK to intervene given its status as a close ally of the country.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “Husain and Mohammed have suffered an appalling ordeal – viciously tortured until they made a false confession, then tortured again when they tried to withdraw it. In the absence of any concrete evidence linking them to this crime, there is a real risk that two innocent men will die for what appear to be politically-motivated reasons. King Hamad must commute their sentence and ensure they receive the fair trial they deserve. Britain, as a close ally of Bahrain, must make clear that this terrible injustice is entirely unacceptable.”

Source: Reprieve, December 21, 2015 

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