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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…

Writers join worldwide action to protest Palestinian poet's death sentence in Saudi Arabia

Saudi-born Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh
Saudi-born Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh
Hundreds of writers including Irvine Welsh, Ruth Padel and AL Kennedy are taking part in a worldwide reading in support of the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia after being accused of renouncing Islam.

The readings of Fayadh’s poetry at 122 events in 44 countries on Thursday are part of a campaign organised by the International literature festival Berlin calling on the UK and US governments to halt his beheading and to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record.

The action comes ahead of a panel of judges considering Fayadh’s appeal next week, where it will be contested that the poet’s conviction for apostasy is seriously flawed and based on false and uncorroborated allegations

Poems being read at the worldwide event include a selection from Fayadh’s 2008 book, Instructions Within, which his accuser claimed promoted atheism, a charge the poet has denied.

AL Kennedy, who is participating in a reading organised by PEN England at the Mosaic Rooms in west London, said Fayadh’s persecution was “very obviously unjust and morally repellent”.

Calling on the Saudi authorities to show mercy and wisdom, the novelist also offered the poet her “admiration for his courage and his devotion to truth and justice” and hoped that the international show of solidarity would “provide a measure of comfort in what must be a horrifying situation”.

Irvine Welsh, who will read at the Two Hearted Queen coffee shop in Chicago, said he hoped the campaign would put “pressure on governments who espouse democracy and freedom to consider their actions in dealing with [Saudi Arabia]”.

The Trainspotting author added: “I have distaste for all clerical regimes. I believe that people should be free to practice and renounce any religion they see fit. If you believe in human rights and are anti-fundamentalist terrorism, then isolate the regime in Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, you are guilty by association.”


Source: The Guardian, January 14, 2016

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