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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…

Saudi Arabia carries out 76th execution of the year

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have executed the 76th person to be put to death in the country this year.

Saudi citizen Abdullah al-Harbi was executed after being convicted for murder, state media reported.

The manner of the execution was not specified, but many people convicted of criminal charges are beheaded.

His death brings the number of executions in the conservative Islamic state to 76, according to AFP news agency, which keeps record of Saudi executions.

The number of people executed in Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Britain, in the first three months of 2016 compared to the 153 people killed by the state in all of 2015 - described by Amnesty International as the highest in 20 years.

In the Wahabi Saudi interpretation of Sharia law, apostasy, armed robbery, drug trafficking, rape, homosexuality and murder all carry the death penalty.

The rate of executions has dramatically increased since the accession of King Salman in January 2015.

In January, there was an international outcry following the mass execution of 47 people on terrorism charges, including influential Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Saudi Arabia has been criticised by rights groups over it frequent use of the death penalty, one of the highest in the world.

Among those facing execution is journalist Alaa Brinji, who has campaigned for women’s rights.

Accused of apostasy charges including ‘calling for secularist thought’ and ‘ridiculing Islamic religious figures’, he has been denied legal support, according to Amnesty International.

He has also been charged with breaching cybercrime laws, which Amnesty International said related to his use of social media.

In addition to the death penalty, the country continues to face criticism over its treatment of women and its millitary campaign in Yemen, for which it has been accused of killing civilians in air strikes.

In the UK, Saudi Arabia has faced renewed criticism following a documentary which aired this week.

Footage in the programme, filmed covertly in the secretive nation, showed public executions, bodies displayed in the streets and public corporal punishment.

Source: The Independent, March 24, 2016

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