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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 executes Pakistani drug smuggler

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday put to death a Pakistani man convicted of drug smuggling, bringing to 93 the number of executions in the kingdom this year.

Mohammed Ishaq Thawab Gul had been found guilty of trafficking heroin into the kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Most people put to death in the Gulf country are beheaded with a sword.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had the 3rd-highest number of executions last year -- at least 158

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" on a single day in January.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had the 3rd-highest number of executions last year -- at least 158.

That was far behind Pakistan which executed 326, and Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, which executed at least 977, said Amnesty whose figures exclude secretive China.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia and say the death penalty should not be applied in drugs cases.

The interior ministry, however, said the government "is keen on fighting drugs of all kinds due to their serious damage to individuals and the society".

Source: Daily Mail, May 17, 2016


Saudi Arabia's Iran Spying Trial 'Mockery of Justice': HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced that Saudi Arabia's trial of 32 men for allegedly spying on behalf of Iran is a "mockery of justice" because it "has violated the basic due process rights of the defendants."

Saudi prosecutors are seeking death penalty against 25 of the 32 people the kingdom has detained since 2013, Press TV reported.

The men are accused of spying for Iran but the charge sheet, which Human Rights Watch said it had reviewed, contains numerous allegations that do not resemble recognizable crimes.

According to the New York-based rights group, the defendants are accused of "supporting demonstrations," "harming the reputation of the kingdom," and attempting to spread the Shiite confession."

The kingdom began trying the men in February 2016 at the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh.

According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities have not permitted the defendants to meet with lawyers or provided all of the court documents necessary to prepare a defense after more than 3 years of detention and investigation.

"This trial is shaping up as another stain on Saudi Arabia's grossly unfair criminal justice system," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director.

"Criminal trials should not be merely legal 'window-dressing' where the verdict has been decided beforehand," she said.

According to the charge sheet, the defendants include 30 Saudis, 1 Iranian and 1 Afghan citizen.

An individual with direct knowledge of the case has told Human Rights Watch that all but one of the Saudi defendants are Shiite Muslims.

Local Saudi media outlets reported in March that some of the defense lawyers refused to participate in court proceedings.

Saudi Arabia's Shiite citizens face systematic discrimination in public education, government employment, and permission to build houses of worship in the majority-Sunni country.

Riyadh has long been under fire at the international level for its grim human rights record.

Human Rights Watch said it had obtained and analyzed 7 Specialized Criminal Court judgments from 2013 and 2014 against men and children accused of protest-related crimes following demonstrations by members of the Shiite minority.

"In all 7 trials, detainees alleged that confessions were extracted through torture, but judges quickly dismissed these allegations, admitted the confessions as evidence, and then convicted the detainees."

Source: Tasnim News Agency, May 17, 2016

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