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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…

UN condemns 16-year jail sentence for Iranian anti-death penalty activist Narges Mohammadi

 Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi
Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi
The international community has reacted with outrage after Narges Mohammadi, the ailing Iranian human rights activist already serving a six-year jail term, was given a further 16-year sentence by a revolutionary court in Tehran.

Mohammadi, 44, was found guilty of “establishing and running the illegal splinter group Legam”, a human rights movement that campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty. Should an upper court uphold the judgment, she will have to serve at least 10 years.

Mohammadi was arrested last May, despite concerns about her deteriorating health, to serve the remainder of a six-year sentence dating back to September 2011, when she was found guilty of acting against national security, membership of Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), and propaganda against the state. She had originally been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment, but an appeals court reduced the term to six years in March 2012 and she subsequently served three months before being released on bail.

Writing from prison, Mohammadi said in a letter written to Pen International that she was in a section with 25 other female political prisoners, of whom 23 have been sentenced to a total of 177 years.

“We are all charged due to our political and religious tendency and none of us are terrorists,” she wrote. “The reason to write these lines is to tell you that the pain and suffering in the Evin prison is beyond tolerance. Opposite other prisons in Iran, there is no access to telephone in Evin prison. Except for a weekly visit, we have no contact to the outside. All visits take place behind double glass and only connected through a phone. We are allowed to have a visit from our family members only once a month.”


Source: The Guardian, May 24, 2016


UN condemns jail sentence of Iranian anti-death penalty activist

The U.N. has condemned the sentencing of Iranian anti-death penalty campaigner Narges Mohammadi and asked authorities to release her immediately.

Mohammadi, 44, was sentenced to 16 years in jail last week after an Iranian court deemed her Legam movement for the abolition of the death penalty an “illegal splinter group”. 

The decision outraged human rights organisations, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed concern for her deteriorating health and condemned Iran’s worsening human rights record.

“The human rights defender is believed to have serious medical conditions and has reportedly not been granted adequate access to the specialised medical care she needs,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the commissioner, said. “The UN Human Rights Office and other human rights mechanisms have long urged the Iranian authorities to release Ms Mohammadi, but to no avail.”

“Her sentencing is illustrative of an increasingly low tolerance for human rights advocacy in Iran, “ she added. “We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure the immediate release of Ms Mohammadi and all those detained for merely exercising their human rights.”

Source: Newsweek, May 24, 2016

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