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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…

Death penalty not on Turkey's agenda, says MP

Turkish soldiers
Turkey's parliament has no immediate plans to reintroduce the death penalty following last month's failed military coup, a senior MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has told EUobserver.

"It is not on our agenda at the moment, it is not on the agenda of the parliament," Sena Nur Celik said on Wednesday (3 August).

Celik was heading a delegation of MPs from her country's parliamentary foreign relations committee on a visit to Brussels.

She said the demand for capital punishment was high among the public at the moment, following the attempted military coup on 15 July that left over 240 dead and 2,000 injured.

"Of course I think it is because the emotions are very high at the moment and as time passes we will see how we feel," she said.

Turkey abolished capital punishment over 10 years ago. The move was key to broader efforts for the troubled nation to one day join the European Union as a member state.

Reinstating the penalty would require the constitution to be changed by a two-thirds majority vote, and other international commitments to be rowed back.

"It requires a very wide consensus of political parties," noted Celik.

But recent threats made by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reinstate it have roused strong rebukes from top EU officials and Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel.

In a fiery speech delivered a few days after the coup, Erdogan had said if the Turkish public demands the death penalty then it should be allowed.

"You cannot put aside the people's demands," he said, noting that the United States still carries out executions.

The EU has described the death penalty as a "red line" for Turkey's membership talks.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said such a move would "prevent successful negotiations to join the EU".

Purge hits Brussels

Meanwhile, Celik said an official from Turkey's mission to the EU had been removed from her post for her alleged association with the outlawed Fethullah Gulen movement.

"If at the end of the investigation there is no link to this group then of course all the charges will be dropped," she said.

Some 70,000 people have resigned and another 18,000 have been arrested over alleged associations with Gulen, an exiled political figure accused by the authorities of instigating the coup. They include teachers, civil servants and journalists.

Gulen is a 75-year old cleric who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1991 and has denied any involvement in the coup.

On Wednesday, Turkish authorities raided the offices of the country's national science research council, private broadcaster NTV reported.

Johannes Hahn, the EU's commissioner dealing with Turkey's membership bid, had earlier said the speed and breadth of the purge appeared to suggest it may have been prepared in advance.

Celik said Turkey's intelligence services had been investigating the group accused of instigating the coup since 2013.

"This is group is a cult-like organisation, which has infiltrated the Turkish public institutions," she said.

"Investigations regarding this group have been ongoing since 2013. We knew they had members in the judiciary, in the military, in public institutions. And the process of identifying and eliminating these members were ongoing in the country when the coup attempt happened on 15 July."

Celik's delegation did not meet officials from the European Commission or the European Parliament.

The delegation instead held meetings with Belgian deputies, Turkish community leaders and other Belgian state officials.

A separate delegation of Turkish lawmakers was supposed to meet EU officials but was unable to schedule.

"Unfortunately because it was the holiday season they were unable to get the necessary appointments from the EU institutions, so that visit has been postponed until the vacation period is over," said Hakan Olcay, Turkey's ambassador to Belgium.

Source: eurobserver, Nicolaj Nielsen, August 4, 2016

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