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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…

Tweet Proclaiming Atheism Lands Saudi Man 2,000 Lashes, 10 Years Behind Bars

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a 28-year-old man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for tweeting that he is an atheist.

The nation’s strict Sharia law defines atheism as “terrorism,” and the man refused to take back his words, insisting that he has a right to express his lack of belief. 

Saudi religious police who monitor social networks found over 600 tweets from the man, mocking the Koran and stating that teachings of the prophet Muhammad's lies stokes cultural hostility. 

In addition to imprisonment and violent punishment, he was also fined 20,000 riyals (over $5,300). 

Laws defining atheism as terrorism were introduced under King Abdullah in 2014, aimed at stopping political and religious dissent that could “harm public order.” 

In 2012, blogger and activist Raif Badawi, 32, ran a website called “Free Saudi Liberals” and was arrested for "insulting Islam through electronic channels,” "setting up a website that undermines general security," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "going beyond the realm of obedience.” 

He was sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes, and a fine of 1 million riyals, with the public whipping take take place over a period of 20 weeks.

His wife, relatives, and activists have consistently pleaded with Saudi Arabia to stop the lashings, fearing that Badawi will not survive. "The first lashing session was tough — it took a toll on his fragile body," Dr. Elham Manea, a friend and spokesperson of the family, told Mashable at the time. "His health condition is not that good at all. We are glad that this medical examination has confirmed that he is not fit to be flogged again." 

The whippings began January 9, 2015, and sparked a massive international outcry. Top United Nations officials called the flogging, “a form of cruel and unusual punishment,” and a petition from Amnesty International received nearly a million signatures. 

In a video of the lashing, he is repeatedly struck as the crowd shouts "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great), while officials warn that no cellphone recording is allowed.

Source: Sputnik News, August 31, 2016

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