In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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…

Iran: Writer and human rights activist sentenced to six years' imprisonment for writing story about stoning

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee (right)
Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee (right)
NCRI - Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee an Iranian writer and human rights activist has been sentenced to six years' imprisonment in Iran for writing a story about stoning. She faces years of imprisonment even though her writing has not even been published.

The Iranian authorities found the piece, when the writer and her activist husband Arash Sadeghi were detained by men believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guard on 6 September 2014.

She was found guilty of "insulting Islamic sanctities" and "spreading propaganda against the system". Amnesty International called the verdict "ludicrous" and the trial "farcical".

Victims of stoning in Iran, mostly women accused of adultery are executed by having rocks savagely thrown at them until they are dead.

Ms Ebrahimi Iraee's work describes the emotional reaction of a young woman who watches the film The Stoning of Soraya M - which tells the true story of a young woman stoned to death .

Ms Ebrahimi Iraee was transferred to Tehran's Evin Prison and held there for 20 days, without access to her family or a lawyer, Amnesty International says.

She says she was interrogated for hours while blindfolded and facing a wall, and repeatedly told that she could face execution for "insulting Islam".

She says she could clearly hear the interrogators threatening and verbally abusing her husband in the next cell. Mr Sadeghi has since said that he was beaten and tortured while in custody.

Mr. Sadeghi’s mother suffered a heart attack at the time of his arrest and died a few days later. Arash Sadeghi, a student in Allameh University, has already spent seven months in solitary confinement.

His trial, held in Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on February 20, was presided by the infamous Abolghassem Salavati who is regarded by human rights activists as a judge who flagrantly ignores basic trial principles in the cases that he oversees.

Mr. Sadeghi’s lawyer was not allowed to review his case and attend the court session. His wife was not present at the session due to illness.

Abolghassem Salavati has handed down tough and inhumane punishments, including execution sentences, to many dissidents, journalists, lawyers and members of Iran’s ethnic minorities.

As the lead judge in charge of Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, he was called the “judge of death” and “the hanging judge” for imposing at least a half-dozen execution sentences following the nationwide anti-regime protests in 2009.

His record is considered so egregious internationally that the European Union included him on a 2011 blacklist of the officials of the Iranian regime who are responsible for gross human rights violations.

Punished for expressing her feelings

Philip Luther, Amnesty's Director of Research and Advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa, said Ebrahimi Iraee "is effectively being punished for using her imagination".

He said Iran continues to justify the use of stoning in the name of morality.

"Instead of imprisoning a young woman for peacefully exercising her human rights by expressing her opposition to stoning, the Iranian authorities should focus on abolishing this punishment, which amounts to torture," he said.

Source: NCRI, October 7, 2016

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