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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Mauritania: Muslim clerics urge for blogger's death penalty to be applied

Muslim clerics in Mauritania on Sunday urged the authorities to execute a blogger who was sentenced to death in 2014 for apostasy after writing a blog post on Islam and racial discrimination.

Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir's article touched a nerve in Mauritania, a West African country with deep social and racial divisions. 

He was tried for apostasy and received the death penalty despite having repented and saying his article was misunderstood.

According to the U.S.-based Freedom Now rights group who provide Mkhaitir with legal counsel, the blog post appears to have been the 1st he published. 

Prior to his arrest he worked as an engineer for a mining company and was not an activist, Freedom Now said on its website.

Mauritania has not applied a death penalty since 1987 but on Sunday, the influential Forum of Imams and Ulemas issued a fatwa, or Islamic decree, calling for Mkhaitir to be killed.

It condemned "Mkhaitir and his heresy, recalling that the legal penalty in his case is death, with no exception made for his repentance," according to a statement.

"We demand that the competent authorities apply the law: kill him and bury him in conformity with the law of God."

Rights groups like Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have campaigned for Mkhaitir's pardon and release.

Source: Reuters, November 13, 2016

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