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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…

Fifteen Saudi Shia sentenced to death for 'spying for Iran'

Shia Muslims face a heavy crackdown by Saudi authorities
Shia Muslims face a heavy crackdown by Saudi authorities.
A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced 15 people to death for spying for Iran.

They were among 32 people - comprising 30 members of the kingdom's Shia Muslim minority, an Iranian national and an Afghan - put on trial in February.

Prosecutors accused them of treason, setting up a spy ring in collaboration with Iranian intelligence, and passing about sensitive data on military zones.

Tensions between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shia-led Iran have escalated in the past year.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in January following the storming of its embassy in Tehran by protesters angered by the execution of the prominent Saudi Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and three other Shia.

Saudi officials insisted Nimr was guilty of terrorism offences, but Iran's supreme leader said he had been executed solely for his criticism of the Sunni monarchy.

The regional powers also back opposing sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

The 32 defendants tried at the Specialised Criminal Court in the capital Riyadh in February are believed to have been detained in 2013.

At the start of the trial, it was reported that they included several well-known figures in the Shia community who were not involved in politics, including an elderly university professor, a paediatrician, a banker and two clerics.

But a correspondent from Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV said on Tuesday that most of the defendants were members of the Saudi military.

Most were from Eastern Province, home to the majority of Saudi Arabia's Shia.

Several of the defendants were given prison sentences and two were found not guilty, al-Arabiya reported.

Shia make up 10 to 15% of the kingdom's 28 million population, and many assert that they suffer systematic discrimination in public education, the justice system, government employment and religious freedom.

Dissent is rarely tolerated, and between 2011 and 2013 more than 20 people were shot dead by security forces and hundreds more detained during protests by Shia calling for an end to discrimination.

Shootings and petrol bomb attacks also killed several police officers.

Source: BBC News, December 6, 2016

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