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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…

Pakistan to debate relaxing infamous blasphemy law

A debate over the misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy law is set to begin next week. 

The law, which carries a death penalty for insulting anything related to Islam and the prophet Muhammad, is often used as a way to settle personal scores against Christians.

The law's been used to hold mother of five Asia Bibi on death row since 2010. 

She was arrested after an argument erupted between her and a group of Muslim women when they became angry at her for drinking the same water as them.

The group accused her of insulting Muhammad - a claim which she denies.

In December, a Christian shopkeeper was arrested and charged with blasphemy after page torn from the Qu'ran was found outside his house by a rival shop owner.

The Christian shopkeeper - who is illiterate - could face a death sentence.

In a move praised by human rights campaigners, Pakistani politicians will discuss ways to install checks and balance on the rules.

But Beth Fuller from Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors told Premier that any changes might not go far enough.

She said: "One of the changes that they have talked about making to these laws is to change the punishment from a mandatory death penalty to life imprisonment which is obviously still a very severe punishment.

"It's difficult to see how these laws could be changed significantly at the moment. But if they are we would welcome that and it would be fantastic to see the change it would make to lives of Christians in Pakistan."

Pakistan ranks as the 6th worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according Open Doors.

Source: premier.org.uk, January 20, 2017

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