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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…

Hosni Mubarak Is Freed, to Dismay of Many in Egypt

Hosni Mubarak waved to supporters in 2015 from the Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo.
Hosni Mubarak waves to supporters in 2015 from a military hospital in Cairo.
Mubarak faced numerous charges, some of which carried the death penalty as a potential sentence.

CAIRO — Six years after baying crowds ousted him at the peak of the Arab Spring, former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was freed on Friday from the Cairo hospital where he had been detained, capping a long and largely fruitless effort to hold him accountable for human rights abuses and endemic corruption during his three decades of rule.

Mr. Mubarak, 88, was taken from the Maadi Military Hospital in southern Cairo, where he had been living under guard in a room with a view of the Nile, to his mansion in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis.

“He went home at 8:30 this morning,” said his longtime lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, who stewarded Mr. Mubarak through a tangled cluster of prosecutions since 2011, speaking by telephone. “I don’t have further details, but he is home and all is well now.”

His release begins a third act for a once unassailable Arab ruler and American ally who came to power in 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat during a military parade. Thirty years later, Mr. Mubarak was ousted by the multitudes that thronged Tahrir Square for 18 days in the heady, hopeful early months of the Arab Spring.

At the time, Mr. Mubarak’s fall seemed to signal an earthquake of change across the Arab world, shattering the established political order, suggesting that its most powerful leaders were no longer immune from prosecution.

His release capped the crushing of those hopes, and the enduring disappointment of the Egyptians who risked their lives to topple him — even if many now say the challenge is far bigger than a single man.

“At this point, I really don’t care,” said Ahmed Harara, an activist who lost his sight after he was shot by police, first in the right eye and then in the left eye, during the demonstrations that shook Cairo in 2011. “I realized years ago that this is not just about Mubarak and his regime — it’s an entire system that has now resurrected itself.”

Weary, apathetic or fearful of openly speaking their mind, Egyptians have grown shy of confronting power. The years of trials of Mr. Mubarak, on a wide range of charges, ultimately yielded a single conviction on a minor corruption charge. Few expect that his release from detention — an unthinkable prospect just a few years ago — will result in any significant protests.

After becoming the first Arab leader to face trial in his own country, Mr. Mubarak was initially imprisoned at the notorious Tora prison complex, and was then held at the Maadi Military Hospital. He faced numerous charges, some of which carried the death penalty as a potential sentence.

Mr. Mubarak faced accusations of conspiring with the police to kill 239 protesters in Tahrir Square; of siphoning tens of millions of dollars from the state coffers; and of cutting off the country’s internet during the 2011 uprising, among other crimes. But what astonished Egyptians most was the sight of a man many had long feared, scowling in a courtroom cage.

Despite the severity of the charges, Mr. Mubarak remained defiant, insisting that it was he, not the Egyptian people, who had been wronged. His sons, Alaa and Gamal, joined him in the dock, accused of embezzling millions of dollars and overseeing a vast system of cronyism and corruption.

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Source: The New York Times, Declan Walsh, March 24, 2017


Mubarak free while hundreds face death penalty - Reprieve comment


Commenting on reports that former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has been freed, Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at human rights organisation Reprieve, said:

“As Hosni Mubarak goes free in Egypt, thousands of prisoners still languish in horrific prison conditions. Many face the death penalty on charges relating to protests, in mass trials that make a mockery of due process. Some were arrested as children – people like Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who has suffered terrible abuses in jail. The Sisi Government must now show that Egypt’s justice system is worthy of the name and release Ibrahim, and the hundreds like him.”

Several prisoners in Egypt are awaiting the death penalty despite having been children when they were arrested. They include Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who faces a death sentence in a trial alongside 493 other people, and Hatem Zaghloul, who was sentenced to death as a juvenile.

According to figures collated by Reprieve, nearly 2,000 people have received death sentences in mass trials, while nearly 900 people continue to face the death penalty. The figures are available on request.

Reprieve has discovered that the European Union is funding a €10m project that has seen a UK state-owned company provide Egypt’s justice ministry with support. The project has seen the UK company, NI-CO, provide plans and equipment for the building of courthouses – including a juvenile court in Cairo.

The UK Foreign Office’s 2016 'Human Rights Priority Country' update on Egypt said: “Egyptian courts continued to use the death penalty,” and highlighted “the mass trial of 494 individuals on charges related to a protest that took place in August 2013, which includes Irish national Ibrahim Halawa.”

Source. Reprieve, March 24, 2017

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