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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…

Saudi Arabia executes three Pakistani nationals for heroin smuggling

Medieval and barbaric: Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Medieval and barbaric: Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Three Pakistani nationals were executed in Saudi Arabia on Sunday after being convicted of smuggling heroin into the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday executed three Pakistani nationals convicted of smuggling heroin, bringing the number of executions in the kingdom to 26 this year.

The state-run SPA news agency said the three had been found guilty of "smuggling quantities of heroin in their stomachs".

It named the three men as Mohammed Ashraf Shafi Mohammed, Mohammed Aref Mohammed Anayt and Mohammed Afdal Asghar Ali.

SPA reported 153 people being executed in the ultra-conservative kingdom last year, a number confirmed by London-based rights group Amnesty International.

Most executions in 2016, including that of high-profile Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, were carried out in a single day in January.

Nimr was behind a string of Shia protests in 2011 demanding reform in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

"It is a bloody day when the Saudi Arabian authorities execute 47 people, some of whom were clearly sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials," Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said at the time.

"Carrying out a death sentence when there are serious questions about the fairness of the trial is a monstrous and irreversible injustice," he added, urging Saudi authorities to "heed the growing chorus of international criticism and put an end to their execution spree".

Amnesty reported 158 death penalties in the country for 2015, the highest annual rate in the past two decades.

Saudi Arabia has a strict Islamic legal code under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

The kingdom is one of four countries – the others are North Korea, Somalia and Iran – which still carries out public executions.

Source: The New Arab, April 10, 2017

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