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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…

Afghanistan: Ghani’s execution plan receives Taliban stern warning

Pakistan says accusatory approach is unhelpful towards efforts for peace

ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has approved execution order for 11 death row prisoners belonging to the Taliban and Haqqani Network, Afghan media quoted sources in the presidential palace as saying on Thursday.

The development came a day after a deadliest truck bomb attack in the heart of Kabul killed 80 people and injured about 400 others.

No group has claimed responsibility and the Taliban denied involvement; however, the Afghan intelligence agency NDS blamed the Haqqani Network and also pointed fingers at Pakistan.

Radio Azadi said sources in the presidential palace have confirmed the president has signed the execution order for the Taliban and Haqqanis.

Deputy presidential spokesman Najeeb Azad said in reported comments that the Supreme Court should also provide a list to the apex court of all those who have been handed death penalty.

Hours after the bomb struck the highly secured diplomatic Wazir Akbar Khan area, several Afghans demanded that the government hang a Haqqani network leader, Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Siraj Haqqani, chief of the Haqqani Network.

Anas was awarded death penalty in August last year, said the spokesperson for the office of the attorney general, Baseer Aziz.

He was captured by the US security officials after he visited Qatar in October 2014, along with another leader Hafiz Rashid. They were arrested in Bahrain, Taliban had confirmed at the time.

The Taliban had confirmed the detention of Anas and Rashid and said they had travelled to Qatar to meet the Taliban leaders who were freed from the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

The US later handed over Anas and another senior Taliban commander to Afghan authorities, while the Afghan government had claimed that Anas was arrested in eastern Khost province. No details about the identity of the prisoners have been shared with the media; however, a section of the Afghan media has reported it is unclear if Anas is in the list.

The Taliban in a quick reaction to the possible executions warned that the Kabul regime would be responsible for dire consequences.

The Taliban currently hold a kidnapped American-Canadian family, including two young boys born in captivity and US citizen Kevin King, and of Australian citizen Timothy Weeks, both are teachers from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. It is believed that the American-Canadian family is held by the Haqqani Network.

"The Kabul administration is power-less and it takes decisions on the instructions by foreign masters, so foreign countries will be responsible if the foreign hostage in the custody of the Islamic Emirate are harmed in revenge."

The Taliban also dismissed as false the NDS claim that the Haqqani Network was behind the Kabul blast.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that the NDS claim to link Kabul blast to Haqqanis is an attempt to "hide failure, incompetency and conspiracies of their foreign masters".

The Afghan government had hanged a group of six Taliban prisoners in May last year that led to a series of deadly attacks on the judges and other court officials in parts of the war-ravaged country.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan's Foreign Office has rejected the NDS claim of the country's involvement as "baseless allegations".

"The accusatory approach is unhelpful towards efforts for peace. It is disappointing that some elements, who have no interest in peace in Afghanistan and want to damage Afghan-Pakistan relations, have been maligning Pakistan for their own agenda," Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said.

"All recent independent assessments on the situation in Afghanistan suggest that the factors responsible for the deteriorating security situation are internal to Afghanistan," Zakaria said at his weekly briefing.

He said Pakistan has highest stakes in peace and stability in Afghanistan and that no country gets affected more than Pakistan due to instability in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan's commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan is, therefore, beyond any doubt. Pakistan, as the most sincere friend and well-wisher of Afghan people, has contributed to the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, whenever requested."

Source: Daily Times, Tahir Khan, June 1, 2017

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