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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…

Iran: Five Prisoners Hanged in Four Cities

Public hanging in Iran
Five prisoners were executed at Ilam, Hamadan, Kermanshah, and Urmia central prisons on murder charges.

According to a close source, on the morning of Monday, March 5, a prisoner was hanged at Urmia Central Prison on murder charges. The prisoner, identified as Rahim (Abubakr) Salimi, was arrested and sentenced to death 12 years ago. The prisoner was transferred to solitary confinement along with another prisoner from ward 3-4. The 2nd prisoner, identified as Ahmad Kordestani, was able to gain the consent of the plaintiffs and returned to his cell.

According to a report by Kurdistan Human Rights Network, on the morning of Sunday, March 4, a prisoner was executed at Kermanshah Central Prison on the charge of murder. The prisoner who was 26 at the time of the murder was named Masoud Vakili. He wasn't able to meet his family for the last time before he was executed.

Moreover, on Wednesday, January 17, a prisoner was executed at Ilam Central Prison on murder charges, but the state-run media have not announced this execution so far. The prisoner, identified as Ehsan Yaqubi, from Abdanan, was charged with murdering a man named Amin Ayini in 2014.

A well-informed source told Iran Human Rights (IHR), "Ehsan and Amin were both shepherds, and they were friends. They got into a fight during which Ehsan shot and killed Amin."

According to another report, on the morning of Wednesday, March 1, another prisoner was executed at the same prison. The prisoner, identified as Mehdi Kazemnia, son of Ali, was also charged with murder.

A close source told IHR, "Mehdi Kazemnia killed a man from Haft Cheshmeh village during a fight."

According to another report by HRANA, on the morning of Thursday, March 2, a prisoner was hanged at Hamedan Central Prison on murder charges. The prisoner, identified as Hamid Imani, son of Mohammad Ali, was arrested 10 years ago.

None of the aforementioned executions was announced by the state-run media so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 142 prisoners were executed in Iran for murder charges in 2016. There is a lack of any classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for all types of the murder, regardless of intensity and intent.


Tehran Police Chief Says Man Accused of Killing Policemen Will Be "Punished by Hanging"


The alleged driver of a bus that was driven into 3 policemen and 2 members of the Basij volunteer militia, killing them all during recent clashes between the police and Sufi followers of the Gonabadi Order in Tehran, could be executed within weeks.

"With the coordination that has taken place with the judiciary, the bus driver that drove over the policemen will be punished by hanging before the end of the [Iranian] year [March 20, 2018]," Tehran Police Chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi said on March 1 in an interview with the state-funded Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

Public execution in Iran
The bus driver has been identified as Mohammad Salas, a Gonabadi Dervish. On February 21, a man claiming to be Salas appeared on a video in a hospital room apologizing to the families of the victims for driving the bus that killed the 5 men.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) was unable to verify the veracity of the video, which was posted on Twitter by the Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

"I don't know what I was thinking at that moment. I had no intention to kill anyone. I got angry and pressed the gas," said the man in the video. "It was out of my control ... It just happened. I give my condolences. What can I do?"

Clashes broke out outside a police station in the Pasdaran neighborhood of Tehran on February 19 and 20 after police forces attacked a rally of dervishes demanding the release of a fellow Gonabadi.

The Gonabadi Dervishes' interpretation of Islam differs from that of Iran's ruling Muslim Shia establishment. The Islamic Republic views any alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia establishment and has imprisoned members of the Sufi order and expelled them from university for their faith.

CHRI reported on February 26 that approximately 170 members of the Sufi order were being treated for injuries in 4 hospitals in Tehran. 2 of them, Mohammad Labbaf and Nematollah Riahi, were in serious condition.

During a previous press conference, Gen. Rahimi said the police contemplated using military-grade weapons against the protesters.

"Our tactful and moderate response should not be interpreted as appeasement," he said on February 22. "We could have destroyed the agitators' house with a rocket-propelled grenade but we acted tactfully and from a position of strength."

While visiting injured security forces at a hospital in the capital on March 2, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi threatened to "deal seriously" with "the perpetrators of recent disturbances."

He made no mention of a possible death sentence against the bus driver but said the drivers of 2 passenger cars who had also allegedly run over security forces on February 19 had been arrested and "confessed."

On February 23, a group of political prisoners held in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, West of Tehran, issued a statement condemning the use of excessive force against the Gonabadi protesters.

"During these incidents, a number of anti-riot forces and plainclothes Basij agents resorted to violence and beat and injured the dervishes, which could have ignited sudden anger and retaliatory action by the dervishes and led to unpleasant consequences," said the statement.

Source: Iran Human Rights, March 6, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning