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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 execution rate doubles under MBS, says rights group

Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia's execution rate has doubled since Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince in 2017, according to the anti-death penalty rights group Reprieve.

The group said 133 executions have taken place in the 8 months since his appointment last June, compared with 67 in the 8 months before.

There have been 33 executions so far this year, roughly split between people convicted for murder and drug dealing.

Reprieve said Saudi Arabia was on track for a record 200 executions in 2018 if that accelerated rate continues. It said several of those on death row in Saudi Arabia were convicted of crimes while still children.

Maya Foa, the group's director, said: "The doubling of executions under the new crown prince reveals that, beneath his glossy public image, Mohammed bin Salman is one of the most brutal leaders in the kingdom's recent history.

"Protesters, including some who were children at the time, have had the death penalty confirmed despite allegations of torture and forced confessions.

"When she meets the crown prince, Theresa May should urge him to commute the sentences of all child protesters facing execution."

The prime minister was on Wednesday forced during questions in parliament to defend Britain's relationship with Saudi Arabia. Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition leader, asked May: "As she makes her arms sales pitch, will she also call on the crown prince to halt the shocking abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia?"

May responded: "The link we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country. I will be raising concerns about human rights when I meet him."

Reprieve said 18 young men are currently facing imminent execution for protest-related offences under Saudi Arabia's wide-ranging "anti-terrorism" laws. 8 of those were children at the time of their alleged offences.

It pointed to assurances by the former British prime minister, David Cameron, that the issue of child prisoners on death row would be addressed.

"In October 2015, Cameron pledged, in an interview with Channel 4 News, that he would intervene in the case of 3 Saudi protesters, Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher, Ali al-Nimr and Dawood al-Marhoon, who were facing beheading despite being children at the time of arrest," the group said.

"The then foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, later told the House of Commons he had received assurances Ali and others would not be executed. Despite this, the 3 still have not had their death sentences commuted and face imminent execution. Reprieve is aware of 5 other juveniles in the same position."

Source: Middle East Eye, March 8, 2018


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