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

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…

Five executed in Iran, two hanged in public

Mashhad public hangings, May 2018
2 prisoners were hanged at Urmia Central Prison and 1 at Ilam Central Prison, located in North-Western and Western Iran, respectively. All of the prisoners were sentenced to death on murder charges.

According to IHR sources, on the morning of Monday, May 14, 2 prisoners were hanged at Urmia Central Prison. 

The prisoners, identified as Khalil Agoush from ward 3-4 and Soheil Mirbakhsh from the youth ward, were both sentenced to death on murder charges.

It should be noted that Soheil Mirbakhsh had been held in prison since 2014 and he was under 25 when he was executed.

Moreover, another prisoner was executed at Ilam Central Prison on murder charges.

The prisoner was identified as Mojtaba Karamiyan from Ilam.

The executions of these prisoners have not been announced by the state-run media so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges. 

There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

2 Public Executions

2 prisoners were hanged in public in Mashhad on rape charges. According to an IRIB News Agency's report, on the morning of Tuesday, May 15, 2 prisoners were hanged in public in Mashhad.

The prisoners were sentenced to death on rape charges.

Only 2 days before, on Sunday, May 13, another prisoner was executed in public in the Southern city of Bandar Abbas.

It should be noted that the United Nations condemns public execution. 

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, had earlier demanded that public executions be banned.

According to Iran Human Rights (IHR)'s annual report on the death penalty, 31 prisoners were hanged in public in 2017.

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 15, 2018

The Untold Story from a Mother About Her Son's Execution

Bahman Varmezyar
It has been a few weeks since the painful execution of a young athlete in Iran. Bahman's death sentence was suspended at the last minute, and the news of his pardon was also released to his family; but the regime's judiciary went ahead with his execution the next day, with everyone in utter disbelief.

"Bahman Varmezyar is a hair stylist and a personal trainer in Hamedan. On 31st March 2015, he and a few other armed thieves, robbed a jewellery shop. 18 days after, he surrendered himself along with the stolen property, to the authorities; despite being pardoned by the plaintiff, he and 1 of the other accused thieves were sentenced to death by hanging."

On Monday 16th April, when Bahman's family last visited him, they received a phone call in which they were informed that he was pardoned. Bahman was saved from death, and his family were so happy that they were planning a celebration. But shortly after, their world turned upside down as they were notified that the death sentence was only delayed, not cancelled.

It has been weeks since Bahman's execution, but his mother refuses to believe his death. She still cries and reviews that day over and over: "how is this possible? how can everything change in just half a day? if they were going to execute him, why did they tell us that he was pardoned, instead?".

She recalls: "on Monday (16th April) we went to the prison to say Goodbye to Bahman. They were going to hang him the next morning. We went to whoever and whatever organisation that we could think of, to ask for help; but it was no use"; until "a man called and told me excitedly that Bahman was pardoned, and the execution cancelled. I could not believe what I was hearing, so I asked him a few times to confirm. All details were correct. I was so happy that I could hardly breathe. I shared the news with my husband too. The prison informed us that Bahman was transferred from solitary confinement to jail. We sacrificed a sheep (as part of a religious ritual) to celebrate; our relatives and friends visited us too, to congratulate. We also spoke with Bahman on the phone. He kept on thanking me for my prayers and kept on saying that he owed his life to me".

Unfortunately, their happiness did not last for too long. Whilst the news of Bahman's pardon (which, as claimed by some, was approved by high-ranking officials) was being published in the media, Hamedan's judiciary was denying the news, and attributed the false information to some judicial errors. Bahman's lawyer was also informed that the execution was going to be carried out the next morning, at Hamedan's prison.

This was unbelievable. Bahman's family were shocked, as just hours ago they were celebrating the cancellation of his sentence. His mother even describes how she had obtained the consents of more than 300 residents and tradespeople of the area where Bahman had robbed from. But the judiciary insisted on Bahman's execution due to the "terror and fear" that he had apparently caused others.

Despite no previous criminal records at all, Bahman was executed at 6:30 am on Tuesday 17th April 2018.

According to the annual report of Amnesty International, Iran has the highest rates of executing its own citizens.

Source: NCRI, May 15, 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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