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…

Iran's Dark Times Are Brought to Light

Khavaran Cemetery
A new investigative report was released by Amnesty International on Monday. It looks at the ways that signs of mass graves of political prisoners who were executed in Iran in 1988 are being wiped out.

The report states, "Today, it is still not known exactly how many prisoners were extra-judicially executed in 1988, although minimum estimates are between 4,000 and 5,000."

AP reports, "International rights groups estimate as many as 5,000 people were executed, while the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq puts the number at 30,000."

Mass graves have been gradually leveled to escape any possible future accountability, report adds, "The account identifies 7 suspected or confirmed mass grave sites that have faced destruction between 2003 and 2017. They are located in or near Behesht Reza cemetery in Mashhad, Khorasan Razavi province; Behesht Abad cemetery in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province; Vadieh Rahmat cemetery in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province; Golestan Javid cemetery in Khavaran; Tazeh Abad cemetery in Rasht, Gilan province; the Baha'i cemetery in Qorveh, Kurdistan province; and the grounds of the former premises of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province."

A 1990 Amnesty report stated, "Some who appeared were asked to identify themselves. Those who responded 'mujahedeen' were sent to their deaths, while others were questioned about their willingness to 'clear minefields for the army of the Islamic Republic'."

AI called for an enquiry commission to probe the officials of the "Death Commission", as it was known among former Iranian political prisoners, many of whom, according to the AI report, still hold offices in the Iranian regime. The report added that no Iranian official has been investigated or brought to justice.

2 high profile examples are Ebrahim Raisi a challenger to Hassan Rouhani in last year's presidential election and now the custodian of the wealthiest Imam Reza Foundation in Mashhad, and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, Iran's Justice Minister in Rouhani's 1st cabinet. Rouhani also chose Alireza Avii, another member of the Death Commission to head the Justice Ministry in his 2nd cabinet.

The Death Commission oversaw the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, who were mostly members and supporters of the opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK). Raisi and Pour-Mohammadi were 2 of the 4 members of the Death Commission.

Reportedly, Khomeini issued a fatwa, a religious decree, authorizing the massacre that occurred in the summer of 1988. The Commission allegedly handed down some 30,000 death sentences. Courts lasted an average of 3 minutes. Some of the political prisoners who survived the slaughter have written or spoken of their ordeals.

The judges asked only one question, "Do you still believe in Mojahedin?" Gruesome accounts of survivors, especially female prisoners, often leave the listeners in shock.

An audio tape that was published on his website by Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri's son in August 2016 brought much of this into the light. Montazeri objected to the mass executions in 1988. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 2009. Montazeri can be heard on the audio tape telling a meeting of the Death Commission that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. "The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your names will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals," he said.

Source: NCRI, May, 2018

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