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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…

Mauritania Passes Law Mandating Death Penalty for “Blasphemy”

Mauritania
Mauritania has long been one of the worst countries in the world for freethinkers. Those guilty of “blasphemy” have been threatened with the death penalty, which is disturbing on its own but even more so when you realize how blasphemy is always in the eye of the beholder.

But now that punishment will become mandatory.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union reports:

The National Assembly passed a law on April 27, 2018 that replaces article 306 of the Criminal Code and makes death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” and acts deemed “sacrilegious”. The new law eliminates the possibility under article 306 of substituting prison terms for the death penalty for certain apostasy-related crimes if the offender promptly repents. The law also extends the scope of application of the death penalty to “renegade acts.”

The law also provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 600,000 Ouguiyas (approximately EUR 13,804) for “offending public indecency and Islamic values” and for “breaching Allah’s prohibitions” or assisting in their breach.

That law has prompted a coalition of groups to urge officials there to reverse the law immediately. They also referenced a blogger accused of blasphemy who has been sentenced to death, had his conviction overturned, but still remains in police custody.

Mauritanian authorities should reverse the recent adoption of a law on apostasy related crimes making the death penalty mandatory for “blasphemous speech” and “sacrilegious acts”, 21 national and international non-governmental organizations said today. The authorities should also end the arbitrary detention and guarantee the safety of a blogger, Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaïtir, whose case appears to be related to the timing of the law. Mkhaïtir was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death in December 2014 before a court reduced his punishment to two years imprisonment. Although his sentence has expired, the authorities continue to detain him.

There’s no reason to believe Mauritania will flip on this issue. But their passage of this bill sends an important message to tourists or non-Muslims who may want to visit the western African nation: Don’t go. It’s not safe.

Visiting Mauritania is now a death trap for anyone with a single critical thought about Islam.

Source: Patheos, Hemant Metha, May 17, 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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