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Twice we've written about Rais Bhuiyan, who, on September 21, 2001, was working behind the counter of a Pleasant Grove Texaco station when a man with a shotgun entered the store and shot him in the face. Bhuiyan, who was 27 at the time, thought he was being robbed. He wasn't: Mark Stroman, a Stephenville man then 22, was a white supremacist who would later claim his sister was killed in the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. He wasn't there to take anything, except the man's life. He was there solely "to retaliate on local Arab Americans," as Stroman would later put it.
Bhuiyan lived, without use of his right eye and with dozens of pieces of shrapnel still in his skull, but he was not Stroman's sole victim: Dead were Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani father of four who was gunned down on September 15 while working in southeast Dallas local convenience store, and Vasudev Patel, an Indian Hindu murdered one week later at a Shell station on Big Town Boulevard. And for their murders Stroman will be executed on July 20, after the Supreme Court declined to review his case last month following the Fifth Court of Appeals decision not to stay his execution. Stroman's strongest advocate is one of his victims -- Bhuiyan, who, with Hasan's family's support, is trying to save the man's life. "By executing him now," Bhuiyan said during an appearance at SMU's Perkins School of Theology last month, "we are losing everything."
Bhuiyan has now taken his case overseas: This morning, the U.K. Independent has this lengthy profile of Bhuiyan, who is in England meeting with human-rights organization Reprieve in the hopes that their attorneys might be able to make a case for saving Stroman. But he and Rick Halperin, director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program, know that chances are slim to non-existent, because, after all, this is Texas.
As he went through seemingly endless rounds of surgery, Mr Bhuiyan could have been torn up with the same kind of hatred that drove Stroman to try and kill him. Instead he vowed to do something with his life by helping others. During a trip to Mecca two years ago, he felt it was Stroman who needed his help and so began his campaign to save him from the execution chamber.
For clemency to be granted, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has to vote in favour by a simple majority. The final say will then be down to Governor Rick Perry. Yet the parole board has recommended clemency only once in the course of 231 Texas executions over the past 10 years. Even then Mr Perry turned it down.
"If the board recommends clemency and Perry grants it, it would be a major paradigm shift," says Dr Rick Halperin, a veteran anti-death penalty campaigner from Dallas. "If they don't then it's going to raise serious questions about what is the nature of clemency when the victims of a crime, the survivor of a crime, don't want this to happen."
Mr Bhuiyan agrees: "Why do they even bother to keep the word clemency in the justice system if every time it is ignored?" he asks. "What is the point of having this word if it doesn't exist?"