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Arkansas puts hold on executions amid controversy

A US judge has temporaily blocked the scheduled executions of several inmates after accusations of state secrecy. The decision comes amid concern over the type of drugs used for the lethal injections.

An Arkansas judge ruled on Friday that the planned executions of eight convicted murderers would be put on hold temporarily, after lawyers argued the state had violated the law by hiding information regarding the lethal drugs to be used.

In his order, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffin opined that proceeding with the executions as planned would rob the prisoners of their rights.

The case centered on a decision made by the Arkansas General Assembly earlier this year to enable vendors of drugs used in lethal injections to hide their identities from the public. The prisoners argued they had a right to know which drug would be used to put them to death.

"It is unfortunate that once again justice is being delayed for the victims of the crimes committed by the death row prisoners who filed this lawsuit," said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in a statement.

Long pause

These executions would have been the first Arkansas had carried out since 2005. The growing number of legal battles surrounding capital punishment, as well as the lack of access to drugs needed to perform lethal injections, are both reasons why the state is the only one in the US South to have not carried out executions recently.

The judge's decision also comes amid a rising controversy surrounding the use of lethal drugs.

Several high-profile cases in Oklahoma -- one in which an inmate died nearly an hour after being sedated and another in which a convicted murderer

challenged his method of execution

-- has turned attention to problems surrounding the use of the injections.

blc/tj (Reuters, AFP)

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