PRIME MINISTER URGED TO SAVE BRITISH MAN FROM EXECUTION IN USA

Tracy Housel, who is widely believed to have received an unfair trial, will have been on death row in Georgia for 16 years on 7 February.

He faces becoming the first British national to be executed in the US since the state of Georgia electrocuted Nick Ingram in 1995. On that occasion, Prime Minister John Major failed to intervene and Mr Ingram was executed despite, as was later revealed, clear signs that the state authorities had expected an appeal from Mr Major.

A US Supreme Court ruling – Mr Housel's final judicial hope - is expected by the middle of February, and Amnesty International believes it is vital that Mr Blair makes a representation ahead of this. Failing this, there is a stronger likelihood that an execution date will be set within 10-20 days after the Supreme Court ruling, giving little time for a reprieve.

Amnesty International UK Director of Communications Richard Bunting said:

'With UK government concern at possible death sentences for British al-Qa'ida suspects in Guantánamo Bay making the news, there has been a deafening silence from Mr Blair's office over an injustice waiting to happen at the hands of the American authorities.'

Other heads of government have successfully intervened on behalf of their nationals on death row in the US. President Vincente Fox made a personal appeal on behalf of Gerardo Valdez, a Mexican national sentenced to death in Oklahoma. As a result, the Governor of Oklahoma granted a reprieve, after which the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued an indefinite stay of execution.

Background

·The jury in Mr Housel's case, where he was represented by a single court-appointed lawyer who had never handled a murder case, did not hear that the defendant was brain-damaged, abused as a child by an alcoholic father, or that at the time of the offence Mr Housel suffered a psychotic episode connected to a medical condition (hypoglycemia). Had this evidence been presented in court a capital sentence would have been unlikely.

·One hundred and twenty-one British MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) and an Amicus Brief (signed by 106 MPs, the Law Society and the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council) on behalf of Tracy Housel; this was filed with the US Supreme Court on 22 January 2002.

·Vera Baird MP has sent a letter to all MPs who signed the Amicus Brief requesting that they write to the Prime Minister asking him to intervene personally.

·There are currently over 130 people on Georgia's death row. Twenty-seven prisoners have been executed in Georgia since 1976, with four men executed in the last two months alone.

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