Spain seeks to halt execution in Florida

28th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain sought to intercede at the eleventh hour to stay the Wednesday execution of a Cuban murder convict in Florida who likely has Spanish ancestry, a Spanish official said.

Manuel Valle, a 61-year-old Cuban, has been on Florida's death row for decades for the 1978 murder of Louis Pena, a 41-year-old police officer. Valle was scheduled to be put to death at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT) Wednesday.

His execution was set to take place one week after the highly controversial high-profile execution of Troy Davis, who went to his death proclaiming his innocence in the murder of a policeman in the state of Georgia.

Spain's envoy to Miami told AFP that Madrid had intervened in the case because it opposes the death penalty.

"As a matter of principle we wrote yesterday to Florida Governor Rick Scott to try to prevent this execution, and even though there are just a few hours left and there has been no positive response, we have not lost hope," Consul General Cristina Barrios told AFP.

"We took up this case because under our constitution we are a country that opposes the death penalty," said the diplomat.

Barrios said while the consulate has reason to believe Valle has a Spanish grandparent, "it was not out of concerns of heritage that we have taken steps to prevent his execution; it was because it's a humanitarian issue."

Valle could become the first inmate put to death in Florida using sodium pentobarbital in US lethal injections, following domestic shortages of the previously-used anesthetic sodium thiopental.

Danish drugmaker Lundbeck, which produces pentobarbital under the brand name Nembutal for treatment of epilepsy, said in July it would restrict distribution of Nembutal after learning that it was being administered by several states as part of a three-drug cocktail used to execute death row inmates.

On Monday a neurologist submitted a petition to the Florida Supreme Court requesting a halt to Valle's execution, claiming that use of pentobarbital in lethal injections is illegal because the controlled substances act prohibits its use for non-medical purposes. The court dismissed the suit on Tuesday.

London-based rights group Reprieve said Valle has not benefited from consular advice because Florida did not inform Cuba of his arrest.

The Cuban interests section in Washington declined to comment on the case when contacted by AFP.

Troy Davis's case galvanized global efforts to end capital punishment, and drew high-profile figures including former US president Jimmy Carter, South Africa's bishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI.

Davis maintained his innocence until his dying breath and there was a flood of international condemnation after he was put to death by lethal injection, dspite doubts about his guilt for the 1989 slaying of a white police officer.

© 2011 AFP

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