Italian plant dismisses US executions criticism

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The head of an Italian factory producing a powerful drug used to administer lethal injections in the United States dismissed criticism from British activists in an interview on Tuesday.

"If someone produces kitchen knives are they responsible when someone uses them to kill?" Giuseppe Riva, head of a chemical plant near Milan that is the Italian subsidiary of US company Hospira, told La Repubblica daily.

"It's an American problem. It doesn't concern our facilities. Sodium thiopental is used in surgical operations. Its use for capital punishment is not right and occurs only in the United States," he was quoted as saying.

Hospira has said in a statement that it did not support use of the drug to carry out death sentences and had contacted US penal institutions to say so.

Sodium thiopental is being used in capital punishments in dozens of US states to induce a coma, as one of three components for a lethal injection.

Reprieve, a London-based campaign group for human rights, has called for the Italian factory either to stop exporting the drug to the United States or for the Italian government to ban its export.

The European Union is strongly opposed to capital punishment but has said that sodium thiopental is not on a list of goods used to carry out death sentences that are banned for trade.

Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan for a 1989 murder last month despite a US shortage of sodium thiopental.

The US state said it had to use a foreign-made import of the drug after this was cleared by the US Supreme Court.

© 2010 AFP

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