Wednesday, March 2, 2005 
NGO asks Supreme......... Court: Quash Paco's...... conviction
European watchdog seeks 'Spanish....... citizen's freedom'
Jhunnex Napallacan 
      and Inquirer News Service

      A nongovernmental organization based in London has asked the Supreme Court of the Philippines to quash the conviction and death sentence of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga.

      The Fair Trials Abroad Trust, in its amicus curiae (friends of the court) brief prepared by its counsels Faisal Saifee and Peter Carter, said the judgment of the Supreme Court on Feb. 3, 2004 "violated the international fair trial standards." 

      The Supreme Court did not just uphold the conviction of Larraņaga and the six other respondents in the Chiong sisters' abduction and rape case but also upgraded the penalty from life terms to death.

     "the violations of international law in the case of Francisco Juan Larraņaga call into question the legitimacy of his criminal conviction and his death sentence. Therefore, the Fair Trials Abroad Trust respectfully urges that both his conviction and sentence be quashed," the brief said.

     Earlier, three bar councils - Madrid, Barcelona Bar and Basque - also filed separate amicus curiae briefs in support of a request for oral arguments filed by Larraņaga's lawyer, which the Supreme Court dismissed last September, 2004. 

     The group said Larraņaga and several witnesses were barred from testifying during the trial in the lower court. It said the court restricted the right of the defense counsel to examine the chief prosecution mmmm

EUROPEAN PROTECTION. Francisco Juan "Paco Larraņaga, one of the seven convicts in the Chiong sisters abduction and rape case, reacts during an interview with a CDN news team at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City last October 9, 2004. A European watchdog has taken up the case and sent the Philippines' Supreme Court an amicus curiae (friends of the court) brief seeking Paco's freedom.

witness. It added that Larraņaga was not given adequate counsel at all stages of his trial.

      The group said that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of Larraņaga.

     Larraņaga's mother, Margarita, said in an interview yesterday that the Fair Trials Abroad Trust came up with the brief after they furnished the NGO all the documents regarding the case. 

     The fair Trials Abroad Trust was established in 1994 to help citizens of the European Union accused of a crime in a country other than their own to assert their rights to a fair trial and due process of law. 

     Larraņaga was one of the seven young men convicted of the abduction and rape of sisters Jacqueline Chiong, 23 and Marijoy, 20 in Cebu City in 1997.

     He is the great-grand-son of the late President Sergio Osmeņa and nephew of Sen. Sergio Osmeņa III and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeņa. But Larraņaga also carries a Spanish citizenship because his father was a Spanish citizen. 

     Aside from Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, a scion of the wealthy Aznar family here in Cebu, Ariel Balansag, Alberto Caņo, Rowen Adlawan and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew Uy were also convicted. 

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