Sunday, March 20, 2005  
European group urges.... review of case vs.......... Chiong suspects
Spanish civil rights body seeks............. commutation of Paco' death sentence

Manila-- A European civil rights for litigants group has called on the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) to consider a commutation for a Spanish-Filipino scion convicted for the abduction and killing of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997. 

      In a six-page amicus curiae brief, the European Union (EU) Fair Trials Abroad Trust said convict Francisco Juan Larraņaga's "right to be tried by an independent   and impartial tribunal was violated."

     The group, at least the third such international legal body seeking to intervene in the case, pointed out "pressure was exerted on the Francisco Juan Larraņaga case by powerful social groups and he was the subject on an unprecedented number of media reports that condemned him even before his trial started."

      A motion for leave to admit the unsolicited amicus curiae brief was filed by the defense's lead counsel Sedfrey Ordoņez.

     The Fair Trials Abroad Trust claim that "as a result of the various ways in which the trial of Francisco Juan Larraņaga was not fair according to the obligations imposed under international law, the trial failed to comply with the safeguards."

     "In those circumstances the death penalty should not be imposed or the death penalty must be immediately commuted," the group said, adding that the violations of international law in the case call into

question the legitimacy of his criminal conviction and his death sentence.

      "Therefore, the Fair Trial Abroad Trust respectfully urged that both his conviction and sentenced be quashed."    

      Last January, three law associations in Spain have asked the SC for permission to intervene in the case of Larraņaga and save him from death by lethal injection.

      Larraņaga and six others were each meted out two life sentences for kidnapping and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong on July 16, 1997 in Cebu. 

      On Feb. 3, 2004, the SC raised the penalty to death. 

      Larraņaga's other counsels Felicitas Aquino Arroyo and Sandra Marie Olaso Coronel urged the High Court to admit the amicus curiae briefs from the Barcelona Bar Associations (BBA), Basque Bar Council (BBC) and Bar Association of Madrid.

      The three organizations anchored their interest in the case on the ground that Larraņaga is a "Spanish citizen with origins in the Basque country and therefore a member of the European Union."

      In a two-page brief, received by the Consulate of Spain in Manila on Dec. 29, 2004, the BBA expressed it's "deep concern at the sentencing to death of a Spanish citizen."

      The BBA said its concern is "not only on account of the profound conviction that the death penalty is not a civilized response to crime, but also because in view of the documentation provided, irreparable harm could be caused."

      Likewise, the BBA said the execution of a Spanish citizen will be in breach of the violation of the principle of reciprocity in international law. (SunnexLuzon)

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