MEXICO pledges to appeal planned U.S. execution in international tribunals

Saturday, July 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexico's government pledged to fight the planned Oklahoma execution of Mexican citizen Gerardo Valdez in U.S. and international tribunals after Gov. Frank Keating denied Valdez clemency.

The decision to set a new date for executing Valdez for a 1989 murder came despite a personal appeal to Keating from Mexican President Vicente Fox. Mexico's Foreign relations department called the decision ``lamentable'' and ``contrary to international law.''

Mexico ``will take all available legal actions in U.S, as well as international tribunals, based on international law, in order to preserve the life of our fellow citizen and obtain clemency,'' the department said in a Friday statement.

Mexico argued that Oklahoma authorities violated international law by not allowing Valdez to contact the Mexican consulate after his arrest, as required by a treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory.

The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires nationals who are arrested be given access to their home country's consulate.

Only four of 123 foreigners who have been on America's death rows were promptly told they could seek help from their consulates, according to death penalty watchdog groups.

Fox also argued that the Mexican government should have had a chance to help obtain proper representation for Valdez at trial. The Friday statement claimed Valdez's lawyer at his first trial was ``notoriously incompetent.''

The department also said that after Keating temporarily postponed the execution, planned for June 19, it had hired a team of experts to gather evidence it said would raise doubts about Valdez's mental competence at the time of the killing.

Valdez admits killing Juan Barron after he claimed Barron made advances toward him in a bar.

Valdez took Barron to his home, forced him to strip, then preached to him that the Bible condemned homosexuality.

Keating said in a letter to Fox on Friday that Valdez was provided an attorney fluent in Spanish and experienced in murder cases.

He conceded that Valdez's right to contact the consulate was violated, but said the violation did not change the circumstances of his conviction or sentence.

Last month, the International Court of Justice ruled that the United States violated the Vienna treaty in the case of Karl and Walter LaGrand, two German brothers executed in 1999.

The LaGrands were convicted of murdering a bank manager during a botched 1982 robbery in Arizona. A decade passed before the German consulate learned of the case.

Oklahoma authorities have said that case isn't germane to Valdez's situation.