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Wednesday, July 28, 1999 Published at 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK

World: Americas

Trinidad hangs killer

Trinidad believes the death penalty will cut "rampant" crime

Trinidad has executed a man who has been on death row for seven years for killing a taxi driver.

BBC's Mike Donkin: "The authorities are turning back to capital punishment"
The hanging of Anthony Briggs, at the Royal Jail in the Caribbean island's capital Port of Spain, was the 10th since capital punishment was resumed earlier this year.

Nine member of a drugs gang were hanged in June, after the island authorities decided that the death penalty would be used for the first time since 1994.

Trinidad, with the 15-nation Caribbean Community, is now setting up a Caribbean Supreme Court to replace Britain's Privy Council as its final court of appeal.

[ image: The victim's family backs the death penalty]
The victim's family backs the death penalty
The London-based council remains the highest court for many former British colonies, including Trinidad and Tobago which gained independence in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.

It is resented by many Caribbean citizens as an obstacle to the implementation of justice, opposed to the death sentence and out of touch with the needs of the region.

Trinidad's final recourse for convicted criminals is the Mercy Committee, which rejected Brigg's plea last week.

Attempt to combat crime

Capital punishment has wide support among Trinidadian politicians and the general public as a means of dealing with its high levels of violent crime - particularly drugs-related crime.

[ image: Anthony Briggs was on death row for seven years]
Anthony Briggs was on death row for seven years
A recent survey suggested that 75% of the population of the country fears serious crime is rampant, and the same number believes the death penalty is a way to combat it.

The family of Brigg's victim Siewdath Ramkissoon, who was battered to death for a few car parts, say all killers should die.

His father told BBC News: "He must be hanged to set an example to this country. Hang him in Independence Square from a tree."

However, abolitionists fear a resumption of the death penalty across the Caribbean would tip the scales towards retribution rather than justice and lead to a "bloody race to the gallows".

Other critics have suggested that the Trinidadian Government wants to restore the death penalty to gain the popular vote, rather than to make a serious attempt to cut crime.

But Trinidad's attorney general dismissed such suggestions, saying he is determined that the death penalty will help cut crime.

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