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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
French horrified by execution
Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the Oklahoma bombing in 1995
The case of Timothy McVeigh has raised the death penalty issue

Monday 14th May 2001

By PM's Paris Correspondent James Coomarasamy.

The confusion over Timothy McVeigh's execution may have provoked anger and dismay in the United States, but the anti-death penalty lobby in Europe sees it as further evidence to support their cause.

Nowhere is that lobby stronger than in France - where government ministers attend American executions in protest and where a new group is holding the world's first anti-death penalty conference next month.

It's a paradox, but Mr Bush will help the abolitionists open the debate in the USA.

Michel Taube

A French-based group, "Together Against the death penalty", has organised a petition in favour of abolishing the death penalty in the United States which was delivered to the US embassy in Paris by Catherine Deneuve.

The group's president, Michel Taube, believes that despite President Bush's well-known record in Texas, his arrival in the White House is good news for those who want the death penalty abolished because it will allow debate.

Many French remember when France executed people by guillotine.

Francois Mitterrand abolished the death penalty in France
Abolished death penalty

Francois Mitterrand pledged to abolish the death penalty despite political opposition and it finally became illegal in 1981.

It was an act of political courage that Phillipe Maurice will never forget.

Few people can honestly say that elections are a matter of life and death, but he is one of them.

He was on death row in 1981 - due to be guillotined for shooting a policeman.

Released on parole last year, he's now part of the anti death penalty campaign: "Maybe I'm not the best person to say this, but I believe no-one has the right to kill."

We don't extradite if the national authorities have not the guarantee that he will not be sentenced to death.

Former Justice Minister Robert Badinter

But - mindful of the limits of lobbying, the French are acting in other ways.

They're expected to link the extradition of one of America's most wanted men to a pledge that he won't be executed.

James Kopp was arrested in Brittany earlier this year and is wanted for the killing of a doctor who carried out abortions.

He will not be extradited unless the US can guarantee he will not be sentenced to death.

Click here to listen to Jamie Coomarasamy's report

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