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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 04:57 GMT 05:57 UK
Legal battle for live execution
Timothy McVeigh
Timothy McVeigh is escorted from court
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

Two companies are seeking permission to broadcast the execution of Timothy McVeigh live on the internet.

Both Liveontheweb.com and Entertainment Network Inc are petitioning the US Government to put cameras in the death chamber on 16 May, the date McVeigh is due to be executed.

US federal officials have refused the requests, saying it has no plans to give any broadcaster access.

But both companies say banning the broadcast infringes rights to freedom of speech and both are now launching separate legal challenges to force the issue.

Legal petition

Timothy McVeigh, the man convicted of placing the bomb that destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building and killed 168 people, is due to die by lethal injection. He will be the first person to be executed under federal, rather than state, jurisdiction for 37 years.

The 1995 bomb attack in Oklahoma City was the worst ever terrorist attack on US soil.

Liveontheweb.com and Entertainment Network have tabled separate requests to the US Federal Bureau of Prisons for permission to broadcast the execution.

Liveontheweb.com, which styles itself as the "people's broadcasting network", said showing the execution would be a deterrent to criminals and a milestone for freedom of speech and first amendment rights.

"We will not promote this as a pay-per-view event and will enact the strongest viewer discretion and age verification," it said.

In response, the U.S. Department of Justice stated, "The Federal Bureau of Prisons is not considering the broadcast of this execution or any other execution via the internet or any other broadcast medium."

Web watching

Entertainment Network Inc, which runs the pornographic Voyeurdorm and Dudedorm websites, said it would charge $1.95 (1.40) to watch the execution. All proceeds would go to those injured, or the families of those killed, in the 1995 explosion.

"The government is sponsoring the killing of the human being who was responsible for this horrendous act, and we believe the people have an absolute right to witness this action," said David Marshlack, ENI chief executive.

Its petition that the US Government is acting unconstitutionally in blocking the webcast is due to go court on 17 April. No date has yet been set for the Liveontheweb.com legal action.

Any decision is complicated by the fact that this week US Attorney General John Ashcroft is considering a request from the families of those injured or killed in the blast to watch the execution via closed-circuit television. Around 250 people injured in the explosion, or who lost loved ones in the attack, have said they want to watch McVeigh die.

The Terra Haute, Indiana, prison where Mr McVeigh is due to be executed reportedly only has enough space for eight witnesses. McVeigh has requested that his death be carried out in public saying it was not fair to put limits on the number of people that could watch his execution.

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See also:

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Internet broadcasting's brief history
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