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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2005, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Briton asks for US murder review
Krishna Maharaj
Krishna Maharaj claims to have new witnesses
Lawyers representing a Briton who has spent 18 years in a US prison for a double murder he denies committing are to petition for a review of his case.

Krishna Maharaj, 65, spent 15 years on Florida's Death Row before his sentence for shooting a drug trafficker and his son was commuted to life in 2002.

The Londoner's lawyers say the US broke treaty rules by not informing the British Consulate of his 1986 arrest.

They say this made it hard for him to get proper legal representation.

Maharaj was arrested for the murders of Maharaj Jamaican Derrick Moo Young and his son Duane in a Miami Hotel room in October 1986.

Although he claims to have witnesses who can place him 30 miles away at a business meeting in Fort Lauderdale at the time of the killings, these witnesses were not called by the lawyer who represented him at his trial.

Maharaj's current legal team also says the US failed in its obligation under the Vienna Convention to inform British consulate officials of his arrest so that they could help get proper legal representation.

The Vienna Convention sets out agreed diplomatic protocols between states.

Procedural bar

The cases of 51 other non-US citizens whose arrests breached the Vienna Convention were recently examined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ordered the US to hold substantive reviews of their cases.

The US agreed to do this, and the cases are going to be reviewed initially by state courts.

Maharaj's legal representatives hope he will be granted a similar review by the Florida courts.

The former businessman from Peckham, south London, also has an appeal pending in the federal appeals court, which his lawyers say they will ask to be put on hold if they are granted a Florida court review.

Lawyer Annabel Harris, of human rights charity Reprieve, which is now handling Maharaj's case, says the review petition is "crucially important".

She says his previous appeals have been dismissed for the "technical reason" that his claims are "procedurally barred" because his previous lawyers did not raise them early enough.

But the ICJ ruled that the procedural bar doctrine should not be used to deny substantive reviews of Vienna Convention claims.

As well as the witnesses placing him away from the crime scene, Maharaj's team say they know of the existence of other suspects with clear motives for carrying out the killings.

Fresh hope for death row Briton
18 Mar 02 |  England

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