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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 15:56 GMT
Blair 'must act' over death row Briton
Amnesty International protest
Protesters criticised Tony Blair's "silence" over the case
A protest demanding Tony Blair intervenes in the case of a Briton five days away from execution in the US took place outside Downing Street on Thursday.

Human rights campaigners want the prime minister to demand the authorities reduce the death sentence facing murderer and rapist Tracy Housel to life imprisonment.


The more appeals that take place... the greater the likelihood is that we will get the decision we want

Amnesty International
Amnesty International says Mr Blair has been silent over case of Housel, 43, who faces execution on Tuesday, 12 March.

The protest, which saw campaigners wave banners of a 'gagged' Mr Blair, follows a personal plea to the governor of Georgia by Jack Straw.

The foreign secretary - who has met Housel's mother Lula Mae Pellerin - was told the governor had no powers to intervene.

Goodwill

Amnesty said: "The feeling is that the more appeals that take place from the more influential people, the greater the likelihood is that we will get the decision we want."

Tracy Housel
Tracy Housel is due to be executed on 12 March
Mr Blair had a lot of goodwill in the US, which he should use to help a British citizen, a spokesman added.

The appeal for action comes after Housel told of his remorse in an interview with BBC News Online.

He said he regretted raping and strangling hitch-hiker Jeanne Drew during a two-week homicidal spree in 1985.

"It's a bizarre thing to know the exact date and minute of your death in advance and be totally powerless to stop it."

He added: "It's hard not to play the 'what if' scenario. If my dying would bring her back, I would happily go to my death tomorrow."

Initial trial 'unfair'

Housel was born in the British territory of Bermuda and has spent 16 years on death row since his conviction.

Without a reprieve he will become the first Briton executed in the US since Nick Ingram was put to death in 1995, also in Georgia.

Lawyers argue his initial trial was unfair because the jury heard evidence of three other crimes allegedly committed by him - even though Housel had never been convicted of these "offences".

They say his young and inexperienced lawyer wrongly advised him to plead guilty, depriving him of the defence of insanity.

Housel has also been found to suffer from hypoglycaemia - a medical condition which can bring on psychosis.

See also:

28 Feb 02 | Americas
Straw's appeal for death row Briton
25 Feb 02 | Americas
Death row Briton's appeal denied
25 Feb 02 | Americas
Appeal bid for death row Briton
11 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Death row mother's Straw 'hope'
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