Nurse's brother now wants death penalty

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The Independent Online
The brother of the Australian nurse Yvonne Gilford killed in Saudi Arabia, yesterday dashed hopes that her family would grant clemency to two British nurses if they are convicted of her murder.

Out of apparent reluctance to see the nurses executed, a Saudi court adjourned the trial of Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan on Sunday so lawyers could consult the Gilford family to see if they would reconsider their refusal to spare the nurses from execution. Ms Gilford's relatives are the only people who can save the two women's lives.

However, Frank Gilford announced in a statement released through his lawyers last night: "The death penalty seems to be the only right answer in this case."

As for visiting the nurses, he said: "That is simply not necessary. The court will make the judgment about their guilt or innocence. I suppose if they really want to talk to me, they will have to do it through my lawyers in Riyadh. I do not want a circus. I simply want justice."

Earlier yesterday, the Saudi Arabian ambassador in London said that controversial confessions made by two nurses accused of murder would be disregarded in court. The two nurses are alleged to have confessed to murdering Yvonne Gilford at the Saudi medical complex where all three worked. They subsequently withdrew their confessions, saying they were made after policemen stripped and threatened to rape them.

Dr Ghazi Algosaibi said the court would not uphold a confession unless given freely in front of the court. "All earlier confessions will be ignored. If the two girls are innocent they have nothing to fear," he said.

The ambassador spoke after it emerged that the nurses had offered to contribute to a trust fund in honour of Ms Gilford, to escape the death penalty. This would correspond with Sharia (Islamic law), which allows relatives of the murder victim to choose "blood money" in place of the murderers' execution.

Lawyers acting for the nurses stressed the offer was not an admission of guilt. Salah Al-Hejailan, speaking on Independent Radio News, said: "They are totally innocent and they are not seeking forgiveness. However, ... they are willing to actively participate to speak on or advocate the interests of a fund for the memory of Yvonne, the victim of this crime."

The judge at Sunday's hearing was said to have "expressly and explicitly" asked why the murdered nurse's family would wish to take advantage of the death penalty when it does not exist in their culture.