Trinidad to hang gang leader today

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AT 6.50AM local time today the Trinidadian gang leader Dole Chadee is to leave his cell for the short walk to the state-prison gallows, where at 7am (noon in Britain) he is expected to be hanged.

The authorities in Trinidad and Tobago have gone to meticulous lengths to make sure he and two of his gang of nine die today. The others are to be hanged in two groups of three tomorrow and on Sunday.

This week preparations took a macabre turn as nine graves were dug in the prison grounds and each man was weighed so that they would be spared the agony of a half-hanging.

These are the final arrangements in a long struggle to make sure Caribbean justice is seen to be done.

In 1996, after allegations of prejudice through adverse publicity, new laws were used to empanel a jury to try the gang, and then rules of evidence were changed to allow an accomplice to give evidence against the accused.

Ramesh Maharaj, the attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago, who has staked his political reputation on bringing executions to the islands, has fought every attempt by the men's lawyers to have their death sentence lifted.

The public feeling is that the gang, who shot dead a family of four in 1994, should have been executed long ago. A series of stays of execution granted by the Privy Council in London has only served to irritate the local population, nearly all of whom favour the death penalty. Today's hangings are as much about the assertion of national sovereignty as they are about retribution.

Outside the prison, which is in the busy centre of the Trinidad and Tobago capital, Port of Spain, no crowds are expected to gather during the executions - the first for five years. Instead, apart from a police presence, it will be business as usual.

In the prison each death-row inmate is kept in solitary confinement in a cell 9ft by 6ft where the lavatory is a steel bucket in the corner.

Dole Chadee will be the first to step outside his cell and walk the few hundred yards to the gallows. Any last-minute reprieve for the others will die with him.

Chadee is the leader of a notorious gang that dealt in drugs and committed murders for many years. His younger brother Nareesh Boodram is in a cell in the same prison on a separate murder charge.

Another brother was kidnapped by a rival gang and decapitated when the family failed to pay ransom. His head was delivered to the family home on Christmas Day.

Osmond Baboolal typifies Trinidadians' feelings on the execution. Only it was his parents, brother and sister who were murdered by the Chadee gang. Asked whether the hanging of the murderers would bring a measure of satisfaction that justice had been done, he told the Trinidad Express: "My family done [sic] dead; nothing could ever bring them back."

Nothing, he said, could ease the pain of his loss, not even for a moment. Baboolal was 13 when Chadee broke into their home in January 1994. He and his younger sister Sumatee escaped because they were locked in a bedroom.

Understandably, few have any sympathy for the Chadees or their gang.

But even yesterday lawyers were still hoping to persuade the Trinidad Appeal Court and the Privy Council that the men should be spared.

Late yesterday afternoon David Smythe, the solicitor representing the nine men, was forced to ask the law lords to stand down after no new evidence had emerged.