Execution on hold as firm demands return of lethal drug

The execution of an American white supremacist convicted of murder in Nebraska has been put on hold, because of a dispute as to whether one of the Indian-produced drugs that will be used to administer death has been legally obtained.

The manufacturer of a batch of sodium thiopental, one of three substances that make up the lethal "cocktail", claims the drug had been intended for use as an anaesthetic in hospitals in Africa.

The company said that without its knowledge, a pharmaceutical salesman instead sold the substance to the prison authorities in Nebraska, where the execution is due to take place.

In a letter to the state's Supreme Court, asking that the drugs be returned, Prithi Kochhar, CEO of Naari, an Indian-Swiss pharmaceutical company, said he was "shocked and appalled". "Naari did not supply these medicines directly to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) and is deeply opposed to the use of the medicines in executions," he added.

Amid the controversy, Nebraska's Supreme Court ordered a stay on the execution of Michael Ryan, a former cult leader who was sentenced to death for two murders committed in 1985.

The Kolkata-based salesman who sold the drugs to the NDCS, Chris Harris, said he obtained the substance legally from Naari. He forwarded copies of cheques and emails that he has sent to Nebraska that appeared to show a payment to a company he said was a subsidiary of Naari. "I'm not doing anything illegal," he said.

Both Naari and its purported subsidiary, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals, which has its headquarters in Delhi, failed to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Ryan's execution had been scheduled to take place yesterday, but has been put on hold following appeals from his lawyer, Jerry Soucie. Mr Soucie said: "[The legality of the drugs] is an important issue."

Maya Foa, a campaigner with the UK group Reprieve, said the case highlighted how states in the US were looking elsewhere to obtain sodium thiopental for executions because domestic manufacturers were no longer keen to produce it.

Dawn-Renee Smith, a spokeswoman for the NDCS, said that officials had been in touch with Mr Harris to determine how he obtained the drug. She said: "From our perspective, we obtained that legally."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk