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Trinidad hangings halted by London

TWO men on death row in Trinidad would have faced near certain hanging tomorrow had it not been for an order for a stay of execution granted by the Privy Council yesterday.

Lincoln Guerra and Brian Wallen, on death row for more than five years over the murder of a woman and her baby, are expected to have their case dismissed by the Trinidadian Court of Appeals. The Privy Council - the ultimate appeal instance for Trinidad and many other Commonwealth countries - granted a conservatory order whereby should the Trinidad court find against the two, the sentences must not be carried out until the case is heard by the Council itself.

Trinidad is expected to heed the Council order this time, following international outrage over the execution of Trinidadian Glen Ashby on 14 July. He was hanged as a Privy Council order was being dictated for fax transmission to Port of Spain. A local hearing scheduled for the same morning was cancelled because the registrar was summoned to the gallows to witness the hanging instead.

Ashby had served just one month short of five years on death row. A Privy Council standard last year ruled that execution after more than five years on death row was inhumane. Amnesty International was in no doubt that Trinidad, riddled with drugs, guns and poverty, rushed through the hanging to beat the five- year mark.

'It's a bloodthirsty, hanging climate, where the authorities are seeking to deflect from the impotence of the police force,' said Saul Leurfreund, a human rights lawyer. 'Hanging is not the answer.'