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Virginia Governor May Possible Postpone Scheduled Execution

By Brooke A. Masters
The Washington Post

Citing concerns about protecting Americans traveling abroad, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has asked Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III to delay Tuesday night's scheduled execution of a citizen of Paraguay who says an international treaty was violated in his case.

Albright wants Virginia to wait until the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, has a chance to rule on Paraguay's claim that Angel Francisco Breard, 32, deserves a new trial. Breard's attorneys argue that he was not told he had a right to meet with a representative of Paraguay's consul at the time of his arrest.

In a three-page letter to Gilmore, Albright said that because of the "unique and difficult foreign policy issues and other problems created" by the case, "I request that you exercise your powers as governor and stay" the execution.

Gilmore spokesman Mark Miner said Monday night that the governor is reviewing the letter and awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether it will hear an appeal of the case. The World Court told the United States on Friday to delay the execution, but it has no enforcement power.

The Justice Department advised the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday not to halt the scheduled execution. The solicitor general's office said in a 52-page brief that the World Court order doesn't justify stopping the execution. It also said that the alleged treaty violation does not justify giving Breard a new trial.

State Department officials said they agree with the Justice Department that there is no legal basis for the Supreme Court to halt the execution. But they said Albright is appealing to Gilmore, who has discretion to halt the process, for diplomatic reasons.

The treaty that Paraguay says was violated, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, is the same one that allows Americans arrested abroad to contact their consulate.

Albright "wants to do what she can to make sure that nothing that happens with regard to this case in any way limits the ability of American citizens around the world to get an opportunity to meet with American consular officers," said her spokesman, James Rubin.