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Trinidad: 10th Execution in 2 Months

July 28, 1999

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) _ Defying international pressure, Trinidad executed its 10th convicted killer in two months on Wednesday, hanging a man for killing a taxi driver.

Anthony Briggs, 31, was hanged at the state prison in Port-of-Spain, prison commissioner Cipriani Baptiste told reporters and a lone protester outside the prison gate at 6:40 a.m. He declined to give details on the execution.

``He looked very edgy. You could see the fear on his face,″ said Edward Lyons, a prison chaplain who witnessed the hanging.

Briggs’ execution _ and the June hangings of nine men convicted of murdering a family in a drug-related dispute _ focused attention on Trinidad’s ready use of capital punishment to fight drug-related crime.

Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other former British colonies have ignored pleas by Britain to eliminate the death penalty. Frustrated by lengthy appeals by convicts, Trinidad and Jamaica have also moved to withdraw from international protocols on capital punishment, such as the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

Briggs was convicted along with an accomplice, Wenceslaus James, of killing taxi driver Siewdath Ramkissoon in 1992. At their 1996 trial, prosecutors said the two men hired Ramkissoon to take them to a town in central Trinidad, then forced him to stop on a deserted road and killed him, smashing his skull with a hammer.

Briggs had two stays of execution _ one so close to a scheduled hanging that his last meal had already been ordered. The British Privy Council, which serves as Trinidad’s supreme court, rejected a final appeal last week.

The hangings this year are the first in Trinidad in five years.

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