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Pope's appeal spares 36 from the death penalty

Guatemala's president has ordered a moratorium on the death penalty for the remaining months of his term of office, after speaking on the matter with the Pope.

President Alfonso Portillo said that he will also propose a motion to the country's parliament that would abolish capital punishment forever.

Revealing that John Paul II's personal plea to end executions had moved him into action, the president said: 'The Holy Father's message was one of reasoning, of a moral, ethical, religious and magnanimous character, in the hope of peace.

'I immediately decided there would be no further executions during my administration.'

As the order was made 36 criminals, including five who escaped from prison last year, had their death sentences - due to be carried out by lethal injection - cancelled.

The move was hailed by human rights campaigners who hoped that other world leaders would follow Guatemala's example.

Apostolic Voyage to Toronto, to Ciudad de Guatemala and to Ciudad de México 23 July - 2 August 2002
Rights Groups Hope Pope Will Shine Light on Guatemalan Death-Squads (

The Universe

9 Aug 2002