GRENADA. THE PRIVY COUNCIL OVERTURNS DEATH PENALTY FOR 13 PRISONERS
February 6, 2007: an London-based appeals court overturned death sentences for 13 prisoners convicted of killing Grenada's premier, four Cabinet members and six supporters in a 1983 coup by a radical faction of the leftist government.
The Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for many former British colonies, ruled that the prisoners must be resentenced by the island's Supreme Court and that death sentences imposed in 1986 were never legitimate under the law.
The written judgment said previous relief sought by the prisoners, including former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, was never available through the ordinary avenue of appeal.
"The question of the appellants' fate is so politically charged that it is hardly reasonable to expect any government of Grenada, even 23 years after the tragic events of October 1983, to take an objective view of the matter," the judicial panel wrote.
The prisoners were among 17 whose 1983 coup led the United States to invade Grenada. Coard's wife was freed in 2000 to undergo cancer treatment and the other three were not given death sentences.
In December, Grenadian authorities granted early release for good behavior to three of the men convicted in the slayings of former socialist leader Maurice Bishop and the 10 others.
During the group's 1986 trial, prosecutors said Coard sent soldiers to kill Bishop on Oct. 19, 1983, in a coup by hard-liners of the premier's Marxist movement.
Six days after the executions, thousands of U.S. troops stormed the island on a mission that then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan said would restore order, protect American medical students and prevent a buildup of Cuban military advisers and weapons. (Sources: Ap, 07/02/2007)