One of the former government minister convicted for the 1983 bloody execution of Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop has been invited to Spain to attend an international conference against the death penalty.
He is Selwyn Strachan, the former Minister of National Mobilization in Bishop’s People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), which ruled the island from 1979 to 1983, after seizing power in a coup d’etat against the elected Eric Gairy administration.
The invitation was extended by a group calling itself the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Strachan along with several government and army officers were originally sentenced to be hanged after a local court found them guilty of killing Bishop and some of his close associates like former Foreign Affairs Minister, Unison Whiteman, Education Minister, Jacqueline Creft and Housing Minister, Norris Bain at the then Fort Rupert on October 19, 1983.
The killings brought an end to a period of bitter infighting between moderates led by Bishop and a group of hardliners that supported Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard.
Apart from Strachan and Coard, some of the others who were put on trial for the Fort Rupert killings were Army strongman, General Hudson Austin, Lieutenant-Colonels Ewart Layne and Liam James, as well as Ambassador to Cuba, Major Leon Cornwall, Major Christopher Stroude, Captain Lester Redhead, and trade unionist John Ventour.
The convictions were later reduced to “life in prison until the end of their natural lives” by the 1990-95 National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite.
The Bishop killers after several challenges to their sentences were eventually freed from prison based on a ruling from the British Privy Council, which found fault with the manner in which they were sentenced.
A re-sentencing hearing, presided over by a high court judge, eventually paved the way for the release of the convicted prisoners after 26 years behind bars at the Richmond Hill prison.
Following is the text of the invitation letter that was sent to Strachan:
Dear Mr. Strachan,
I am writing from the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. I got your email from my colleagues at the Puerto Rican Coalition Against the Death penalty.
We would like to invite you to attend the 5th World Congress Against the Death penalty in Madrid from June 12th to 15th 2013.
After Strasburg in 2001, Montreal in 2004, Paris in 2007, and Geneva in 2010, the 5th World Congress will be held in Madrid, at the invitation of the Spanish government, and with the support of the Norwegian, Swiss and French governments.
During three days, the World Congress unites members of international civil society, politicians, and legal experts to elaborate abolitionist strategies for the years to come at the national, regional, and international levels, and to send out a clear message to the world: that universal abolition is essential for a world where progress and justice must prevail.
Fifteen hundred people, from over 90 countries across the five continents, are expected to attend the 5th World Congress against the death penalty in Madrid. Amongst them will be numerous public figures, from both political and cultural arenas who will play an important role as spokespersons for the abolitionist cause, with journalists from all over the world.
The program includes discussion on the death penalty in the Caribbean and the WCADP in collaboration with the working committee of the Greater Caribbean for Life will hold a meeting concerning the organization of a regional conference, which will take place in Port of Spain in October.
We would like to have the honor to have you with us to discuss such important topics.
The WCADP will be able to pay for your flight to Madrid and will give you a per diem from June 12th to 15th and we will help you with your visa request in case you will accept our invitation.
As the Congress is approaching we kindly request you to let us know if you accept our invitation by Friday May 10th.
World Coalition Against the Death Penalty