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Texas Set To Execute Nicaraguan National, Despite Legal Controversy

Members of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, CENIDH, hold signs against the execution in the U.S. of Nicaraguan Bernardo Aban Tercero in Managua, Nicaragua.
Esteban Felix

Death row inmate Bernardo Tecero is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, making him 11 th person to be put to death in the state this year.

Tecero, a Nicaraguan national, is condemned for murder of a school teacher during an armed robbery of a Houston dry cleaning establishment in 1997. A Texas jury convicted him in 2000.

There is no dispute Tecero is the killer. At issue, however, is whether or not he should be executed.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) last week called for the suspension of the execution and a reviewof Tecero's trial. According to the organization, Tecero was not informed of his right to contact a Nicaraguan consular official.

The IACHR also said if the execution is allowed to proceed, the state would be "committing a serious and irreparable violation of the basic right to life."

"The Inter-American Commission concluded, among other findings, that the State's failure to respect its obligation under Article 36.1 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to inform Bernardo Abán Tercero of his right to consular notification and assistance deprived him of a criminal process that satisfied the minimum standards of due process and a fair trial required under the American Declaration."

So far, the state of Texas has opted not to intervene.

On Monday, the state Attorney General's office announced the scheduled execution would proceed as planned.

John Wittman, the spokesperson for Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement:

"Mr. Tercero brutally murdered Robert Berger at a dry cleaner in Houston in front of the victim's three year-old daughter. When anyone commits a crime in Texas, they are subject to Texas law, including a fair trial by jury. Mr. Tercero's legal claims have been rejected by both state and federal courts on at least five occasions."

Texas, which leads the nation in executions, was involved in a similar situation in 2014 with Mexican national Edgar Tamayo.

As we reported last year, the Obama administration asked Texas to delay his execution after "the World Court has found that American authorities did not tell Tamayo and other Mexican nationals that they had a right to seek consular assistance."

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rejected the appeal and Tamayo, who was convicted of killing a Houston police officer, was put to death by lethal injection.

The Houston Chronicle reports on four other occasions, former Governor and current Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry opted against stopping executions of Mexican nationals whose Vienna Convention rights had allegedly been violated.

"Melissa Hooper, a lawyer with Human Rights First, an organization that has represented Tercero in the case, said a petition for a stay has been filed with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A clemency petition also will be lodged with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. A review of the case, if granted, would be conducted by a Texas court, she said.

Additionally, Hooper said, a plea for clemency from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was forwarded to Gov. Greg Abbott."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 19 executions this year in Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida. Texas leads all states with 10 inmates put to death so far this year.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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