Europeans express outrage over execution in California |

Europeans express outrage over execution in California

VIENNA, Austria – The execution of convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams sparked outrage Tuesday throughout Europe, which has a deep aversion to capital punishment sustained by the painful memory of state-organized murder during the Nazi era.The disappointment was particularly strong in Austria, native country of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, where many had hoped the former bodybuilder and film star would spare the 51-year-old Williams.Leaders of Austria’s opposition Green Party even called for Schwarzenegger to be stripped of his Austrian citizenship – a demand rejected by Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel as “absurd” despite his government’s opposition to the death penalty.Capital punishment is illegal throughout the European Union, and the issue was amplified in Williams’ case due to the remorse supporters believe the Crips gang co-founder showed by writing children’s books about the dangers of gangs and violence.Schwarzenegger rejected that argument and allowed the execution to go ahead Tuesday, saying “without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption.”Williams was convicted in connection with four killings during a pair of armed robberies in 1979. But he never wavered from his claim of innocence and refused to confess to crimes he said he did not commit, even if doing so would save his life.Six decades after World War II, opposition to the death penalty remains deeply entrenched in Germany and Austria, a stance resulting from remorse for the evils committed by these countries under Adolf Hitler and an attempt to prevent future state-sponsored killing.Volker Beck, a leading member of the opposition Greens party in Germany, expressed disappointment at the execution. “Schwarzenegger’s decision is a cowardly decision,” he told the Netzeitung online newspaper.In Graz, Schwarzenegger’s hometown, local Greens said they would file a petition to remove the California governor’s name from the city’s Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium. A Christian political group suggested it be renamed for Williams.”Mr. Williams had converted and, unlike Mr. Schwarzenegger, opposed every form of violence,” said Richard Schadauer, chairman of the Association of Christianity and Social Democracy.At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI’s top official for justice matters denounced the execution.”We know the death penalty doesn’t resolve anything,” said Cardinal Renato Martino. “Even a criminal is worthy of respect because he is a human being. The death penalty is a negation of human dignity.”Most of the outcry in Europe came from opposition political parties, city leaders, human rights groups and churches, with national leaders remaining silent.”Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles, but apparently not much heart,” French Socialist Party spokesman Julien Dray told RTL radio.In Italy, Franco Danieli, vice president of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized executions as an act of “dehumanization.””The execution of Tookie Williams is even more intolerable exactly because he had managed to transform the negative into the positive, violence into nonviolence,” Danieli said.Amnesty International also condemned the execution.”Tookie Williams’ violent past was well known, but he had become a textbook version of rehabilitation and his execution was a travesty of justice,” said Kate Allen, the group’s director in Britain.Rome’s Colosseum, once the arena for deadly gladiator combat and executions, has become a symbol of Italy’s anti-death penalty stance. Since 1999, the monument has been bathed in golden light every time a death sentence is commuted somewhere in the world or a country abolishes capital punishment.”I hope there will be such an occasion soon,” Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said. “When it happens, we will do it with a special thought for Tookie.”Vail, Colorado

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