Wien, 25. November 2008 Press release

Plassnik: Great concern over an imminent execution of WO Weihan in China

Urgent appeal by Foreign Minister for pardon by Chinese government

Vienna, 25 November 2008 - "I am deeply concerned about the great risk of an execution of the death sentence against Mr. WO Weihan in China, and I extend an urgent appeal to the Chinese Government to refrain from enforcing the death penalty in this case, for humanitarian reasons and for the sake of humaneness", said Foreign Minister Plassnik in a reaction to indications of a presumably imminent execution of the death sentence against Mr. WO Weihan, who was convicted for alleged espionage.

Together with its EU partners, Austria has been consistently undertaking efforts against the death penalty. Its particular commitment in this case is also attributed to the fact that the relatives of Mr. WO Weihan are Austrian citizens. In close consultation with the family, all diplomatic means available were set in motion from Austria to avert the death sentence. Foreign Minister Dr. Plassnik has been personally involved in the case for a long time. Together with Federal President Dr. Fischer and National Council President Mrs. Prammer, she has been engaged in favour of Mr. WO Weihan and, evoking the close and friendly bilateral relationship between the two countries, asked the Chinese leadership for a pardon on the basis of Chinese laws and the constitution. A second démarche was recently issued to Beijing by the EU upon Austria’s request. EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the President of the European Parliament Pöttering are also engaged in efforts to lift the death sentence. The Presidents of the Austrian Supreme Courts have also addressed this case toward the Supreme People’s Court.

So far hopes have rested on the new guidelines issued by the Supreme People’s Court on the application of the death penalty, which provide for a lifting of the death sentence in case of doubts about the guilt of those convicted. "Based on the information we have, the death sentence against Mr. WO Weihan was, to our great regret, confirmed by the Supreme People’s Court. We are very disappointed about this step, following the successful Olympic Games and the ASEM Summit. I therefore appeal to the Chinese Government to use the right of pardon provided in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China“, concluded the Foreign Minister.

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