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Amnesty Protests Pending Chinese Execution

A member of Migrante International, a Filipino migrant organization, displays a placard demanding legal assistance for her relatives during a protest outside the presidential palace in Manila, February 21, 2011.

Amnesty International is calling China's decision to execute a Philippine drug smuggler on Thursday a violation of human rights, and says such executions for non-violent offenses are prevalent in other Asian countries as well.

Amnesty spokeswoman Catherine Baber spoke Tuesday in Taiwan, as Philippine authorities and family members of the condemned smuggler raced against time to save him from execution in China's Guangxi province.

"Amnesty International is devastated that the Chinese governments have confirmed their intentions to execute the Filipino alleged drug smuggler, even though the Philippine government has made representations on the defendant's behalf," she said. "The fact that China continues to execute people for non-violent and non-lethal offenses is a violation of international human rights standards."

The 35-year-old defendant, who has not been publicly identified either in China or the Philippines, was arrested in 2008 at an airport in Guangxi and charged with smuggling nearly 1.5 kilograms of heroin.

However, Amnesty's Baber noted that defendants in such convictions do not always benefit from proper legal protections, leaving them vulnerable to torture and other questionable government interrogation practices.

"Defendants can be sentenced to death based on confession evidence alone and confessions have been extracted through torture," said Baber. "We have seen cases of that from China, from Taiwan, from Indonesia, and this really means that the prospect of innocent people being executed, which is real indictment of the country's justice system, is really real in the countries across Asia currently."

The pending execution prompted Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay to hand deliver a letter Tuesday from President Benigno Aquino, asking his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, to commute the death sentence.

The Philippine Star newspaper said the appeal was made on humanitarian grounds.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.