Press conference: Victim of man facing execution with European drugs campaigns to save his life

July 4, 2011

Tomorrow (Tuesday 5 July), shooting victim Rais Bhuiyan will speak at a press conference at the European Parliament on his campaign to save the life of the man who shot him and  now faces execution in the US, using drugs produced by a European company. Rais was shot by Mark Ströman along with two other men he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.Press conference: 14:00-15:00, Tuesday 5 July, European Parliament, Strasbourg, room LOW S3.5Speakers: Rais Bhuiyan, victim of Mark Ströman and advocate; Sarah Ludford MEP, Lib Dem human rights spokesperson; Maya Foa, Investigator, ReprieveRais Bhuiyan survived being shot in 2001 by Mark Ströman, an American with strong links to Germany who is due to be executed in Texas using the drug pentobarbital, which was produced by a European firm. Rais has travelled to Europe as part of his tireless efforts to stop Mark’s execution, scheduled for 20 July. Mark Ströman was sentenced to death in 2002 for a crime committed immediately after the attack on the twin towers on 11 September, 2001.  In the days following the tragedy, Mark shot and killed two men he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent and injured Rais Bhuiyan. Rais believes that executing Mark will only perpetuate the cycle of hate and violence seen on 9/11.  He has said that Mark’s execution will only end another human life without eliminating the root cause of violence, and insists that bridges can only be built between victims and perpetrators through forgiveness.  Rais is asking Texas to reduce Mark’s sentence from death to life in prison. Rais is in Strasbourg to raise awareness about the impending execution and the European trade in lethal injection drugs. He will speak as part of a seminar and press conference hosted by Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokesperson Sarah Ludford MEP about how to stop European drugs from being used in executions. Rais is also speaking in the German Parliament on Thursday 7 July, asking for the German government’s support in seeking clemency for Mark Ströman; and meeting with the Executive Vice President of Lundbeck, the Danish company which produced the drugs which will be used in the execution. Mark is the father of three daughters and a son, and was raised in Texas. He is of German descent and has close family ties to Germany.

Notes for Editors: European death drugs Following domestic shortages in the US, European drugs have come to dominate the execution process. Key drugs used in carrying out lethal injections produced by firms from Britain and Denmark have so far been used to execute over 20 people in the US. Several of the executions using the new European drugs have apparently been botched, with the prisoners in a number of cases either jerking or thrashing, or keeping their eyes open during the process – indications that they would have suffered severe pain. While unilateral action by the UK government and (most recently) pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck is starting to constrain this trade, EU-wide measures are necessary to ensure this is not allowed to happen again. Who is Mark Ströman? Mark Ströman, a man with strong links to Germany, is currently on death row in Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas. He is due to be executed by the state of Texas on 20 July 2011. Mark has strong ties to Germany. His father, Eddie Ströman, was from Germany. Mark’s father’s family are originally from Lower Saxony.  Accordingly, we have approached the German consulate in Texas to ask them urgently to consider whether Mark Strömancan be recognised as a German national.  Mark Ströman was born on October 3, 1969.  Before he was born, Mark chose the wrong parents.  Mark’s mother Sandra was a severe alcoholic. She was found in a gutter during one of her pregnancies and hospitalised. Sandra married Doyle Baker, Mark’s stepfather. They were both heavy drinkers living in their own world. Mark’s mother told him “you were just $50 short of being aborted, I wish I’d borrowed the money.” Doyle physically abused Mark throughout his childhood. Unsurprisingly, Mark had problems in school and was bullied.  Doyle would beat Mark up to show him what he should do to his bullies. Mark, desperate to get away from his parents, ran away from home frequently; he would ride his bike 30 miles at the age of 8 to come to his grandparents’ house. Mark was first diagnosed as suffering from mental health problems before the age of 10 and again at age 13, but he never received proper treatment.  Mark began using drugs to escape his brutal reality at around age 11.  The fruit does not fall far from the tree.  Mark absorbed many lessons from his mother and step-father – on violence, on racism, on paranoia, on substance abuse – none of which was positive. Mark was sentenced to death for a series of shootings in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, which left two men dead and one man injured. Why should Mark not be killed on 20 July? Mark’s victims and their families have suffered a great deal from his actions; nevertheless, they all oppose Mark’s execution.  Mark’s surviving victim, Rais Bhuyian, is actively campaigning for Mark’s sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  In whose name is Texas killing Mark Ströman if none of the victims want this kind of vengeance? While Mark Ströman would not begin to pretend that, even today, he is the person he wants to be, he has struggled to overcome some of the “lessons” that his mother and stepfather taught him.  He is, today, proud of his German roots, and maintains an active correspondence with pen pals in Germany and around the world.  One of his German pen pals has written to Reprieve to tell us how Mark’s faithful letters, humanity and friendship helped her overcome her depression. Mark is deeply remorseful for his actions in September 2001, and does not know why he did what he did.  It is clear that he suffered from diminished capacity at the time, because of his mental health problems, which he attempted to self-medicate by taking drugs; that alone should disqualify him from execution. Sadly, however, this and other issues were never properly raised in court, because Mark never had the legal assistance he needed until it was too late.  His publicly appointed lawyers lacked the resources properly to investigate Mark’s background and the circumstances surrounding his alleged crimes.  Mark Ströman is due to be executed by lethal injection. Texas has recently changed its execution protocol from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital, which is manufactured by Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck. This shift, hastily effected with no clinical or scientific testing, puts prisoners at risk of extreme suffering. Extensive research shows that pentobarbital was developed as a sedative and has no clinical history as an agent to induce anaesthesia. Should the agent not work, as is highly likely according to anaesthesiologists’ analyses, Mark will suffer excruciating pain as the next two drugs are administered. Who are Reprieve? Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smithis the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.  Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’