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Swiss ask for clemency for marijuana seed smuggler
January 28, 1997

BERNE, Jan 27 (Reuter) - Switzerland said on Monday it had stepped up pressure on the Maldives to show mercy on a Swiss man given a life sentence for possessing three marijuana seeds.

A request for clemency from Swiss President Arnold Koller to the President of the Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was presented to the foreign minister of the Maldives on Sunday by the Swiss ambassador to Sri Lanka, Maria Luisa Caroni, the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Such an exceptional measure has been taken by Switzerland due to the severity of the case and the absence of legal recourse,'' the foreign ministry said.

On April 9, 1996 Erich Zimmermann, 25, was sentenced to life by a court in Male, capital of the Maldives, for possession of 0.5 grammes of marijuana under a new, tough anti-drug law. Upon his arrival in the Maldives, Zimmermann was arrested and three marijuana seeds were discovered in his luggage. He claimed to have been given the seeds during a stay in India.

The foreign ministry said the legal procedure had violated Zimmermann's human rights and that the sentence was not commensurate with the crime. Switzerland's plea for clemency follows repeated visits by ambassador Caroni to the Maldives and a letter by Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti in June. At that time Cotti expressed his hopes that Zimmermann would soon return to Switzerland for humanitarian reasons.

Copyright 1996 Reuters Limited.