Malaysian Sultan pardons Mexican brothers on death row
In this May 17, 2012, file photo, Mexican brothers, from left, Luis Alfonso Gonzalez Villarreal, Simon Gonzalez Villarreal and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, leave a courthouse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A lawyer for the Mexican brothers convicted of drug trafficking said Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, death sentences for the three men have been commuted to prison terms. They are serving new sentences of 30 years in prison, starting from the date of the royal pardon.Lai Seng Sin / AP
Johor sultan pardons Mexican brothers on death row
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The deaths sentences against three Mexican brothers convicted of drug trafficking in Malaysia have been commuted to prison terms, a lawyer said Friday.
Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said the prison department confirmed the sentences had been commuted by the state sultan on March 26.
They are serving new sentences of 30 years in prison, starting from the date of the royal pardon. Teh was one of two lawyers for the brothers during their trial but said he didn’t handle their bid for a royal pardon.
The brothers from Mexico’s Sinaloa state were arrested at a secluded Malaysian drug factory in 2008 and said they had been cleaning the place.
Police found more than 29 kilograms (63 pounds) of methamphetamine at the factory.
Malaysia’s High Court convicted the brothers — Jose Regino, Simon and Luis Alfonso Gonzalez Villarreal — of drug trafficking in May 2012. The crime carries a mandatory penalty of death by hanging.
Their appeals to higher courts had failed with the country’s top federal court upholding the death sentences in 2015.
Sinaloa state is the cradle of Mexico’s drug trade, but the brothers had no criminal record at home. They had worked making and selling bricks in Mexico, and their family said the brothers left for a job opportunity abroad and there were no signs they were involved in the drug trade.
The Sultan of [the Malaysian state of] Johor has commuted the death sentences of three Mexican brothers who were set to be hanged for drug trafficking crimes, Mexico said.
After years of lobbying by Mexican diplomats, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar of Johor commuted the men’s death sentences to life in prison, Mexico’s foreign ministry said Thursday.
“This was the result of a long process and intense dialogue with Malaysian federal authorities,” it said in a statement.
The brothers – Simon, Luis Alfonso and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal – were arrested in a raid on a methamphetamine lab in Johor in March 2008.
The brothers, who hail from the Mexican state of Sinaloa – home to jailed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel – insisted they were innocent, saying they had been hired to clean the building and were unaware what was being made inside.
But a Malaysian court sentenced them to hang to death in May 2012. The conviction was upheld on appeal the following year.
Mexico, which does not use capital punishment, neither accepted nor rejected the court’s guilty verdict, but pushed for the death sentence to be commuted