By Nadeem Badshah
A BRITISH man serving a life sentence in the US for a double murder which his lawyers say he did not commit should be moved after a cellmate developed coronavirus, campaigners have urged.
Krishna Maharaj, 81, was given a death sentence for the killings in a hotel in Florida in 1986. In 2002, it was changed to life imprisonment.
A prisoner in Maharaj’s 40-man dormitory was recently quarantined with Covid-19 symptoms. Maharaj’s family fear that the Briton, who has underlying health problems, could contract the infection.
Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley wrote to Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, last month urging him to allow Maharaj to serve his sentence under house arrest at his wife Marita’s cottage.
Marita, 80, told Eastern Eye: “It is a death camp. Last time when Kris was too unwell to come to the visitation room, when he had flesh-eating bacteria in his leg, I had to visit him in the dormitory.
“They let me sit by the bed with him. I looked around and, while there were a few people in their 60s, most of the men there looked to be in the 80s, like Kris.
“So they are just crammed together to die.”
Maharaj is housed in a room with 46 other prisoners at the South Florida Reception Centre and is unable to socially distance, with beds three feet apart. He is not eligible for parole until he reaches the age of 101.
It is the latest setback for the former businessman and his family. A federal judge had ruled that “no reasonable juror” could convict him based on “clear and convincing evidence” that he was innocent.
Maharaj was granted a hearing which was set for January 2020 to consider new evidence, but a judge delayed it indefinitely to review the state of Florida’s appeal.
The human rights charity Reprieve has been supporting the family. It said its investigation found that Maharaj did not commit the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young in the Dupont Hotel. They believe it was carried out by assassins from Colombia over a drug cartel war.
Maharaj said, “Life here has always been hell, but now we have descended into the lowest regions of hell.”
He added: “I am unable to go anywhere. They deliver food to us that I cannot eat – I used to love my Alsatian [dog] and I would never make him eat this. I have to simply wait here until I catch coronavirus.
“What does it take to get a simple reply when a life is on the line?”
Clive Stafford Smith OBE, founder of Reprieve, told Eastern Eye: “It is hard to believe that the governor of the state, who is responsible for what is happening, has not bothered to reply to us in almost 50 days now, where Kris might die.
“Kris was given one death sentence already for a crime he did not commit, when they wanted to use the electric chair. Now it appears that Florida wants to execute an innocent man with Covid-19 instead.”
In his letter, Sir Bottomley, the longest serving MP in Britain, said Maharaj was “at the top of the Covid-19 death list”.
Sir Bottomley wrote: “He [Maharaj] is.an octogenarian with diabetes and 10 other illnesses that have to be treated every day. He is a dead man walking – or rather, a dead man shuffling around the prison yard with his walker.
“Lawyers for Kris have asked Florida governor Ron DeSantis to show compassion. Let Kris out on a furlough – the same as bail – to live in a small cottage with his long-suffering, 80-year-old wife Marita, who has stood by his side these last 33 years, never giving up hope that he may one day be released.
“I support the British government’s request that the governor recognise the judge’s finding.”