Livni to Thai FM: Nix death sentences

Thai counterpart: Long way to go in case of Israelis convicted of possessing 23,000 Ecstasy pills.

ecstasy pills 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
ecstasy pills 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday afternoon held a telephone conversation with her Thai counterpart urging him to commute the death sentences handed down in Thailand Tuesday against two Israelis convicted of drug-smuggling. The two men, Alon Mahluf, 37, and Vladimir Agronik, were arrested last year in a drug bust on Bangkok's Kao San Road, a destination popular with Israeli tourists. During the telephone conversation, Livni said that drugs were a terrible affliction, stressing that those who commit drug-related crimes should sit behind bars. Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat told Livni that there were many more stages in the judicial process and said the death sentences were far from being carried out. At the end of the conversation, they agreed that the Israeli Foreign Ministry would continue to follow the case. Mahluf and Agronik were convicted of possessing some 23,000 Ecstasy pills that Thai police said were destined for Italy and the US. During the large-scale operation, coordinated with US police, a number of other Israeli citizens were arrested, but most were subsequently released when it was determined they had no connection to the drug ring. On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the families of the two men were informed of the sentence, and that the ministry was following the issue through the embassy in Bangkok, which was in contact with the two. The ministry said that the two men had the right to appeal, adding that in a similar case involving foreign nationals in the past, the sentence was changed by a court of appeals. One Foreign Ministry official said that although intervening with another country's legal system was "problematic," the first priority would be to appeal the death sentence and get it commuted. If that were possible, the official said, discussions could then be held about allowing the two to serve their sentences in Israel. It is not the first time that Israelis have been sentenced to death in Thailand for drug-related crimes. In 1997, a Thai court sentenced a pair of Israelis to death for attempting to smuggle some 3 kilograms of cocaine, but they were later released when then-president Ezer Weizman's interceded with the king of Thailand.