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Condemned prisoner Jose Medellin looked to the federal courts to keep him from the death chamber Tuesday for his part in the gang rape, beating and strangling of two teenage girls 15 years ago.

The Mexican-born Medellin, 33, faced lethal injection in a case that has drawn international attention after he raised arguments he wasn't allowed to consult the Mexican consulate for legal help after he was arrested in the girls' murders.

Late Monday, Medellin was moved from death row at a prison outside Livingston to Huntsville, where he would be the fifth Texas inmate executed this year. His transfer came after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected requests for clemency and a reprieve.

"The board's action is against the interests of the nation and risks the safety of thousands of American traveling and living abroad," said Donald Donovan, one of Medellin's lawyers, referring to the warning by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico of possible protests there Tuesday. "We must now rely on the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent Texas from breaking a commitment made by the president and Senate on behalf of the country as a whole."

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, has said Medellin and some 50 other Mexicans on death row around the nation should have new hearings in U.S. courts to determine whether a 1963 treaty was violated during their arrests. Medellin is the first among them who is set to die.

His attorneys contend he was denied the protections of the Vienna Convention, which calls for people arrested to have access to their home country's consular officials.

President Bush has asked states to review the cases, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that neither the president nor the international court can force Texas' hand. Medellin's supporters say Congress or the Texas Legislature should be given a chance to pass a law setting up procedures for new hearings before he is executed.


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