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Australia clears way for American's deportation to face murder charges

By Hugh Williams, For CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gabe Watson was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his new wife
  • The two had gone for a scuba diving trip off Queensland in 2003
  • The U.S. says it will not seek the death penalty against Watson
RELATED TOPICS
  • Australia
  • Queensland

Sydney, Australia (CNN) -- The Australian government has agreed to deport an American citizen to face murder charges back home after it was assured that the United States will not seek the death penalty, immigration officials said.

Gabe Watson was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his new wife during a scuba diving trip off Queensland in 2003. He finished his 18-month prison sentence last week and is being held in immigration detention.

"The Australian government has received assurances from the U.S. government that should Mr. Watson be removed to the U.S., the death penalty would not be sought, imposed or carried out," said Sandi Logan, a spokesman for the Australian Department of Immigration & Citizenship.

"We have informed Mr. Watson and his legal representatives of this assurance. We are now satisfied that our international obligations have been met and are commencing plans for Mr. Watson's removal," he added.

Australia has a long-standing extradition treaty with the United States that prevents extradition if a person being charged could possibly face the death penalty.

Watson was dubbed "The Honeymoon Killer" by the Australian media after the death of his wife, Tina, during a trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

By the time the case went to trial, he had returned to the United States and remarried. He came back to Australia to plead guilty to manslaughter charges and served his sentence.

Meanwhile in Alabama, attorney general Troy King convened a grand jury investigation last month to look for a murder indictment into the death of Tina Watson, CNN affiliate WBRC said.

"Trying to turn this case into a murder is a desperate attempt at attention," Brett Bloomston, who is representing Gabe Watson, told reporters last month.