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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Richard Branson: Me and Bono celebrated the postponement of an execution last night

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson at the RDS in Dublin speaking about the announcement that UPC Ireland is to become Virgin Media
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson at the RDS in Dublin speaking about the announcement that UPC Ireland is to become Virgin Media
Sir Richard Branson was unimpressed by suggestions that British rail services should be re-nationalised

Brian Hutton, Press Association

BILLIONAIRE entrepreneur Richard Branson has vowed to fight for the next 40 days to save the life of a US death row inmate whose execution was postponed at the last minute.

He says Richard Glossip, convicted of ordering his boss's murder, is innocent and did not receive a fair trial.

The state of Oklahoma issued a last-minute stay of execution until November 6 over concerns about one of the three drugs to be used in the lethal injection, potassium acetate.

Speaking in Dublin, Branson said he celebrated the postponement with his rock star friend Bono.

"We were particularly celebrating last night, a guy called Richard was about to be executed in America - we're all absolutely convinced he's innocent - and he got a 40 day reprieve," he said.

"We've been campaigning with the government to try and get him reprieved.

"So it gives 40 more days to try and make sure an innocent man doesn't get executed."

Owner of the Oklahoma City motel Barry Van Treese, Glossip's boss, was found beaten to death in 1997.

Glossip was found guilty of recruiting his co-worker Justin Sneed to carry out the killing.

His conviction was based on the evidence of Sneed, who negotiated a life sentence by claiming Glossip masterminded the murder.

For almost two decades, Glossip has proclaimed his innocence while his lawyers have questioned Sneed's credibility.

Branson took out a full-page ad in an Oklahoma newspaper before the planned execution on Wednesday accusing the state of putting to death a man whose guilt has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Pope Francis has also appealed against the execution.

In Dublin to rebrand the UPC cable company as Virgin Media, Branson also revealed he cried when Germany declared it was opening its doors to migrants.

The tycoon behind the global Virgin brand said the world owed Europe's powerhouse the "biggest hug" for doing the right thing.

"It brought tears to my eyes and a lot of people's eyes when Germany offered to take a million people in, and we saw the train loads of people going to Germany," he said.

"Germany needs the biggest hug from the world for their bravery, for doing the right thing."

Branson said Germany stands to financially benefit enormously from the effective open-door policy, which has proved controversial within the country.

"If you turn the clock forward five years, Germany will be a much stronger country as a result, but they still did the right thing," he said.

"There are certainly countries that could benefit from taking more refugees in, and obviously the refugees themselves desperately need homes."

Sir Richard said he was also celebrating U2's birthday while in Ireland.

"We actually celebrated the fact that U2 formed 39 years ago last night," he told a press briefing.

"So we had a few drinks with Bono. He's a good friend and we've done some good things over the years.

"He's always very supportive of anything we do, and we're always very supportive of anything he does.

"We spent a lot of time talking about lots of different things, connectivity in the world, what's going on in Africa, and we had a few fun drinks as well."

Branson, whose Virgin Rail trains operate on both Britain's East and West Coast Lines, initially declined to comment on British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's plans for renationalising the railway network.

But he later returned to the subject, saying: "People need to remember what rail was like in the 1980s when it was run by government.

"It was diabolical, and it's been transformed since, and that's all I'll say on that subject."

Before his election as Labour leader, Mr Corbyn once remarked: "We (the public) rebuild the West Coast Main line and then praise Richard Branson for running a protected and (to him) profitable service of Pendolino trains. Something is wrong."

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