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The Serbian government is asking a Nevada court to block the execution of one of its citizens, saying its consulate was not informed of his 1994 arrest as required by international law.

Serbia, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed last week in Washoe County District Court in Reno, maintains the notification would have provided Avram Nika with assistance that could have spared him the death penalty.

Nika, 41, is on death row at Ely State Prison for the 1994 killing of a good Samaritan who stopped to help him along Interstate 80 near Reno. He has yet to exhaust his state and federal appeals.

"(Nika was) particularly vulnerable to the denial of consular assistance due to his inability to speak English and his lack of familiarity with the U.S. legal system and culture," Serbia's brief says.

The failure to notify the consulate caused no mitigating evidence to be presented at his sentencing hearing — such as that he was a hard-working family man who came from poverty and was discriminated against because he was a member of a nomadic ethnic group known as Roma, also called Gypsies, according to the document.

District Attorney Dick Gammick says there was no consulate to contact because the former Yugoslavia where Nika was from was undergoing drastic change at the time. Serbia did not exist as a country then, he said, and other countries in the region came and went.




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