Arnie terminates his home-town ties

ARNOLD Schwarzenegger turned his back on his home town in Austria yesterday, after coming under fire for denying clemency to a death-row inmate.

Councillors in Graz had been expected to rename the city's Arnold Schwarzenegger stadium next month in protest at the California governor's decision.

But the former actor beat them to it. In a letter to the local authority, the man dubbed "The Governator" demanded that Graz stop using his name on the stadium and in promotions, and said he would be returning a "ring of honour" he was awarded by city officials in 1999.

He said that since "the official Graz appears to no longer accept me as one of their own, this ring has lost its meaning and value ... it is already in the mail".

As a young man, Mr Schwarzenegger trained at the Liebenauer Stadium in Graz, and the city renamed it after their most famous son in 1997.

A petition to have Mr Schwarzenegger's name removed was launched after he allowed the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams this month.

Williams, a founder member of the Los Angeles Crips gang, who supporters said had redeemed himself by campaigning against gang violence, was executed by lethal injection after the courts rejected his appeals and Mr Schwarzenegger denied him clemency.

The Greens and the Social Democrats were expected to win a city council vote on 19 January to rename the stadium.

In his letter to Siegfried Nagl, the mayor of Graz, Mr Schwarzenegger said: "The reason for this action is apparently a decision I reached as governor of California. I rejected the clemency of a rightfully convicted four-time murderer after thorough review, and, as a result, he was executed according to the laws of this state."

He went on: "In all likelihood, during my term as governor I will have to make similar and equally difficult decisions. In order to spare the responsible politicians of the city of Graz further concern, I withdraw from them, as of this day, the right to use my name in association with the Liebenauer Stadium."

Mr Nagl accused the Greens, Social Democrats and others who have opposed Mr Schwarzenegger of orchestrating an "embarrassing farce".

The mayor claimed Graz's image had been damaged but said he at least wanted to prevent Mr Schwarzenegger from returning the ring. However, he admitted he was not hopeful the governor would reconsider.

Kurt Flecker, of the Social Democrats, said Mr Schwarzenegger had damaged his own image - not Graz's - by refusing to spare Williams's life. There was no point, he said, in "glorifying anyone who supports the death penalty".

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