Peter Byrne, 37, an engineering lecturer from Blessington, had pleaded not guilty on grounds of insanity to charges he stabbed his childhood friend Max Conroy to death at Conroy’s Panama City apartment in July 1999.
Despite the evidence of nine psychiatrists that he was unfit to plead, a Panama jury found him guilty.
Details of how he will serve his sentence in Ireland and legal papers giving the consent of Byrne and the authorities to the repatriation have been sent to Panama by the department of foreign affairs.
The British embassy in Panama has been helping in the process as Ireland has no diplomatic mission there.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell told Labor TD Jack Wall that he has consented to Byrne’s transfer and assured him that every effort is being made to finalize the matter “as a matter of urgency.”
When the consent forms are returned an application will be made to the High Court to have the necessary warrant issued.
Byrne and Conroy had known each other for 20 years. Byrne had flown to Panama after attending a conference in the U.S. Conroy worked in Panama for the Cable and Wireless firm.
In a prosecution statement read to the court, Byrne admitted killing Conroy, saying he feared his friend intended to feed him to an alligator or throw him from the balcony of the high-rise apartment.
At his Panama Supreme Court trial, the jury rejected Byrne’s insanity plea and returned a guilty verdict after less than an hour of deliberations.
Wall, who has been campaigning for the repatriation on behalf of the convicted man’s family on humanitarian grounds, said he understood the transfer application would be made to the High Court here as soon as all the necessary forms had been signed in Panama.
“This is a very sad case, particularly as a close friend of the family was killed. Everybody has been very helpful because they have really gone through the mill on this.
“The cost to his family of keeping in contact and visiting Peter has been huge and the Panamanians have obviously taken this into account.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a family so committed and supportive. His parents, Seamus and Bridie, and his brothers and sisters, have joined and united together and given Peter enormous support.
“Peter is in need of constant medication to keep him in good health and that has always been a concern of the family. When he is back, his family and his own GP can keep in close contact and ensure he is receiving proper treatment.”
Wall referred also to the opinion of the nine expert medical witnesses. “Every one of them, including three prosecution psychiatrists, three independent psychiatrists and those retained by his defense team, all agreed he wasn’t in a fit state when this murder took place.
“Despite that, he was still convicted. It was extraordinary. But there is nothing that can be done about that now. We have to move on and priority is proper care for Peter.”
Wall said he understood Byrne would serve the same sentence here as he would have in Panama.
“That appears to be a core issue in repatriations of this kind,” he added.