By Matthew Bigg
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A parole board in Georgia on Tuesday denied a last-ditch clemency appeal by Troy Davis, who is set to be executed on Wednesday for the murder of a police officer in a case that has attracted international attention.
Davis was convicted of the 1989 killing of police officer Mark MacPhail near a Burger King restaurant in the city of Savannah along the Atlantic coast of the southern U.S. state.
His case has became a focus for death penalty opponents because seven of nine trial witnesses have recanted their testimony against him, prompting supporters to say he may be innocent.
The decision by Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles seemed to close the most viable legal avenue for him to avoid execution. Georgia's state constitution gives authority on pardons and paroles to the board so no appeal to the governor is possible.
"The Board has considered the totality of the information presented in this case and thoroughly deliberated on it, after which the decision was to deny clemency," the state body said in a statement.
He is due to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. local time on Wednesday at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia.
MacPhail's family says Davis is guilty and should be executed.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu and Helen Prejean, -- who wrote "Dead Man Walking," a book about a death row inmate -- are among those to issue statements on behalf of Davis. Around 2,000 people including civil rights leaders rallied on his behalf last Friday.
In a fresh sign of international concern about the case, Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, asked in a statement on Tuesday for U.S. authorities to "find a way to spare the life of Troy Davis."
"The reason is not only our disagreement over capital punishment but first and foremost the serious doubts which persist about the integrity of the conviction," Jagland said.
The council is an international body promoting cooperation among European nations on issues including human rights.
Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, called the pending execution a "civil rights violation and a human rights violation."
"We are determined to fight on behalf of Mr. Troy Davis and on behalf of justice in Georgia," Warnock told a news conference at his church, which was once led by slain U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
The case has been through a series of appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court took the rare step in August 2009 of ordering a new hearing for Davis to assess what his lawyers said was new evidence showing his innocence.
The justices transferred the case to a U.S. District Court in Georgia for a hearing and determination of his claims that new witnesses would clearly establish his innocence. A year later, Judge William Moore rejected Davis' claims of innocence.
(Editing by Will Dunham)