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Singapore to hang Australian on Dec 2

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  • Free Speech Singapore
    The Singapore Government has rejected appeals from the United Nations, two Popes, human rights organisations and Australian Government to spare the life of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2005
      The Singapore Government has rejected appeals from the United Nations, two Popes, human rights organisations and Australian Government to spare the life of Australian Nguyen Tuong Van who is due to be hanged on December 2 after being convicted of smuggling heroin through Singapore's Changi Airport. Meanwhile, the local media in Singapore has downplayed the news. The country's main newspaper The Straits Times reported the UN story two days late and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's apology to his Australian counterpart John Howard was tucked away on page four, under the header 'PM : Two reasons for S'pore's firm stand on drugs'.
      Silence over Nguyen's hanging
      By Jake Lloyd-Smith

      SINGAPORE'S Prisons Department has drawn a veil of silence over the impending execution of convicted Australian drug trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen.

      Today it rebuffed inquiries about how it handles final arrangements for death row inmates.

      Its refusal to detail standard practices for executions in the city-state echoed a decision midweek from the Government, which offered no new response to a complaint filed with the UN by local anti-death penalty activists.

      The controversial case has also received scant attention in Singapore's print and broadcast media, which has strong links to the Government and is broadly supportive of its policies.

      Nguyen Tuong Van,
who is facing
execution in
Singapore, in a
family photo.

      Nguyen Tuong Van, who is facing execution in Singapore, in a family photo.
      Photo: Supplied

      Mum told: Your son will hang in 14 days

      MELBOURNE man Tuong Van Nguyen has only 14 days to live.

      The Singapore Government yesterday confirmed his execution date as December 2.

      The chilling news was delivered to the convicted drug trafficker's mother despite a last-ditch personal plea for clemency from Prime Minister John Howard in a meeting with Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.

      In an extraordinary snub, it emerged that even as Mr Howard was pleading for Nguyen's life, an official letter advising of the hanging had been received by Mrs Nguyen. "I am very disappointed I was not told, very disappointed," a fuming Mr Howard said later.

      As Mrs Nguyen prepared to travel to Singapore for a final embrace with her son, the PM conceded any hope of saving Nguyen had faded.



       Letter sent to Kim Nguyen


      Letter sent to Kim Nguyen informing her of her son's impending execution.

      Ministry of Home Affairs
      Changi Prison Complex.

      Dear Madam,
      1. This is to inform you that the death sentence passed on Nguyen Tuong Van will be carried out on 2 Dec 2005.
      2. We will arrange for additional visits from 29 Nov till 1 Dec 2005. Approved visitors may register for their visits between 8.30am and 9.30am and between 12.30pm and 1.30pm at the Prison Link Centre, Changi (990 Upper Changi Road North Singapore 506968).
      3. You are requested to make the necessary funeral arrangements for him, however if you are unable to do so the state will assist in cremating the body.
      Please do not hesitate to contact our officers in charge if you have any queries.

      Yours Faithfully,
      Chiam Jia Fong
      Institution A1, Cluster 1,
      Singapore's Prison Service. 

      Lex Lasry holds the letter to Nguyen Tuong Van's mother, Kim, announcing the date of his execution.

      Lex Lasry holds the letter to Nguyen Tuong Van's mother, Kim, announcing the date of his execution.
      Photo: Craig Abraham

      Fading hope...Kim Nguyen holds pictures of her twin sons Van and Khoa yesterday. Picture: David Crosling.

      Singapore PM apologises to Howard
      By Saffron Howden, Sandra O'Malley and Shelley Markham
      November 17, 2005

      SINGAPORE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has apologised to Prime Minister John Howard for not personally informing him of the date for an Australian man's execution in Singapore.

      And the Singapore Government has revealed that the letter it sent to Tuong Van Nguyen's family, informing them of his December 2 execution date, had been delivered a day earlier than planned. An investigation will be held into how this happened.

      Mr Howard met Mr Lee today in South Korea and made another unsuccessful appeal for clemency for 25-year-old Nguyen Tuong Van, who is due to face the gallows at Changi prison in Singapore on December 2.

      However, he did not learn until after the meeting that the Singapore government had set a date for the hanging.

      The news came instead from Nguyen's lawyer in Melbourne, Lex Lasry, who said Nguyen's mother had been advised by letter of when her son would die.

      Mr Lee today apologised to Mr Howard, blaming an earlier-than-intended delivery of the letter to Nguyen's family. The letter was meant to be delivered on November 18.

      "PM Lee Hsien Loong has apologised to PM John Howard for not informing him of Mr Nguyen Tuong Van's execution date during their meeting this morning," Mr Lee's spokesman Chen Hwai Liang said in a statement tonight.


      UN rights expert calls on Singapore not to execute convicted drug trafficker

      15 November 2005 A United Nations human rights expert today called on the Government of Singapore not to execute a man sentenced to death for attempting to traffic heroin, declaring that the execution violate international legal standards.

      "Making such a penalty mandatory – thereby eliminating the discretion of the court – makes it impossible to take into account mitigating or extenuating circumstances and eliminates any individual determination of an appropriate sentence in a particular case," the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Philip Alston, said.

      "The adoption of such a black and white approach is entirely inappropriate where the life of the accused is at stake. Once the sentence has been carried out it is irreversible," he added.

      Nguyen Tuong Van was sentenced to death for attempting to traffic just under 400 grams of pure heroin through Changi Airport in December 2002.

      Mr. Alston noted that the Singaporean Government had in the past stated that the death penalty is primarily a question for the sovereign jurisdiction of each country, but he said matters relating to the functioning of the criminal justice system are legitimate matters of international concern when questions of non-compliance with international standards are involved.

      He added that the Singapore Court of Appeal had failed to examine the most relevant case of all in rejecting the condemned man's appeal, one in which the United Kingdom's Law Lords endorsed the statement that "No international human rights tribunal anywhere in the world has ever found a mandatory death penalty regime compatible with international human rights norms."

      Noting the longstanding commitment of the Singaporean courts to the rule of law, Mr. Alston called upon the Government to take all necessary steps to avoid an execution which is inconsistent with accepted standards of international human rights law.

      Responding to Mr. Alston's statement, a spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that there is no international consensus on capital punishment and "it is the sovereign right of every country to decide whether or not to include it within its criminal justice system."

      In comments released to the press, the spokesman said Mr. Alston "grossly misrepresented" the facts when he claimed that the Singapore Court of Appeals had not considered the most relevant precedent case. The spokesman added that since Mr. Nguyen was tried "in an entirely open, fair and transparent manner," the case did not fall within Mr. Alston's mandate. "We have previously protested Mr. Alston's abuse of his office and will continue to do so as necessary," the statement said.


      Singapore accuses UN of misleading
      Date: 16/11/05
      By Jake Lloyd-Smith

      Singapore has spurned a United Nations bid to halt the execution of Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, accusing its special rapporteur of trying to mislead the public.

      In a strongly worded statement, the city-state said Philip Alston, the Australian who monitors the death penalty for the world body, of diminishing the credibility of his office.

      The blunt rejection appears to close off a final avenue of hope for Nguyen, 25, who is expected to be hanged this month after being arrested at Singapore's Changi Airport in 2002 with almost 400 grams of heroin.

      Late on Tuesday, Mr Alston had in a surprise move appealed to Singapore to halt Ngyuen's execution, saying that it would violate international legal standards.

      The statement followed a last-ditch appeal to the UN from M Ravi, a Singapore human rights lawyer who has attempted to stave off the Melbourne mans execution.

      Nguyen was sentenced to death in March 2004 and all appeals for clemency from his legal team and the Australian government have so far been rebuffed.

      "We regret that Mr Alston has attempted to mislead the public. In doing so, he diminishes the credibility of his office," the Singapore statement from the ministry of foreign affairs said.

      In his appeal, Mr Alston had focused particular attention on Singapore's mandatory use of the death sentence.

      "Such a black and white approach is entirely inappropriate where the life of the accused is at stake," Mr Alston said.

      Singapore law dictates that anyone convicted of carrying more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine, or 500 grams of marijuana is deemed a trafficker, and must be hanged.

      The local courts have no discretion to consider extenuating circumstances in such cases.

      But Singapore said that the case law cited by Mr Alston was inappropriate.

      "Mr Alston grossly misrepresented the facts in claiming that the Singapore Court of Appeal considered a range of cases decided by the Privy Council (but) failed to examine the most relevant case of all ie Boyce and Joseph v The Queen," the Singapore statement said.

      "That case was in fact cited by Nguyen's lawyers in their written arguments and the Court of Appeal dealt with it in its judgment".

      The Singapore statement went on to claim Mr Alston had overstepped his UN authority in even considering Nguyen's case.

      "Mr Nguyen was tried and convicted in an entirely open, fair and transparent manner, according to due process of law, as has been acknowledged by the Australian government," it said.

      "Therefore this case does not fall within (Mr Alston's) mandate."


      Papal appeal for Nguyen clemency fails

      POPE John Paul II and his successor Pope Benedict XVI both made direct but unsuccessful appeals to Singapore to spare the life of convicted Australian drug courier Nguyen Tuong Van.

      Melbourne priest Peter Norden said it appeared the appeals had fallen on deaf ears after the Singapore government today notified Nguyen's mother that her son would be executed, on December 2.

      Fr Norden had written to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to seek clemency for the 25-year-old, who was caught at Changi airport in 2002 with 396 grams of heroin strapped to his body and in his hand luggage.

      The priest also revealed today that he had received a reply from the Apostolic Nuncio - the Pope's Australian representative - several days ago, informing him that Pope John Paul II had appealed for clemency before he died earlier this year.



      Grim message shatters stricken mother's hopes

      By Steve Butcher
      November 18, 2005

      KIM Nguyen was surrounded by friends and helpers yesterday, there to prepare a public display of Australia's support for her son.

      Her small eastern suburban home had been turned into a blaze of colour by the thousands of strangers who had traced their hands and sent messages of mercy for the Reach Out campaign to save Nguyen Tuong Van's life.

      Amid it all came a knock at the front door. A courier stood with a registered letter, postmarked Singapore, where Nguyen sits on death row.

      Mrs Nguyen was asked to sign for the letter, which came from the Singapore Prisons Department. She sat down on her couch and began to read, focusing on the date "2nd of December", but passing over the words "death sentence".

      Mrs Nguyen called for her son's close friend, Bronwyn Lew, to sit beside her and read it, but despite its clarity, she seemed not to grasp its message.

      It was not until she saw the early television news last night that this woman, whose heart was broken 20 months ago when her son was sentenced to death, comprehended the words of the superintendent of Singapore's Prison Service.

      Chiam Jia Fong told her she was "requested" to make funeral arrangements for her son, but if not able, Singapore would help cremate him.

      Someone who was with Mrs Nguyen last night said no one there had the words describe her state.

      At the bottom of the letter was stamped the words CAPTAINS OF LIVES and beneath that: REHAB — RENEW, RESTART.

      The authorities who will hang her son had posted a letter — which advised her he would live another 15 days — with the logo of the rehabilitation program run by the Singapore Prisons Service.

      A portrait of  Nguyen Tuong Van stands amongst thousands of hand outlines.

      A portrait of  Nguyen Tuong Van stands amongst thousands of hand outlines.

      Hands for Nguyen on display

      THOUSANDS of hand-shaped notes seeking clemency for convicted Australian drug smuggler Van Tuong Nguyen will go on display in Melbourne today.

      It is a last ditch bid to save the 25 year-old Melbourne man due to face the gallows in Singapore's Changi prison on December 2, despite repeated pleas from human rights organisations, the Australian government and two popes.

      The "Reach Out" public campaign representing the only contact between Nguyen and his mother - with their hands pressed up against a glass partition - will go on display at Melbourne's State Library, in Swanston Street.



      Singapore News »

      25-year-old Australian Nguyen Tuong Van
      Time is GMT + 8 hours
      Posted: 17 November 2005 2137 hrs

      Convicted Aussie drug trafficker Nguyen to hang on Dec 2
      By Channel NewsAsia's Asha Popatlal in South Korea

      After a number of appeals, convicted Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van will face the death penalty on 2 December.

      The matter was mentioned at a meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australia's Prime Minister John Howard on the sidelines of the APEC summit in South Korea.

      Mr Howard made one last appeal on Nguyen's behalf.

      But Mr Lee explained that after careful consideration and looking at similar cases, the clemency appeal had to be rejected.

      Mr Lee said: "I explained to him why we were unable to accede to the request even though we understood where he was coming from and I respected his views."

      However, a letter had, by that time, already been delivered to Nguyen's mother informing her of the execution date.

      Both leaders were not aware of this at the time of the meeting.

      Upon hearing this, Mr Howard told media later in the day: "I'm very disappointed I was not told, very disappointed."

      In a statement, Mr Lee's press secretary said Mr Lee apologised to Mr Howard for the embarrassment of not informing him of Mr Nguyen's execution date during their morning meeting.

      This was because the letter informing the family of the execution date was mistakenly delivered a day earlier.

      Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo had informed his counterpart Alexander Downer in confidence of this on Monday and stated that Singapore would inform the Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the execution date once the family was told.

      Mr Yeo has also conveyed his apologies to his counterpart. - CNA/ir


      Singapore to review death method
      Alan Shadrake and Michael Davis

      AUSTRALIAN drug-smuggler Nguyen Tuong Van is likely to be one of the last people to face the hangman in Singapore after a review of execution methods by prison officials.

      At 73, Singapore's chief hangman, Darshan Singh, has told prison officials he wants to retire, but a search for a replacement has been unsuccessful.

      The Weekend Australian has learnt that officials have been studying other methods of execution and are leaning towards the lethal injection technique used in 37 of the 38 US states that practice capital punishment.

      Lex Lasry QC and Julian McMahon left Melbourne for Singapore last night, still unsure whether their client, waiting on death row in the infamous Changi prison, was even aware that he would be hanged at dawn on December 2.

      Van's distraught mother, Kim, who learned of the execution date in a cursory registered letter from the prison's superintendent on Thursday, remained in Melbourne. Comforted by her brother, she continues to pray at the tiny altar inside the housing commission home in the city's east where she raised her twin sons after arriving in Australia as a boatperson more than 20 years ago.

      She will get to see her son again only in the three days leading up to the execution, and was told in the letter that if she could not make funeral arrangements, prison officials would arrange for his cremation.

      "It's no point her going over until we can organise for her to visit her son in the prison," Mr McMahon said.

      Mr Lasry said: "As long as he is alive we will continue the campaign.

      "At some point, the Singapore Government must realise as a First World country it can no longer continue to impose mandatory death sentences."

      The review of execution methods was also prompted by technical glitches in a new execution chamber installed in Changi prison during renovations last year.

      A mechanical lever that used to operate the trapdoor has been replaced with a semi-automated electric switch.

      Mr Singh, a veteran of more than 850 hangings, is understood to be unhappy with the new machinery, which is prone to malfunction.

      A colleague of Mr Singh, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Australian last month that after more than 40 years, the hangman wanted to retire.

      But one of two candidates picked to replace him froze and was unable to complete his first execution. A second left the prison service.

      The lethal injection method being considered by Singapore officials as an alternative is modelled on the procedure introduced in 1977 in Oklahoma.

      The prisoner is strapped to a gurney and an intravenous tube is inserted into each arm with a flow of harmless saline solution. At the warden's signal, 5g of sodium pentothal is administered, which renders the prisoner unconscious.

      It is followed by pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant that paralyses the diaphragm and lungs, and finally potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.


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      Photo of Darshan Singh, Singapore's executioner.

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