Australian Van Nguyen executed in Singapore

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Friday, December 2, 2005

Convicted Australian drug trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen was executed at Changi Prison in Singapore today. Prison officials have confirmed the execution took place at 0900 AEDT (2200 UTC Thursday).

The 25-year-old Nguyen was arrested at Changi Airport in December, 2002, while in transit from Cambodia to Australia. He was found to be in possession of 396.2 grams of heroin. He was convicted in the Singapore High Court and sentenced to death under the Misuse of Drugs Act which mandates a death sentence for trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin.

All appeals for clemency were rejected. Singapore's High Commissioner in Australia, Joseph Koh, said Singapore carefully considered appeals from Australia but decided the law must be applied consistently. "It had to treat Nguyen consistently with similar past cases, and apply the law equally to Singaporeans and foreigners," Mr Koh said.

After saying goodbye to his client, Nguyen's Australian lawyer, Julian McMahon, said Nguyen's execution was a waste. "He is completely rehabilitated, completely reformed, completely focused on doing what is good and now they're going to kill him," he said.

It was previously reported that Nguyen's mother would not be permitted to embrace her son before the execution, however, Mr McMahon has confirmed that they were allowed some physical contact. "Well I actually wasn't in the room when that happened but there was a grill and they were able to hold each other's hands and Kim was able to, at least for some time, I'm not sure how long, was able to touch Van on the face," he said. "She told me she was able to talk to him and touch his hair. That was a great comfort to her."

Prayer vigils were held outside Changi Prison and around Australia to mark the first execution of an Australian since Michael McAuliffe in Malaysia in 1993. Nguyen's body is expected to be returned to Australia on Saturday for a funeral next week.

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