10 Nov 2005

Last-ditch plea to stop hangman

November 9, 2005 - 4:53PM

A Singapore human rights lawyer battling to block the execution of convicted Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van has asked the United Nations to intervene and prevent a "manmade disaster".

Singapore authorities have turned down all pleas for clemency, including from the Australian government.

The 25-year-old Melbourne man could be hanged within days.

M Ravi, a vocal anti-death penalty campaigner in the city-state, today released details of a last-ditch overnight appeal for help he has made to Philip Alston, an Australian who is the UN's Geneva-based special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

"I humbly urge your good office to urgently intervene in stopping this manmade disaster from taking place," Ravi's letter says.

Ravi's complaint to the UN alleges that the impending execution of Nguyen would breach Singapore's constitution and be a serious miscarriage of justice.

Ravi singled out September's extradition to Singapore from Australia of a British national, Michael McCrea, who has been accused of a double murder in Singapore.

The campaigner said that as a condition of McCrea's extradition from Australia to Singapore, the Singapore government agreed not to apply the death penalty should McCrea eventually be convicted.

Singapore law mandates the death penalty for anyone convicted of murder, although the president can later grant clemency.

The differing approaches to the two cases meant that Nguyen had been discriminated against, the letter argued.

Nguyen, 25, was arrested at Singapore's Changi airport while in transit from Cambodia to Australia in December 2002.

He was sentenced to death in March 2004 for carrying almost 400 grams of heroin.

Local activists say that Nguyen is likely to die this Friday or November 18.

So far there has been no confirmation yet of a date from his family or legal team.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi tried and failed to deliver a bundle of messages of support to Nguyen in Changi Prison but officers at the jail would not accept the package.

There has so far been no explanation for the refusal from the Singapore authorities.

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