6 Nov 2005

Prayer for man on death row in Singapore

November 6, 2005 - 10:34AM

More than 1,000 people packed St Patrick's Catholic cathedral in Melbourne on Sunday for an inter-faith service to pray for an Australian national on death row in Singapore.

Nguyen's Tuong Van's mother, Kim Nguyen, sat throughout the service with her hands held in silent prayer, except for when she joined family and friends at the altar.

After the service an emotional Mrs Nguyen said she was grateful for the support.

"Everyone who comes to help, they pray for my son today, thank you," Mrs Nguyen said.

She said she did not know if her son was aware of the prayer services and the swell of support from the community in Australia.

"I wish he knows, but I am really not sure."

She said she has not received any letters or phone calls from her son, and the only contact has been through glass during a visit to Changi prison in Singapore, where her son has been for the past three years.

"No nothing, I just go to Singapore and visit him in front of the glass for about half an hour.

"Very hard, three years already."

The service began with the chanting of the Mantra for the presentation of life by the monks of the Quang Minh temple in Melbourne.

There were no testimonials, just prayers offered in English and Vietnamese for the 25-year-old, who could face the gallows sometime in the next four weeks.

Father Peter Hansen told the congregation, which ranged in age from young babies to the elderly, and was a mixture of different cultures, that Nguyen, like Sir Thomas Moore, would reflect on his life during his time behind bars.

Sir Thomas was the Renaissance English author and Catholic martyr, who was found guilty of treason and spent time in the Tower of London, before he was beheaded on July 6, 1535.

Fr Hansen said both men "had gone to the darkest place that any human being could wish to got to."

And he said like Sir Thomas, Nguyen had "suffered deprivation of his liberty".

Among those in the congregation were Nguyen's Melbourne legal team, Lex Lasry, QC, who sat beside Mrs Nguyen, and fellow lawyer, Julian McMahon.

Outside the church Mr Lasry reiterated that they have not given up the fight.

"All time passing means is that we keep fighting ... as I have said plenty of times before, we're going to keep pushing on," Mr Lasry said.

"We've got a number of arguments to put and a number of steps to take yet and so we just keep going."

Mr Lasry said the turn-out meant a lot to Nguyen's family.

"It shows them that they've got great support in the extraordinary difficulties that they have to deal with and I think that's a very important thing," he said.

"Our client's mother knows she is not alone and that she is being supported by a wide range of people."

He said he suspected Nguyen was aware of some support from home.

"Knowing Van I'm sure he's very pleased and quite moved by it".

Fr Peter Norden, from the Jesuit Social Services, said that the service was a sign of solidarity by the Victorian community about its belief in the dignity of all life.

"There was easily one thousand people in the church, it was full," Fr Norden said.

"Even though this young man's been convicted of an offence, we don't believe that he deserves to lose his life."

Bronwyn Lew, who has been behind the Reach Out for Van campaign, said she was overwhelmed by the support.

"It is wonderful and I think it's a good opportunity for people to show their support by coming here today," Ms Lew said.

"We need to keep hope and we need to keep fighting."

She said that they had also received emails from around the world in support of the Reach out for Van campaign.

"We've been receiving hands from big to small, adult hands to baby hands on coloured pieces of paper, and some are written in different languages and some from different countries, which is very beautiful.

"We hope that with these hands we can carry the message to the Singapore government that Van's life should be spared, and he doesn't deserve to die."

Nguyen was caught smuggling 396 grams of heroin strapped to his body and in his hand luggage at Changi airport in Singapore in 2002.

© 2005 AAP

And a related story...

Death row tip leads to raid

CONDEMNED Melbourne man Tuong Van Nguyen has supplied Australian police with information that has led to the conviction of a Sydney man on a drug charge.

The man, Alan Yeung, 34, was convicted last year on one count of possessing a prohibited drug after police found heroin and ecstasy at his home.
Australian Federal Police who raided his home were acting on information supplied by Nguyen, an AFP spokeswoman this week confirmed.

They found one gram of heroin and an ecstasy tablet.

Agents executed the raid after interviewing Nguyen, now 25, in his Changi prison cell.

After his arrest at Changi Airport in 2002, Nguyen provided information about Australian men who helped set him up with the doomed heroin smuggling bid.

The AFP then launched an investigation into local drug activity, which led to the arrest of Mr Yeung.

The AFP has written to Singapore authorities highlighting Nguyen's co-operation with them.

But he is expected to be hanged in coming weeks for trying to smuggle 396g of heroin out of the Singapore.

Repeated appeals for clemency have failed.

Victoria's Deputy Premier, John Thwaites, this week threw his support behind the Reach Out campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the Melbourne man's plight.

"The death penalty achieves nothing. It is barbaric and demeans us all," Mr Thwaites said. "I urge the Singapore Government to spare Mr Nguyen's life. Their constitution allows for clemency when an offender co-operates with authorities."

A multi-faith service will be held for Nguyen at St Patrick's Cathedral, East Melbourne, from 2.30pm today.

1 comment:

Think Singaporean said...

Good prayers to be made. I've been praying for him and his family too. And I also hope those who have the love and compassion
pls do the same. Thank you very much! May all sentient beings be well and happy. May there be world peace and harmony. Sadhu, sadhu.