24 Nov 2005

Singapore rebuffs calls for death row reprieve

By Michelle Nichols

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Singapore rebuffed calls on Wednesday to reprieve an Australian drug smuggler who is due to hang next week, hours before a senior law officer arrived from Melbourne to make a last-ditch plea for the man's life.

The move appeared to all but seal the fate of 25-year-old Nguyen Tuong Van, whose Dec. 2 execution Australian Prime Minister John Howard said earlier in the day could now only be stopped by the Singapore government.

Lawyers for Nguyen had asked the Australian government on Monday to take the case to the United Nations International Court of Justice, but Howard said the court has no jurisdiction and there was no point giving Nguyen's mother any false hope.

In a letter to Australian members of parliament which was quoted by the Australian Associated Press (AAP), the speaker of Singapore's parliament said Nguyen must be made an example of.

"He was caught in possession of almost 400g of pure heroin, enough for more than 26,000 doses of heroin for drug addicts," Abdullah Tarmugi wrote to his Australian counterpart, David Hawker. "He knew what he was doing and the consequences of his actions."

"We cannot allow Singapore to be used as a transit for illicit drugs in the region. We know this is a painful and difficult decision for Mr Nguyen's family to accept, but we hope you and your colleagues will understand our position."

Victoria state Attorney General Rob Hulls arrived in Singapore late on Wednesday to plead for the Melbourne man's reprieve. He was due to meet Singapore Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee on Thursday.


Nguyen's mother, who privately met Howard last week, and the condemned man's twin brother visited him in Singapore on Tuesday.

Australia has said Nguyen was carrying drugs from Cambodia -- transiting in Singapore -- to help his brother pay off debts to loan sharks.

"She is a dear woman who is understandably feeling completely desolate and distressed and I wished I could have found it within my executive power to have done something, but it is a matter for the government of Singapore," Howard told reporters during a visit to Pakistan late on Tuesday.

Australia asked for clemency on the grounds that Nguyen had cooperated and could be a witness in future drug cases.

Opposition Labor leader Kim Beazley said that while it was unlikely an appeal to the International Court of Justice would be successful, Australia should still proceed with the case.

"It's not simply just about winning -- it's about putting on a bit of pressure," Beazley told reporters on Wednesday.

A television straw poll showed on Wednesday that 43 percent of Australians believed Nguyen's case should be taken to the International Court of Justice, while 48 percent agreed with Howard that nothing more could be done.

Internet lobby group www.getup.org.au said nearly 6,000 Australians had emailed Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, while Amnesty International received several thousand text messages supporting its campaign opposing Nguyen's hanging.

Although Howard has dismissed calls for trade sanctions to be imposed on Singapore over the case, human rights campaigners have suggested Australians boycott companies linked to the city-state.


Anonymous said...

Stupid Pigskins, omg I can't believe you are that dumb.

If you want to stop the hanging, go and find the only person in Singapore who actually hangs people and buy him over. Geddit? omg I can't believe the people down under are *that* dumb. Obviously, taking life real easy sure has its minus points.

There is no point acting like a loser running to the UN, AI, CC, PM, ICJ and even the media.

It's so simple, just buy the hanger over and also not forget that extra volunteer from your own country duh. The hanger is the one who actually hangs people, nobody else in the world has the power and guts, stupid fools geddit? Do I have to do everything?

Anonymous said...

by the way, why do we see our goverment pleading for clemency in every country where we are caught doing the wrong thing?
i am so disgraced. we wouldnt allow clemency if foreigners committed a crime here, yet, we constantly beg other countries to let our people off. first it's drug trafficker in indonesia, then singapore. CAN WE JUST ADMIT WE OURSELVES ARE WRONG ? stop threatening smaller countries with economic ties, WE ARE WRONG

Sanj said...

Anon 1.22, that has to be the lamest piece of logic I've ever heard. Ignores due process and get into issues of corruption. Hmmm... it might just work.

Anon 10.19, you are not Australian. Just a Singaporean hiding behind anonymity, which is typically Singaporean anyway. A product laws such as the death penalty.

grant said...

anon is not aussie or singas,by her buy your way out theory she is obviously american

numbers said...

The campaign for nguyen made a bad mistake. Those clemency petitions were standardised ones, which people just needed to click and it was sent by email. Where is the effort? Whereas, Aussies supporting SG govt have sent in many original letters, handwritten, typed or emailed, with many varied reasons not to grant clemency. Aussies are split on the issue. If 90% or even 80% backed nguyen, the SG govt might likely listen, but all polls show split Aussie opinion.

Anonymous said...

From the report, Singapore's Parliament Speaker said Nguyen must be made an example of. I think that is the basic point now. Singapore will show the region how drug peddlers should be treated, and it sets a benchmark for them to follow. They will find it difficult not to follow, for how can they now be seen to buckle under pressure and lose face when a smaller country has remained unmoved despite the pressure. That's a major implication of this hanging next week. But guess we'll have to just wait and see in the months that follow whether this is in fact so.

LF said...

Hi Steven,

I'm unsure if u r aware of the straits times online forum. Anyway, u can access an autralia's view on the drug case.

LF said...

Oops, 4got the link: