This is a transcript from The World Today. The program is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
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Van Nguyen supporters rally in Melbourne
The World Today - Friday, 18 November , 2005 12:18:00
Reporter: Daniel Hoare
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Supporters of the convicted Australian drug trafficker, Van Nguyen, have gathered outside the State Library in Melbourne to display thousands of messages of opposition to his death sentence.
Singapore officials have advised 25-year-old Nguyen's mother of plans to execute him in a Singapore jail in 14 days time.
Australians have rallied to support the 'Reach Out' campaign organised by Nguyen's Melbourne friends, who continue to receive messages calling for the Singapore Government to grant him clemency.
Nguyen's lawyer, Lex Lasry QC, will fly to Singapore tonight, where he'll continue to publicly lobby for clemency despite a date being set for the execution.
Callers to talkback radio in Melbourne this morning were overwhelmingly against the death penalty being applied in the case of Nguyen, who immediately admitted his guilt and has cooperated with authorities since being caught smuggling nearly 400 grams of heroin into Singapore.
In Melbourne, Daniel Hoare reports.
DANIEL HOARE: As friends and supporters of Van Nguyen gathered outside Melbourne's State Library to unveil the extraordinary response to the campaign against his death sentence, talkback callers raged against the Singaporean Government.
Many called for a boycott of Singaporean products.
TALKBACK CALLER: We, personally, have a reservation to go overseas on Singapore Airlines next year, early in the year, and we discussed cancelling it last night.
RADIO HOST: Are you going to cancel it though?
TALKBACK CALLER: Yes.
TALKBACK CALLER: There's a bigger company than Optus in Victoria that's owned by the Singapore Government, and that's our electricity company called TRU. The Singapore Government needs to know that we're so upset about it we'll boycott their industries.
TALKBACK CALLER: I was slightly stunned when Howard announced that they were contemplating merging Qantas and Singapore Airlines at the same time as he was asking for clemency.
I'm completely against the death penalty under any circumstances.
DANIEL HOARE: The Reach Out campaign, organised by Van Nguyen's close friends, has called for messages of support for the 25-year-old. And despite the fact that Van Nguyen is now almost certain to be executed in 14 days, the thousands of messages are united by a common theme: that it isn't too late for the Singaporean Government to reverse its decision.
Nguyen's close friend, Kelly Ng, says she's been overwhelmed by the support from the Australian public.
KELLY NG: The response has been phenomenal. We can't put a specified number, but we've received thousands and there still are hundreds, I believe, coming through the mail that have not been opened.
All the hands that we have received so far are from across Australia and even from overseas.
DANIEL HOARE: Just standing here looking down it looks like there's, there would have to be thousands of colourful hands spread across the lawn here.
How many do you estimate there'd be here?
KELLY NG: I really don't know. Just thousands and thousands.
DANIEL HOARE: And it also looks as though people have put a lot of effort into preparing them.
KELLY NG: Yes, they've decorated them, they've used different colours, they've bought different papers, yeah.
A lot of people have just put a lot of effort into them and it's just not about just tracing hands.
DANIEL HOARE: Does it feel good to have received some support? Despite the horrible circumstances of this, does it give you some faith in the Australian people?
KELLY NG: It gives us a lot of faith and hope in humanity. The compassion that Australians have shown is really, really heart-touching.
Despite all the horrible things that happen in this world, it's just good to know that, deep down everyone is compassionate, that we are all human, we all do have feelings, and that, when required, we will unite as one.
DANIEL HOARE: Nguyen's lawyer, Lex Lasry, who will fly to Singapore tonight, paid tribute to those who responded to the campaign by sending letters in the shape of hands.
LEX LASRY: They are a very powerful and potent reminder of the importance of this case and the injustice. And they come from everywhere.
I haven't seen them all, but they come from, some from families affected by drugs. They come from prisoners in custody and all sorts of other people who've been through all sorts of traumas in their own lives and who have identified with this.
It's the most touching thing, I must say, I've ever seen in 32 years in the law and I commend everyone for their participation.
DANIEL HOARE: The Victorian Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, was also at this morning's gathering outside the State Library.
He says the Singaporean Government has shown no compassion whatsoever in its treatment of Van Nguyen and his family.
ROB HULLS: What's happening is brutal, is inappropriate. I, and the Victorian Government, vehemently oppose the death penalty in any circumstances.
And can you imagine sitting at home, getting a letter and opening up that letter and being told that your son is to be executed on a particular date, two week's time, and also told that you have to make funeral arrangements for your son? I mean, it is just totally inappropriate.
This is a young kid who has assisted the police all the way, prepared to testify against those for whom he was carrying this contraband. In any other country, he would get a discount in relation to the penalty. But because there is a mandatory death penalty for drug offences in Singapore, this young man may well be executed. It is just grossly inappropriate.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Victoria's Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, with our reporter Daniel Hoare.
How to win friends and influence people?
Keep lobbying Singapore, Beazley urges
The federal government should keep trying to stop the Singapore government from executing Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says.
Singapore also needed to understand Australians were mostly opposed to the death penalty and executing Nguyen would impact on diplomatic relations between the two countries, Mr Beazley told journalists in Perth.
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