1 Dec 2005

Lawyers refused permission to witness hanging

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Nguyen execution all but certain

Execution of Melbourne man Van Nguyen all but certain

Thursday, 1 December 2005. 11:34 (AWST)

Permission denied: Mr Lasry had asked to witness the execution.Reuters
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says a plea from the lawyers of convicted drug trafficker Van Nguyen to witness their client's execution has been rejected.

Mr Downer says he spoke to Singapore's High Commissioner to Australia this morning about the Nguyen case.

The 25-year-old is to be hanged in Singapore's Changi Prison tomorrow at 9:00am AEDT.

Mr Downer says an official from the Australian embassy in Singapore will have to formally identify the body after the hanging.

Nguyen's body will be returned to Australia.

Mr Downer says he has asked Singapore's High Commissioner, Joseph Koh, to allow Nguyen's mother to hug him before his death.

"I spoke to the Singapore High Commissioner in Canberra this morning and I said to him, 'Look I just want to reiterate that some physical contact between Van Nguyen and his mum means a lot to us' and I hope that the Singapore Government will accede to that."

Lawyer Julian McMahon has emerged from an emotional visit to Changi prison.

Mr McMahon says his client is completely rehabilitated and the execution is a terrible waste.

"He's a beautiful young man," he said.

"He is cheerful because he's composed.

"He only wishes to think good thoughts, say good thoughts, do what is right."

Nguyen's brother, Khoa, is also visiting.

Meanwhile, bipartisan condemnation of Nguyen's impending execution continues in Canberra.

Labor's Tanya Plibersek has also expressed sadness, saying she thinks she knows why Singapore may not allow Nguyen's mother a final hug.

"How could you ever let go if you were a mother?" she said.

"How could you ever let go?"

The Opposition's foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, says some physical contact should be allowed.

"For God's sake, let's just make sure that happens," Mr Rudd said.

"Could I just issue one final plea though to the Government of Singapore, to their High Commissioner?

"That is, to back Mr Downer to the hilt in this very simply basic human request that Van's mum be given the opportunity to have to give her son a hug."

Nationals MP Paul Neville has also called on Singapore to show some compassion.

"I think it's archaic, barbaric and frightening that this goes on in the world," he said.

The Labor leader, Kim Beazley, will attend a church service at the time of the execution tomorrow morning.

"I'm very sad for him, I'm very sad for his family, very sad for all of us," he said.

"I'm sad for the Singaporean Government, that they can't see their way clear to change their minds, this is not a good thing for Singapore, not a good thing for their reputation."

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