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Australian handed death penalty in Singapore

A Singapore Court has handed down the death sentence on a Melbourne man convicted of drug trafficking.

Nguyen Tuong Van, 23, was arrested at Singapore airport in December 2002.

Security officers found 400 grams of heroin taped to his back and hidden in a backpack.

Under Singapore's strict drug laws, anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin faces a mandatory death penalty.

Nguyen bowed his head as the judge announced the guilty verdict, saying he would be taken to a place of custody to be hanged by the neck until he was dead.

There are still two avenues of appeal, including a plea for celemency to Singapore's president.

However if the sentence is eventually carried out, Nguyen will be the first Australian to face execution since Malaysia excuted convicted drug traffickers Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers nearly 20 years ago.

Australian sentenced to death
From correspondents in Singapore March 20, 2004

A SINGAPORE court today sentenced a 23-year-old Australian man to death by hanging after finding him guilty of heroin smuggling.

High Court Judge Kan Ting Chiu read out the death sentence against Nguyen Tuong Van.

"The sentence of this court is that you be taken from this place to a lawful prison, then to a place of execution where you will be hanged by the neck until you are dead," Kan said.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in January that he had tried to persuade Singapore not to execute Nguyen, a sales executive from Melbourne.

Embassy officials present in court today declined to comment.

Nguyen's Australian lawyer Lex Lasry said he would likely appeal the sentence.

Under Singapore law, anyone possessing more than 15 grams of heroin is presumed to be trafficking and must be sentenced to death.

Nguyen was arrested after Singapore airport police allegedly found heroin taped to his lower back and in his backpack during a routine security check as he prepared to board a flight to Australia in December 2002.

He has been charged with trafficking almost 400 grams of heroin.

The Associated Press

Australian considers appeal against death penalty
A Melbourne man is considering appealing against the death penalty imposed in Singapore for drug trafficking.

Twenty-three-year-old Van Tuong Nguyen was arrested in possession of 400 grams of heroin in 2002.

In Singapore, anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin faces a mandatory death penalty.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has offered Mr Nguyen routine consular assistance.

His mother has spoken of her shock at the verdict and is urging Australians to lobby Singapore to overturn the decision.

"I say today, I am very, very sad [for this] to happen to my family," she said.

"I'm so sorry, I don't know how to say what happened with this.

"Please, if everybody here could help my family, to help Tuong, can you write down on the paper, ask the people to help my family please.

Nguyen's mother was in Singapore for the verdict and has appealed to Australians to help bring her son home alive.

"To help my family, my son to come back home or [be] in jail, please don't hang him, please," she said.

She says he is a good man.

"Very, very good in family, good with friends, with everybody," she said.

"That's why I [am] so happy with him, what happened was [a] shock to me very much."

Death sentence 'a challenge'
March 21, 2004

THE Federal Government would do what it could to save the life of an Australian facing the death penalty in Singapore for heroin smuggling, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.

Nguyen Tuong Van, 23, a sales executive from Melbourne, received the death sentence after the Singapore High Court found him guilty of smuggling almost 400 grams of heroin.

Mr Downer said he had spoken with Singaporean authorities about Nguyen's case to see if they would exercise clemency.

However, he said Nguyen was appealing his sentence and if that failed he still had the chance to ask for clemency from Singapore's president.

"But he was caught with 400 grams of heroin and if you've got more than 15 grams of heroin in Singapore that brings the death sentence," Mr Downer told ABC TV.

"So this is a difficult challenge for us.

"I don't want to rule out having any success. We'll do what we can to save his life."

Mr Downer said that Nguyen's case should serve as a reminder to Australians that if they went into countries which had the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking they needed to be very careful.

The death sentence is mandatory for drug smuggling under Singapore's tough anti-drug laws, and more than 400 people have been executed in the past 10 years.

If Nguyen's appeal fails, he would be the first Australian to be executed for drug trafficking since 1986, when two Australians were hanged in Malaysia.

Lawyer admits clemency unlikely
March 22, 2004

THE lawyer for a Melbourne man facing a death sentence in Singapore on drug smuggling charges believes his client's chances of survival are slim.

Nguyen Tuong Van, 23, a sales executive from Melbourne, was condemned to death after the Singapore High Court found him guilty of smuggling almost 400 grams of heroin.

Melbourne lawyer Lex Lasry said the history of such cases in Singapore showed that most people facing the death penalty were not granted clemency.

"Most people who are sentenced to death, indeed by far the majority of people who are sentenced to death, are unfortunately actually executed," he told ABC radio.

The death sentence is mandatory for drug smuggling under Singapore's tough anti-drug laws, and more than 400 people have been executed in the past 10 years.

Nguyen is lodging an appeal, but if that fails he would be the first Australian to be executed for drug trafficking since 1986, when two Australians were hanged in Malaysia.

Mr Lasry said Nguyen was not a hardened criminal.

"There is no question that our client is a small fish and he's being sentenced to death in circumstances where he has not had the opportunity to say to a court why in this particular case the death sentence is not proportionate to his criminality," he said.

Mr Lasry said he was appealing to the Australian Government to support Nguyen.

"The position they take is normally one where representations are made by diplomatic means and we are anxious for that to continue."

Meanwhile, Nguyen's mother has issued a heartfelt plea for her son's life.

"To have my family, my son is coming home or in jail, please don't hang him, please," she said.

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