Singapore Hangs Australian Drug Smuggler Nguyen (Update1)
Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Singapore executed Australian drug smuggler Nguyen Tuong Van today after rejecting requests from Australian Prime Minister John Howard to spare his life.
The 25-year-old Australian citizen was hanged at Changi Prison this morning, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News. Church bells rang out in Nguyen's home town of Melbourne at 9 a.m., when he was scheduled to be executed.
Singapore, which has a zero-tolerance policy toward drugs, sentenced Nguyen to death after he was caught with 396 grams (14 ounces) of pure heroin in 2002. His execution ignited an uproar in Australia, where newspapers criticized Singapore for being authoritarian and consumers called for boycotts of companies including Singapore Telecommunications Ltd.'s Optus unit and Singapore Airlines Ltd.
``I don't believe in capital punishment and I hope the anti-drugs message that comes from this is stronger, or at least as strong as the capital punishment message,'' Howard told Melbourne radio station 3AW today.
Nguyen failed in requests for clemency to the Court of Appeal and Singapore President S.R. Nathan.
``We take a very serious view of drug trafficking; the penalty is death,'' Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a news conference in Berlin yesterday after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. ``In this case, it was an enormous amount of drugs.''
Nguyen admitted to possessing the drugs, though he said they were not intended for sale in Singapore. He claimed he was carrying the heroin to Australia for a Sydney syndicate to help his twin brother Khoa, a former addict, pay A$30,000 in debts.
The drugs had a street value of S$1.3 million ($770,000) and was enough to supply 26,000 doses of heroin, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said today.
Khoa arrived at Changi Prison about 45 minutes before his brother's scheduled execution, Australian Associated Press reported. Khoa and his mother Kim were yesterday allowed to hold hands with Nguyen. Family members are usually prohibited from physical contact with condemned prisoners in Singapore.
Howard asked Singapore to spare Nguyen's life, and raised the issue in a meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Malta on Nov. 26.
Lee ``was left in no doubt as to the intensity of feeling within Australia,'' Howard said, according to a transcript of the press conference in Malta posted on his Web site.
Appeals for clemency were also made by Australian opposition leader Kim Beazley, Governor-General Michael Jeffery, the British Queen's representative in Australia, Pope Benedict XVI and European Union officials.
``We are deeply concerned,'' Frithjof Schmidt, a member of the European Parliament, said during a visit to Singapore on Nov. 22. ``I would like to appeal to Singapore not to execute him and go back to trial based on international standards of human rights.''
``Singapore recognized that many Australians are disappointed with our decision but Singapore also had to protect the interests and welfare of our citizens,'' the city-state's government said in a Nov. 24 statement. ``The issue here was the right of a sovereign State to apply its own laws to persons who had committed crimes within its jurisdiction.''
Visitors to Singapore are reminded on most flights to the city, and on their arrival at customs, that the country has strict penalties for drug trafficking, and the arrival card notes those punishments include death. Australia has abolished capital punishment.
Singapore, a city of 4.3 million people, has the highest rate of execution per capita in the world, according to Amnesty International. It has a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, murder, treason and certain firearms offences, and more than 420 people have been executed since 1991, according to Tim Goodwin, coordinator of Amnesty International's Asia Pacific Anti-Death Penalty Network.
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said in an e-mailed statement on Nov. 21 that the city-state plans to continue executing criminals sentenced to death by hanging after studying other methods of execution. Hanging is the execution style specified by law, he said, in response to a question in parliament as to whether lethal injections would be considered.