FAMILY FLIES BODY OF EXECUTED AUSSIE HOME
SINGAPORE: The family and lawyers of an Australian drug trafficker executed in Singapore flew home with the body on Saturday and the lawyers vowed to campaign against the death penalty in the region.
Lex Lasry, the lawyer of 25-year-old Nguyen Tuong Van, said he would persuade the Australian government to take the lead to campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty in the region.
Nguyen was hanged on Friday for carrying 400gm of heroin while in transit in Singapore three years ago.
"The end of Van's life must not be the end of the campaign against the mandatory death penalty," Lasry told reporters at the Singapore Changi Airport where Nguyen was caught.
"We will ask the government to formalise a strong policy so Australia can take the lead, especially in this region, against the death penalty and in particular against the mandatory death penalty."
Lasry said Australia - a staunch opponent of the death penalty - must not have double standards and should also speak out against the execution of terrorists in Indonesia.
Nguyen's mother Kim and twin brother Khoa arrived at the airport on Saturday evening. Wearing a peach-coloured headscarf, Kim was crying as she was led into the check-in area of the airport. Khoa, dressed in black and wearing a crucifix around his neck, was composed as he comforted his mother.
Nguyen's execution put a spotlight on Singapore's death penalty, which dictates automatic execution for anyone over 18 convicted of carrying more than 15gm of heroin.
Lasry condemned Singapore's use of the mandatory death penalty and called for the city-state to review its laws.
"Singapore is going to have to understand that a first-world country cannot continue to hang people without giving them a chance to say why they should not be executed."
Nguyen, born in a refugee camp in Thailand, had said he was carrying drugs to help pay off his brother's debts from loan sharks.
Local leaders and activists are sceptical that Singapore, described by rights group Amnesty International as having one of the highest execution rates in the world relative to its population, will repeal its austere laws.
"I can confidently say he will not be the last to be hanged," said opposition politician Steve Chia at a forum held on Saturday by civil rights group Think Centre.
"Most Singaporeans are too caught up in making a decent living to care about one convicted trafficker in our society," said Chia, who is also a nominated member of parliament.
Singapore's media watchdog, the Media Development Authority, has ordered a theatre director to scrap the performance of a play about the death penalty to be staged on Saturday.
"They said it was better if we just scrapped the whole thing," said Benny Lim, artistic director of The Fun Stage. "They said a play about death penalty is not good at this time."
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