02 December 2005

Nguyen Tuong Van...

It was a big day for government sanctioned murder. North Carolina is probably jealous that Singapore still gets to hang theirs. After all, where's all the gory fun in 'lethal injection'...?


Australian Warning Over Hanging
Australian PM John Howard has warned Singapore that its execution of Nguyen Tuong Van may harm links between the peoples of their two countries.

The 25-year-old Melbourne man, of Vietnamese descent, was hanged at Changi prison before dawn as hundreds held vigils in Australia and Singapore.

Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong said his country had decided that "the law should take its course".

Canberra said mitigating factors should have been taken into account.

One of Nguyen's lawyers, Julian McMahon, said his client prayed until he was required to walk the 50m to the execution chamber.

He died "optimistically and with strength and died a very courageous death," Mr McMahon said.

"And I understand that as he did so other death row prisoners sang hymns and other things in various languages to support him," he added.

Nguyen's body, wrapped in a white shroud, was taken to a funeral home for embalming. His family is flying the body back to Melbourne for burial.

'Clinical response'

Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told the BBC he was "terribly disappointed" by the news of the execution.

He said Nguyen always maintained he had smuggled the drugs to earn enough money to pay off legal bills of A$30,000 (£13,000) incurred by his twin brother, a former heroin addict.

Mr Ruddock reiterated his earlier comments that death by hanging was "barbaric".

John Howard said he told his Singaporean counterpart "that I believe it will have an effect on the relationship on a people-to-people, population-to-population basis."

He said he felt sympathy for Nguyen's mother, and had been disappointed by Singapore's "clinical response" to Australia's request that she be allowed to hug her son before his death. The Singapore authorities had only allowed them to hold hands.

But Mr Howard rejected calls for trade and military boycotts against Singapore, one of Australia's strongest allies in Asia.

He added that the execution should serve as a warning to other young Australians.

"Don't imagine for a moment that you can risk carrying drugs anywhere in Asia without suffering the most severe consequences," he said.

Silent vigils

Nguyen Tuong Van was convicted three years ago of carrying nearly 400g (14 ounces) of heroin at Singapore airport while travelling from Cambodia to Australia.

Singapore has some of the strictest drug trafficking laws in the world, and anyone found with 15g of heroin faces a mandatory death penalty.

Prime Minister Lee said Nguyen's case had been through the full legal process, and pleas for clemency by the Australian government had been considered.

But he said the case involved "an enormous amount" of drugs - the equivalent of 26,000 doses.

"We take a very serious view of drug trafficking, and the penalty is death," he said in Berlin.

A vigil by anti-death penalty campaigners took place outside the prison overnight before the dawn execution.

And hundreds of supporters gathered in Nguyen's home city of Melbourne at a church to mark the moment of his execution. A large church bell rang 25 times - once for every year of his life.

At the same time, dozens of people held a silent vigil outside the Singapore High Commission in the capital Canberra.

Nguyen was the first Australian to be executed overseas in more than a decade.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/02 10:39:22 GMT



Blogger Dave said...

Socially, exaggeration is often whimsical. But when a government dramatically inflates numbers to help justify a death sentence, the integrity of both the trial and its governing body becomes questionable. In this case, the government is Singapore, the trial was for Van Tuong Nguyen, and the bloated number is 26,000.

Press from around the world quotes Abdullah Tarmugi, the Speaker of Singapore Parliament, in writing about the potential consequences of Van's actions, "almost 400 grams of pure heroin, enough for more than 26,000 doses."

But how was 26,000 doses (or "hits") derived?

It turns out that what constitutes a hit of heroin is not an easy thing to count. There are dozens of factors to consider; contact your local Needle Exchange for a comprehensive list. However, after collecting statistics from over a dozen sources (including police reports, narcotics web sites, health information, and workers from needle exchanges), the number of hits from a gram of pure heroin averages out to little more than 14.

Van Tuong Nguyen trafficked 396.2 grams of heroin into Singapore. This is approximately 5,600 doses.

The numbers 5,600 and 26,000 are obviously incongruous, as are reports that 400 grams of heroin would "ruin 26,000 lives". In fact, 400 grams of heroin would not come close to ruining even 5,600 lives. Rather, the heroin would most likely supply people already abusing it. With a little more research, we can estimate how many lives would be adversely affected by 400 grams of heroin during one year:

As many as 67, and as few as 6.

Van Tuong Nguyen would not have sent 26,000 people to their deaths from 400 grams of heroin. Nor would the lives of 26,000 people have been ruined. Far more likely is that six people would get a year's worth of hits. And for this he was executed?

Call it dreadful, call it dense, call it incomprehensible ... but do not call it justice.

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