No final embrace for condemned man

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Convicted Australian drug trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen has been denied permission to embrace his mother and twin brother before his execution.

Following a request from Nguyen’s mother, Kim Nguyen, and supported by strong international pressure, Singapore refused a contact visit, but will allow them to hold hands.

In a statement released by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, government officials said contact visits were too traumatic and destabilising for both prisoners and family members.

In response, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said, "My view is that a prisoner who is to be executed confronts the greatest of all destabilisation to have his life taken away from him, so I don't really identify with that statement.”

Mr Downer then conceded that "it'll perhaps be very meagre compensation, of course it will be, but it will be nice that they can touch each other…it's better than nothing."

An unnamed Singaporean lawyer claimed contact would be made through a hole in the wall. "I think they will bring him to another room and there will be an aperture through which they can reach,” the lawyer said.

The 25-year-old Australian man was convicted of trafficking 396 grams of heroin, an offence which carries a mandatory death penalty under Singapore law. He received no remissions for a full confession.

He will be executed by hanging at 09:00 AEDT tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Australians attended protest vigils in Sydney and Melbourne tonight. Tim Goodwin from Amnesty International told the Sydney crowd that the death penalty is not an acceptable punishment. "It is ineffective, it is dangerous, it is extreme and it is the most barbaric, brutalising punishment," he said.