Nguyen Tuong Van

02 December 2005 :

Singapore executed Australian national Nguyen Tuong Van just before dawn despite repeated pleas by Australia's government for clemency. Nguyen, 25, was hanged at the city-state's Changi prison just after 6.00 am local time. A minute after the execution, a large church bell in Nguyen's home city of Melbourne tolled 25 times -- once for every year of his life.
Thousands of people gathered in Australia to pray and mourn for Nguyen in the final 24 hours of his life while Singapore activists moved in pairs overnight to light candles at the prison. Public gatherings of more than four people require a police permit in the tightly-controlled city-state.
"I hope the strongest message that comes out of a message to the young of Australia -- don't have anything to do with drugs, don't use them, don't touch them, don't carry them, don't traffic in them," Australian Prime Minister John Howard told Australian radio.
About 70 people, including Australian politicians, gathered outside the Singapore High Commission in Canberra with a banner reading "Oh Singapore, how could you?" while protesters clutching flowers rallied in Sydney and Melbourne.
In a tiny concession to Australia, Singapore's prison authority allowed Nguyen to hold hands with his mother before his execution but rejected pleas to let them have a final hug.
"She said to me she was talking to him and able to touch his hair and face. It was a great comfort to her," Nguyen's lawyer Julian McMahon told reporters outside the prison, which was crowded with reporters and onlookers.
Nguyen's twin brother Khoa and a family lawyer arrived at the prison at dawn. They could not witness the execution but said they wanted to be as close as possible to Nguyen when he died.
His mother, Kim Nguyen, was in a Singapore chapel with friends, praying for her son.

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