Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Victoria criticises Singapore death penalty

Victoria's Premier Steve Bracks raised the death penalty in a meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

The Age newspaper reports Steve Bracks spoke out "strongly" against the death penalty in the meeting, after Melbourne man Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged for heroin smuggling on 2 December last year.

Mr Nguyen was executed despite a widespread campaign in Australia appealing for clemency, and appeals from parliamentarians including Victoria's Attorney-General Rob Hulls.

Mr Bracks reportedly told the Prime Minister that Victoria still held the view that clemency should have been granted to Mr Nguyen.

"We still obviously and quite rightly … have the view that it was wrong to have the death penalty for Nguyen. There were other ways of looking at clemency … It's a strong view that's held — and we'd like that taken into consideration (by the Singapore Government) in the future," Mr Bracks was quoted as saying before the meeting.

Mr Bracks defended comments at the time by Mr Hulls that the execution was "barbaric", but indicated the hanging had not interfered in trade between the two countries.

"I think Rob Hulls was reflecting what our Government's position was, and that is, we do not believe that the punishment was commensurate with the crime," Mr Bracks said. "Notwithstanding that, I don't believe it's had an impact on trade or investment … I think there is enough maturity on all sides to understand that we have this different position."

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