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Singapore executes Australian man, 25

Penalty was for drug trafficking

SINGAPORE -- Singapore executed a 25-year-old Australian today for drug trafficking, despite numerous appeals from the Australian government and hours after the condemned man had a ''beautiful last visit" with his family.

Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged before dawn as a dozen friends and supporters, dressed in black, kept an overnight vigil outside the maximum-security prison. His twin brother, Nguyen Khoa, was dressed in white.

Vigils were also held in cities around Australia, with bells and gongs sounding 25 times at the hour of his execution.

''The sentence was carried out this morning at Changi Prison," the Home Affairs Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

Nguyen received a mandatory death sentence after he was caught in 2002 at Singapore's airport on his way home to Melbourne carrying about 14 ounces of heroin.

Singapore has executed more than 100 people for drug-related offenses since 1999, saying its tough laws and penalties are an effective deterrent against a crime that ruins lives. By contrast, Australia scrapped the death penalty in 1973 and hanged its last criminal in 1967.

While Australian leaders lashed out at the death sentence as ''barbaric" and pleaded for clemency for Nguyen, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had ruled out a reprieve.

''We have stated our position clearly," Lee told reporters in Berlin yesterday after meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. ''The penalty is death."

Nguyen visited with his mother, Kim, twin brother, Nguyen Khoa, a friend, and his lawyers yesterday afternoon.

Julian McMahon, one of his Australian lawyers, said Nguyen was ''completely rehabilitated, completely reformed, completely focused on doing what is good, and now they are going to kill him."

Another lawyer, Lex Lasry, said the family had a ''beautiful last visit."

''It was a great visit and quite uplifting," he said, brushing away tears.

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