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01 December 2005

countdown to the hanging

Australian Broadcasting Corporation / ABC

Van Nguyen's brother visits him in prison

The World Today - Thursday, 1 December , 2005 12:24:00

Reporter: Shane McLeod

ELEANOR HALL: To Singapore where Van Nguyen's family and friends are preparing to visit Van Nguyen for what's likely to be the last time.

But they've been given a small ray of hope this morning with a senior opposition figure in Singapore calling on his country not to hang the young Australian.

Our reporter Shane McLeod is outside Changi Prison, and he joins us from there now.

Shane, tell us about this statement from Singapore's Opposition leader?

SHANE MCLEOD: Well, it's in line with what the Singapore Democratic Party has been saying for some time. They've been very critical of this idea that Singapore is using the death penalty in drugs cases.

Dr Chee Soon Juan has even used this to go further and attack the Government on its links to Burma and things like that. So he has been quite outspoken, and it has been a fairly, I guess, rare opportunity for the Opposition to step into the spotlight a bit, given the dominance of the PAP party here in Singapore, and its dominance of government.

ELEANOR HALL: But not likely to have a major influence on the Government's position on the hanging tomorrow?

SHANE MCLEOD: It would be fairly unlikely I think. The Government is quite convinced that it is going to go ahead with this, and everything it's said so far indicates that it'll go ahead. I wouldn't imagine that it'll take too much notice of the Opposition on this matter.

ELEANOR HALL: What about the request for Van Nguyen's mother to be able to hold her son one last time?

SHANE MCLEOD: There's been no official comment on that. That sort of request would require the Singapore Prison Service to change its policy regarding the contact visits by visitors to prisoners.

Just a short time ago Nguyen's brother Khoa arrived without his mother. He was dressed all in white, he went into the visitor's centre quite quickly. Earlier the lawyers, Julian McMahon and Lex Lasry, arrived for their visit with their client.

So I think they'll all be using whatever time they have left to spend as much time with each other as possible.

ELEANOR HALL: You say that Van Nguyen's brother arrived without his mother though, is she expected to turn up there?

SHANE MCLEOD: She is expected here soon. Until today they have tended to arrive together, so it was interesting that Khoa arrived separately. But the vehicle that dropped him off did go, did leave straight away, perhaps to go and pick up Van Nguyen's mother as well, so we'll have to wait to see.

ELEANOR HALL: Now, how long will they have for today's visit?

SHANE MCLEOD: Um, we understand that they have pretty much most of today, so that could be right up until five o'clock this afternoon. It's unclear exactly how extended those hours will be, but over the past couple of days it seems prison officials have been fairly relaxed about time limits and things.

Lex Lasry, for example, was able to spend about an hour and twenty minutes with his client yesterday when the actual visit was scheduled to be only an hour. So it may be that they will be able to spend quite some time together today, although we understand regular visiting hours, regular business hours at the visitor's centre, would normally finish around five-thirty this afternoon.

ELEANOR HALL: Shane McLeod outside Changi Prison in Singapore, thank you.


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