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Pell seeks clemency for death row Australian

Sydney's Cardinal George Pell has joined the fight to save convicted Australian heroin trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, who has been condemned to death in a Singapore court.

Speaking to the ABC yesterday, he confirmed that he had asked Pope John Paul II to intercede on behalf of the 23 year old Melbourne sales executive.

"I have sent off the file to the Holy Father, to Pope John Paul II, asking for his support. Of course, the Pope has been very, very unwell, so things are a little bit up in the air from that end, but I certainly have asked for papal intervention to back this request for clemency," he told the AM program.

Cardinal Pell said there are compelling reasons to spare the life of the young Melbourne man.

"It was a very amateur attempt to smuggle 400 grams of heroin, but also significantly he's more than willing to cooperate with the Australian Federal Police, in an endeavour to convict the people who set him up to do this job," he said.

Nguyen is cooperating with Australian Federal Police efforts to identify the drug syndicate for which he was acting when he was caught carrying the heroin in his backpack. His lawyer, Lex Lasry QC, said his client had told police everything he knew about the bosses of an international drug syndicate.

"People who have met him and talked with him say that his repentance is genuine, they say therefore that he's rehabilitated, and I think with evidence of his sincerity we can cite this willingness to cooperate with the Australian authorities," said Cardinal Pell. "It was his first overseas trip, he's admitted his guilt right from the start. There would still be very severe punishment, something like at least 20 years."

Nguyen's last hope is a rare pardon from Singaporean President Sellapan Rama Nathan. The pardon is granted only when the accused provides evidence leading to the conviction of a principal offender. If a pardon were to be granted, Nguyen would still face 20 years or more in prison.

The Australian Government has also become involved, with Prime Minister John Howard speaking to the Singaporean Government about Nguyen, who was arrested in transit through Singapore's Changi airport in December 2002.

Paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church determines that "as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

George Pell lobbies Pope in support of Van Nguyen (ABC Radio AM 17/3/05)
Pell to trafficker's rescue (Sunday Mail 18/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Death Penalty - Respecting Human Life (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council)
Community of Sant'Egidio - Death Penalty
Efforts to End the Death Penalty (US Conference of Catholic Bishops)
The Roman Catholic Church's Official Teaching on the Death Penalty - Excerpted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Beliefnet)
Capital Punishment and the Catholic Church
Australian handed death penalty in Singapore (Save a Life)
Judgment - Public Prosecutor vs Nguyen Tuong Van

Death row movie nun set to visit Australia (CathNews 14/2/05)

Melbourne man facing execution in Singapore for drug trafficking may be spared (ABC Radio AM 17/3/05)
Convicted Australian drug trafficker helping police in drugs case (ABC Radio Australia 17/3/05)
Pell asks Pope to save trafficker (Herald-Sun/The Australian 18/3/05)
Death row Aussie helps Singapore police (Sydney Morning Herald/Australian Associated Press 17/3/05)
Pope asked to help save death-row man (The Age 18/3/05)

18 Mar 2005