Papal intervention for death row drug trafficker
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney will urge Pope Benedict XVI to intervene in a desperate bid to spare Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van from the gallows in Singapore.
The Australian reports that the Howard Government yesterday also promised a last-ditch appeal to spare the Melbourne man's life. While pessimistic about the chances of success, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer vowed to "appeal in every imaginable way" to his counterpart in Singapore, George Yeo, for clemency for the convicted heroin trafficker, insisting that he had been a useful informer.
The Government's promise to fight on came as Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, wrote to Vatican secretary-of-state Angelo Sodano seeking the Pope's intervention.
"I think the punishment to the crime is disproportionate," Cardinal Pell told The Australian from the Vatican last night. "This case has been explained to me and I think there are special circumstances in this case."
Cardinal Pell sought the intervention of the late pope, John Paul II, in March but the gravely ill pontiff died before making a decision. He now hopes the new pope, Benedict XVI, will appeal to the Singaporean Government for clemency.
Cardinal Pell said he was disappointed that Nguyen, a former boy scout who claimed to have smuggled drugs only to pay off his twin brother's drug debts, had lost his appeal against the death sentence.
He said the Vatican did not automatically intervene to save criminals from death row.
"It's not a general rule but I'm happy to do it on this occasion," he said.
Pope asked to intervene (The Australian/news.com.au 25/10/05)
Final plea (Daily Telegraph 25/10/05)
Editorial: An issue of life and death in Singapore (The Age 25/10/05)
Mother's desperate plea (The Age 24/10/05)
Execute killers, says Lib (Sunday Times 16/10/05)
Death Penalty: Life For A Life? (Vatican Radio English Features 13/10/05, audio - requires Real Player)
25 Oct 2005