Vigils held around Australia as execution was due in Singapore

Vigils were held in cities around Australia Friday as Singapore prepared to hang the first Australian to be executed in 12 years. Bells and gongs sounded 25 times at the hour (2200 GMT Thursday) Nguyen Tuong Van was scheduled to be hanged in Changi Prison for heroin trafficking to mark each year of his life.

Paul Sinclair, 45, said he was on his way to work when he decided to join about 150 people, some weeping, at a vigil in Sydney's downtown Martin Place.

"I'm a bit cynical ... I doubt there will be this sort of response when Amrozi's executed," Sinclair added, referring to terrorist Amrozi bin Nurhasyim who has been sentenced to death in Indonesia for his part in the 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people died including 88 Australians.

A special service at Saint Ignatius Catholic Church, in Melbourne, where Nguyen attended kindergarten with his twin brother Khoa, was packed with more than 500 people.

The church bell tolled 25 times although there was no official confirmation that the execution had taken place as scheduled.

Singapore repeatedly refused pleas for clemency for Nguyen who was caught an Changi Airport on his way home to Melbourne from Cambodia carrying almost 400 grams (14 ounces) of heroin. Dozens of people held a silent vigil outside the Singapore High Commission in national capital Canberra.

Top rating Nine Network television broadcast live from outside the prison around the time the execution was expected to take place, the AP reports. The last Australian to be executed was Sydney man Michael McAuliffe, who was hanged in Malaysia in 1993, also on heroin convictions. A.M.

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