Lawyer of executed Australian urges Canberra to protest death penalty in US

A lawyer who tried and failed to save an Australian drug trafficker executed by Singapore urged Canberra Saturday to protest the use of the death penalty in the United States. Julian McMahon was speaking as he arrived back in the southern city of Melbourne, the day after 25-year-old Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged at Singapore's Changi prison despite repeated appeals for clemency from Prime Minister John Howard.

Nguyen went to the gallows the same day that convicted murderer Kenneth Lee Boyd became the 1,000th person put to death in the United States since capital punishment resumed there in 1977. Nguyen's execution sparked an outcry in Australia. Vigils were held across the country Friday morning and gongs and bells rang out 25 times, once for every year of his life, at the hour of his hanging.

Nguyen's mother Kim and brother Khoa were expected to arrive back in Melbourne with his body early Sunday ahead of a funeral on Wednesday at the city's St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral. McMahon was scathing in his criticism of Singapore's mandatory death penalty for drug smugglers.

But while he was critical of the Singapore justice system, he praised Nguyen's jailers. He said Nguyen had written many letters in the lead up to his death and lawyers would distribute them this week. Some of the letters were to "important people" but may contain private thoughts and were not necessarily for public perusal, McMahon said without elaborating, AP reports.

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