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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 11:03 GMT
Singapore executioner 'sacked'
Nguyen supporters in Sydney
Singh was scheduled to carry out a high-profile execution
Singapore's chief executioner says he has been sacked after his identity was exposed by the media.

Darshan Singh's name and photo appeared in the Australian press days before he was due to execute a Vietnamese-born Australian man for drugs smuggling.

Australia has repeatedly appealed for clemency on behalf of Nguyen Tuong Van, who is scheduled to be hanged on 2 December, but to no avail.

Prime Minister John Howard has rejected calls for a national minute's silence.

Singapore has some of the harshest anti-drug laws in the world and Mr Singh, 74, is reported to have conducted more than 850 hangings in his 50-year career.

"They called me a few days ago and said I don't have to hang Nguyen and that I don't have to work anymore," Mr Singh told Reuters news agency.

"I think [the prison authorities] must be mad after seeing my pictures in the newspapers."

Australia's Victoria state Attorney-General Rob Hulls (L) comforts a weeping Kim Nguyen (C) while her son Khoa Nguyen looks on at the Australian High Commission on November 24, 2005
Nguyen's mother and brother (right) are in Singapore to comfort him

Australia's Sunday Telegraph newspaper said a new hangman was expected to be flown in to carry out Nguyen's execution.

Twin brother

The 25-year-old was convicted of trafficking 400 grams (14 ounces) of heroin in 2002 after he was arrested while in transit at Singapore's Changi airport.

He has said he trafficked the drugs to earn enough money to pay his twin brother's legal bills.

Nguyen's case has aroused strong feelings in Australia.

There have been calls for Prime Minister John Howard to stay away from an international cricket match on Friday.

But Mr Howard has said he has to attend the match, and has also ruled out a suggestion the nation should observe a minute's silence on the day.

However, a church in the area of Melbourne where Nguyen Tuong Van and his brother Khoa grew up, will hold a special service on Friday, after which the church bell will toll 25 times - one peal for each year of Nguyen's life.

Nguyen's lawyer, Lex Lasry, said his client was calm.

"He's composed and although I wouldn't say he's not frightened, he's remained courageous and is showing incredible fortitude," Mr Lasry said.

His mother, brother and two of his friends are in Singapore to comfort him this week, although they can only talk to Nguyen through a glass barrier.

His mother has put in an official request to be able to hug him before he dies.

Anger as Singapore hanging looms
25 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian drug smuggler to hang
20 Mar 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Singapore 'tops execution league'
15 Jan 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Singapore
04 Oct 05 |  Country profiles

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