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1985: Drug traffickers' appeal rejected

Two Australians are facing the death penalty after their appeal against a conviction for smuggling heroin was rejected by a Malaysian court.

Kevin Barlow, a welder from Perth, who was born in Britain and has dual nationality, and Brian Chambers, a building contractor from Sydney, are due to be executed within weeks after the Supreme Court of Malaysia's decision today.

British-based Christine Austin, Mr Barlow's aunt, said she will appeal to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Foreign Office to seek clemency from the Malaysian authorities for him.

She said: "We had already written to Mrs Thatcher, and we got a reply that she was looking into it."

A Downing Street spokesman said the matter had been passed to the Foreign Office and Australian authorities are taking the lead in seeking clemency as both men have citizenship there.


"I have always been, and remain, firmly opposed to capital punishment"

Australian Minister Bill Hayden

Australian minister for foreign affairs Bill Hayden announced he will seek clemency for the 28-year-olds now all legal avenues have been exhausted.

He said: "I have always been, and remain, firmly opposed to capital punishment.

"Accordingly, I will be pressing the presentation of this appeal for clemency with a great sense of urgency."

Mr Barlow and Mr Chambers were arrested in November 1983 at Penang International Airport with 180 grams of heroin.

They were convicted in July but appealed against the decision.

Both pleaded innocence and blamed the other for carrying the drugs.

Today's verdict upheld the trial judge's decision to invoke the death penalty because the amount of the drug on them was in excess of the 15 gram cut-off point used to distinguish users from traffickers.

They have few channels open to them in the light of today's decision but can go to the State Pardon Board of Penang.

Failing this they can appeal to the King of Malaysia.

Malaysia has hanged 34 people, all Asians, in the past 10 years.

In Context
An eleventh hour plea for a stay of execution by the then Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke was ignored and relations between the two states deteriorated.

Both men were hanged in Pudu Prison on 7 July 1986 and became the first non-Malaysians to be hanged under the country's stringent narcotics laws.

The laws which imposed a mandatory death penalty on drug traffikers in Malaysia, with more than 15g of heroin, was introduced in 1983.

Similar offences under Australian law were believed at the time to carry an average three years in prison. sentence.


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