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I was heartened to hear your opposition to the death penalty in your interview with Australian ABC Television this morning. For your information, following is the text of my message to your Prime Minister.
New South Wales, Australia
20 Nov 05
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to plead with you to spare the life Nguyen Tuong Van.
This young man made a serious error of judgment, which led him to be charged and sentenced to death under your justice system. I am aware that many governments like yours have a no tolerance attitude to drug offences, but I seriously question whether the punishment has any deterrent value at all.
As you know, our various state governments have legislated to remove the death penalty, and many jurisdictions have drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes to address this serious social problem. I am sure that both our societies can benefit from sharing our experiences in dealing with the problem of addiction.
I ask you to consider the dilemma you would face if one of your own children were to fall foul of your drug laws and thereby face the death penalty – what a terrible waste of a life, what a terrible loss you would have to bear. Not only the accused, but the whole family and friends of the accused are condemned to a lifetime of grief.
The decision is yours: you may kill this unfortunate young man, but you will not be able to kill the lingering doubt in your own mind, which will revisit you in your hours of leisure and solitude, when you go on your walks, or when you listen to your favourite classical music, that you could have taken another, kinder course of action.