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URGENT Kaula Lumpur Executes Two For Drug Convictions

July 7, 1986 GMT

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Two Australians convicted of drug trafficking were hanged at dawn Monday despite pleas from foreign governments to spare them.

Brian Geoffrey Chambers Jr., 29, and John Kevin Barlow, 28, were the first Westerners executed under Malaysia’s tough anti-drug laws.

Karpal Singh, the attorney for the two, told reporters at the massive steel gates of Pudu Prison that prison authorities told him the two had been executed.

Reporters outside the prison saw a black prison truck leave it at 6:50 a.m. A prison officer, who would not give his name, said the two Australians were executed at 6 a.m., and their bodies were being taken to the government hospital mortuary for a postmortem before being released to relatives.

Families of the two men wept as they left Pudu Prison in downtown Kuala Lumpur after a last visit Sunday.

Chambers, a building contractor from Sydney, and Barlow, 28, a welder from Perth, were arrested on Nov. 9, 1983, at Penang International Airport on charges of possessing 6.2 ounces of heroin. They were convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death on Aug. 1, 1985.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke of Australia appealed Saturday to Malaysia’s prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, to spare the men’s lives. On Sunday, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appealed on behalf of Barlow, who has dual Australian-British citizenship.

Chambers’ parents, Sue and Brian Sr., and Barlow’s mother, Barbara, and his sister, Michelle, visited them for about eight hours Sunday, the last scheduled visit.

″They want to be left alone,″ said Chambers, who visited his son several times over the previous few days. He told reporters outside the prison that two were ″distraught and upset but have accepted their fate.″

Mrs. Barlow said she still believes her son is innocent and is proud of him. Michelle Barlow gave a bouquet of orchids to her brother, embraced him and wept, the elder Chambers said.

He said the families brought in chicken, rice, soft drinks and other food. He said Barlow ate only some fruit and that his son merely took a soft drink.

Singh, an attorney representing Barlow, said he would return once more to the prison to help his client write a will.

Chambers and Barlow were sentenced under a 1983 law which mandates the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers.

″Anybody who violates Malaysia’s anti-drug law will have to face the consequence,″ Mahathir said in a speech at a drug rehabilitation center on Sunday. ″We cannot consider the color of the skin, philosophy or any other matter in our fight against this evil.″

Mahathir has cited drug abuse as the country’s biggest problem, saying about 500,000 of Malaysia’s 15 million people are addicts.

An Australian High Commission official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hawke wrote to Mahathir, asking that all legal processes be exploited before the death penalty was carried out. The official said the letter was delivered to Mahathir’s residence Saturday.

In London, Mrs. Thatcher’ office said in a statement that she had appealed to Malaysia to save Barlow’s life on humanitarian grounds. The plea was conveyed Sunday by the British ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, the statement said.

Singh said he tried to see Mahathir on Sunday, but was told the prime minister was too busy to receive him.

The lawyer said Barlow’s mother received a telegram from the human rights group Amnesty International which said the hangings would violate the United Nations Charter on Human Rights.

Singh said he was trying to convey the telegram to Awang Hassan, governor of Penang, the state in which Chambers and Barlow were arrested. The governor, as head of the Penang Pardons Board, could stay the execution.

The board rejected an appeal for clemency on June 21.

Since 1975, when Malaysian law for the first time allowed capital punishment for drug traffickers, 120 people have been sentenced to death. Of those, 36 have been executed. Appeals are pending in the other cases.