KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Two Australians convicted of drug trafficking were hanged simultaneously at dawn today after last-minute mercy pleas from Australia and Britain were rejected.
Kevin John Barlow, 28, and Brian Jeffrey Chambers, 29, were hanged at Pudu Prison, where signs on the exterior wall proclaimed: "Death Awaits Drug Pushers" and "Drugs Kill."
Barlow's lawyer, Karpal Singh, said the condemned man's mother, Barbara Barlow, had hoped that Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke's appeal to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed would save her son. After the execution, the lawyer said, "The poor woman is shattered."
'It Was Barbaric'
In Sydney, Hawke told reporters today: "We have done all that we could to try to persuade the Malaysian authorities that--whatever view they had about the guilt of these two young men-- it was barbaric to take their lives."
The condemned men were led handcuffed the few short steps to the wooden gallows as the cry of the muezzin calling the Muslim faithful to prayer broke the morning stillness just before 6 a.m.
They were then blindfolded and their legs bound, and a noose made of thick rope was slipped around each man's neck in the presence of a physician, a magistrate and the prison superintendent--the sole witnesses, Singh said. Without warning, the lever to the trap door was pulled, he said.
Malaysia, a major transit point for heroin from the "Golden Triangle" nations of Thailand, Laos and Burma, views narcotics abuse as a major problem and has hanged 36 convicted drug smugglers since it imposed the death penalty in 1975.
"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.
Barlow, a welder from Perth, and Chambers, a building contractor from Sydney, were the first Westerners hanged under Malaysia's tough drug laws demanding a mandatory death sentences for anyone found guilty of trafficking in more than 3.3 ounces of heroin.
They were convicted in July, 1985, of trafficking in 6.3 ounces of heroin, then lost their appeal to Malaysia's Supreme Court in December. The Panang Pardons Board, the final arbiter for a commutation of the death sentences to life in prison, rejected their appeals.
In London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made a last-minute appeal to the Malaysian government to grant "clemency on humanitarian grounds." Barlow, born in England, held dual British-Australian citizenship.