Bali Nine: Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen dies

By @chelean on
Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen
Australian Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen is led into a Denpasar courtroom where he was given a life sentence for drug trafficking on the Indonesian resort island of Bali February 15, 2006 Reuters/Darren Whiteside

Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, one of the members of the ill-fated Bali Nine gang, died on Tuesday after spending 13 years in Indonesian prison. The 34-year-old Vietnamese-Australian was 34.

The Indonesian Corrections office has confirmed that Nguyen died of cancer in a hospital in East Java. No other details were given.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the media that it would not comment for privacy reasons. It was, however, “providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian man who died of a terminal illness in Indonesia.”

Nguyen had been serving a life imprisonment sentence since he was arrested in 2005 for drug trafficking. He was a member of the infamous Bali Nine, a group of nine Australians who were arrested and convicted of attempting to smuggle heroin in Bali, Indonesia, in 2005.

He was arrested in a room at the Melasti Hotel in Kuta with fellow members Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen and Myuran Sukumaran. They were found to be in possession of 334 grams of heroin. Nguyen was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2006, but his appeal aggravated his sentence to death penalty in September of the same year. Another appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court following his full confession of his role resulted in his original sentence of life imprisonment to be reinstated.

In March 2015, Nguyen gave a rare interview to the Telegraph, saying he was terrified of how Indonesia was handling executions, including the then-looming executions of the Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The duo were executed the following month on April 29, 2015.

“After 10 years, the possibility of them being executed is difficult. My parents are hugely affected by it. My mother cried for days after hearing,” he said. “I’m terrified for their situation, distraught for their loved ones and agonisingly certain I will be next.”

In Indonesia, a life sentence means inmates will spend their life in prison. Nguyen and five of his fellow Bali Nine members — Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush and Martin Stephens — were sentenced to life. The lone female member of the group, Renae Lawrence, was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Nguyen said during his interview that he wanted to appeal his sentence again, but he feared that another appeal would result in an even bigger risk. An appeal, if successful, is the only way to reduce a life sentence in the country.

“No one prefers death. Death is an easy way out,” he said. “I deserve the suffering I’m going through. But an appeal means hope. Without that hope, there isn’t any future.”

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