Friday, September 05, 2003

Dateline: Australia

Terror Outrage Resurrects Death Penalty Question in Australia

The Highlights:

More than 30 years after Australia's last execution, the issue of capital punishment has returned to the public agenda, prompted by the worst terrorist outrage to affect the country.

In an opinion poll released this week, 56 percent of respondents said they supported the death penalty for those convicted of major acts of terrorism, while 36 percent opposed it.

The Newspoll survey, published in The Australian newspaper, obtained similar results in a second question, which sought views on the death sentence handed down by an Indonesian court earlier this month to a man accused of playing a leading role in last October's Bali bombing. That terrorist act killed 202 people, 88 of them Australian.

Following the poll's appearance, a government lawmaker said Tuesday he had no doubt that, if the decision were left to voters, Australia would again adopt the death penalty for cases such as terrorism.

All major parties have platforms that oppose the death penalty.

....The last person to be executed in Australia was Ronald Ryan, who was hanged amid public protests in 1967 for the murder of a prison warden during a jailbreak. He was the 115th person to be executed in the country since 1900.

Australia officially abolished capital punishment in 1985.