Johannes van Damme

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Johannes van Damme (1 June 1935 – 23 September 1994) was a Dutch engineer executed by hanging in Singapore for smuggling heroin. He was the first European and Westerner to be executed in Singapore since its independence.

Biography[edit]

Van Damme had lived in Nigeria for a while and was married to a Nigerian woman at the time of his arrest. He was arrested on September 27, 1991, at Singapore Changi Airport. In a secret compartment of his trunk, 4.32 kilograms (9.5 lb) of heroin was found. Van Damme claimed he had been framed by his Nigerian engineer partner, but this claim was rejected by the court. In November 1993, his appeal was rejected, and the sentence was upheld. A plea for clemency from the Dutch government was rejected by the President of Singapore, Ong Teng Cheong, and nor could a letter from Queen Beatrix sent to the President prevent Van Damme from being executed.[1]

He was hanged at Changi Prison on the morning of Friday, September 23, 1994, between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.[2] It was his case, along with that of Mat Repin (executed by hanging on 13 May 1994 at Changi prison for having smuggled 1 kg of cannabis from Malaysia).[3]) which prompted science fiction author William Gibson to describe Singapore as Disneyland with the Death Penalty, the title of in his first major non-fiction piece which was first published by Wired magazine in its September/October 1993 issue (1.4).[4]

The article had an immediate and lasting impact. The Singapore government banned Wired upon the publication of the issue, and the phrase "Disneyland with the death penalty" became a byword for bland authoritarianism that the city-state could not easily discard.

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