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mother hanged as drug-runner

Singapore - Relatives and friends mourned a young Hong Kong mother hanged in Singapore yesterday for drug trafficking, despite a stay of execution over Christmas and international pleas for mercy.

Angel Mou Pui-peng, 25, a single mother whose execution was postponed so she could spend Christmas with her family, was hanged in Changi prison. She was cremated a few hours later after a short service attended by her grief-stricken sister and close friends and well-wishers. "When are you coming back to Hong Kong?" a young woman cried in Cantonese as she, Mou's sister Cecilia and a few others watched the coffin, covered in black velvet, disappear into the furnace.

Mou's father, who declined to speak to reporters, stayed outside in a white Salvation Army van parked behind the hall. The father, reported to have been reconciled with his daughter during her brief stay of execution, broke down uncontrollably when he was joined outside by his daughter Cecilia after the cremation.

Mou was born in the Portuguese-administered territory of Macau and had a Portuguese passport, but lived in Hong Kong. She was arrested at Changi Airport on in August 1991, after arriving from Bangkok. The Central Narcotics Bureau said a total of 20 packets containing 9lb of heroin was found in her luggage.

Under Singapore law, the death sentence is mandatory for anyone over 18 convicted of trafficking in more than 15 grams (half an ounce) of heroin, 30 grams (one ounce) of morphine or 500 grams (18 oz) of cannabis.

President Mario Soares of Portugal and the Portuguese government also appealed for clemency on the grounds of Mou's youth and the fact that she was only a carrier.

However, according to Portuguese officials, Singapore said it could not differentiate between foreigners and its own people. The Governor of Macau expressed deep sorrow and called the execution "revolting".

Mou's lawyer Peter Yap said she was "normal and calm" when he saw her on Thursday. He said she "was emotionally stable, prepared; spiritually she was very strong."

Mou, the 95th person executed under Singapore's tough 1975 anti-drug laws, was sentenced to death in 1993. Her personal appeal for clemency was rejected. Her family had successfully petitioned Singapore's government for the postponement of her execution,scheduled for 23 December so she could spend her final Christmas with relatives.