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Youngest Brother of Late President Diem Executed in Saigon

May 9, 1964 - Ngo Dinh Can (far right), youngest brother of the late President Ngo Dinh Diem, was executed at sundown today by a firing squad in Saigon.

The slight figure of the 53-year-old man who ruled Central Vietnam until November of last year hung limply from a prison stake for a few moments while Vietnamese photographers recorded his end. He was the most prominent member of the once-powerful Ngo family remaining in South Vietnam.

For the last moments before his death, Can faced a 10-man firing squad alone, his lips still moving after a Roman Catholic priest had delivered a final benediction and moved aside.

About 300 people, mostly military officers and newsmen, witnessed the execution. A crowd outside the prison showed no signs of emotion.

Can was convicted of murder, extortion, and other offenses committed during the presidency of his brother, who was overthrown in a coup d’état Nov. 1. Diem and another brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, his political adviser and chief minister, were killed a day after the coup.

Futile appeals for clemency, including one from U.S. officials, had been pressed on the Government of Premier Nguyen Khanh as late as yesterday. Can was sentenced April 22, and the Vietnamese Chief of State, General Duong Van Minh, rejected Can’s own clemency appeal last Tuesday.

The appeals were based on Can’s physical condition. He was suffering from diabetes and collapsed during his trial before a revolutionary court last month. Today, he was carried on a stretcher and then supported by three military policemen. He was wearing his usual loose white trousers and black tunic.

Can appeared to be calm, turning his head to talk with the priest and a lawyer. A black cloth was wrapped around his upper face, covering his gold-rimmed spectacles. After a volley from the firing squad, a military police captain delivered the coup de grâce. The original sentence had called for the use of the guillotine.

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