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Singapore inquiry into U.S. engineer's death to start in May

American engineer Shane Todd is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout
American engineer Shane Todd is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The public inquiry into the death of an American engineer found hanged in his Singapore apartment last year will start on May 13, the Southeast Asian city-state said on Tuesday.

"At the subordinates court this afternoon, the coroner decided to schedule the inquiry on Mr. Shane Todd's death to commence on May 13," a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office told Reuters.

Todd, 31, was found dead in his apartment in June last year. Singapore police said he probably committed suicide but his parents believe he was murdered, possibly because of his involvement in a project between Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics and Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Todd had previously worked for the institute.

His death has become a political issue, with U.S. Senator Max Baucus, who represents Todd's home state of Montana, pressing for more American involvement in the investigations.

Baucus is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade deals.

Under Singapore law, a coroner's inquiry is needed for deaths that are not a result of illness. The police will present the evidence and the coroner will make a conclusion based on the findings.

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who was in Washington earlier this month, has promised that the inquiry will be "public and transparent."

Singapore police have provided few details of their findings to the public, but Shanmugam told Reuters last week the Singapore pathologist's report has been vetted by two American pathologists who agreed with the findings.

U.S. and Singapore law enforcement officials have also discussed the case, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement last week.

Huawei, which is one of the world's largest telecommunication equipment companies, has been blocked from some projects in Australia and is deemed a security risk by the U.S. Congress on the grounds that its equipment could be used for spying.

Both Huawei and IME, a Singapore government-run research institute, have denied working on any project involving Gallium Nitride (GaN), an advanced semiconductor material that Todd specialized in.

GaN is used in things from blue-ray disc players to military radars.

(This story corrects RIC for Huawei in paragraph 3)

(Reporting by Kevin Lim; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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