Singapore rejected Australia's latest plea to spare the life of a heroin trafficker sentenced to be hanged, the two governments said Thursday.
Singapore on Oct. 21 turned down clemency requests from the government, lawyers and the Roman Catholic church for Vietnam-born Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, 25.
Nguyen was arrested at Singapore's Changi Airport in 2002 while flying from Cambodia to the southern Australian city of Melbourne with 396 grams (14 ounces) of heroin strapped to his back and in his carry-on luggage.
In what he described as his "final plea," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer asked his Singaporean counterpart George Yeo to reconsider in a letter sent on Tuesday last week.
He saId that Nguyen could possibly be "a useful or crucially important witness in any prosecution of drug traffickers," Downer told reporters Thursday.
"Last night, I received a letter back from George Yeo saying that whilst the Singapore government understood the concern of the Australian government and the Australian people, all of these arguments had been carefully considered by the Singapore Cabinet and that they wouldn't change their minds; they were going to proceed with the execution," he added.
In Yeo's letter, released to the media by both governments, the Singaporean minister said "due to the seriousness of the offense and the need to hold firm on our national position against drug trafficking, we are unable to change our decision."
Cabinet had carefully considered all relevant factors of Nguyen's case including "his value as a potential source of information," Yeo said.
Yeo also noted that as well as the government's plea, the federal parliament add also passed a resolution Monday pleading for Nguyen's life.
Downer said he would continue to work with the Australian Federal Police and Nguyen's lawyers to search for more specific information about what evidence Nguyen could provide a court if his death sentence were commuted to a life term.
"We're looking at that and that really is our last hope that we can find some legal basis on which to appeal yet again to the Singapore government," Downer said.
"We'll leave no stone unturned, but we remain very pessimistic about this case," he added.
Nguyen's lawyer, Lex Lasry, met with Singapore High Commissioner Joseph Koh in Canberra on Monday to reiterate that the condemned man's willingness to testify against Asian drug syndicates made him eligible for clemency under Singapore's constitution.
Downer said he expected Nguyen to go to the gallows in about a month unless the Singapore government has a change of heart. Executions on the city-state always occur on a Friday.
Singapore always gives the prisoner's family two weeks' notice but no notice had yet been received, Downer said.
Downer said the Singapore government was reluctant to make an exception to its mandatory death sentencing policy for a foreigner.
"They've explained to us that their thinking is to exempt the citizen of one country but not to exempt their own citizens would not only be inconsistent with their broad policy of tough-on-drugs as they see it, but would be hard for people in Singapore to understand," Downer said, AP reported. V.A.
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