Singapore's representative in Australia on Thursday defended his government's refusal to spare an Australian sentenced to death for heroin trafficking, saying the country treats foreigners the same as Singaporeans.
Australia's government and lawyers for Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, a former salesman from Melbourne, have vowed to keep trying to save him from hanging despite the Singapore government's rejection last week of a final clemency plea.
But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the statement by Singapore's high commissioner in Canberra, Joseph Koh, suggested that the decision was final.
"They've obviously given it very careful consideration, and this statement by the high commissioner reflects the fact that they believe they've made their final decision," Downer said on Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Koh issued a statement Thursday noting that Nguyen was caught with more than 26 times the 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of heroin that draws a mandatory death penalty.
Nguyen "was given a fair hearing throughout the legal process and his appeal for clemency was carefully considered," Koh's statement said.
"After taking into account all factors, the president, on the advice of the Cabinet, was unable to make an exception to Mr. Nguyen's case," Koh's statement said.
Responding to Nguyen's mother's recent impassioned plea for her son's life, Koh said he understood the decision was difficult for Nguyen's family to accept.
"But the stand of the government has taken on Mr. Nguyen is consistent with the firm position that Singapore has taken on similar cases in the past involving Singaporeans and foreigners alike," Koh said.
"Not everyone may agree with our view, but I hope they will understand Singapore's position," he added.
Nguyen's lawyers expect him to be executed within six weeks unless Singapore takes the unprecedented step of overturning its decision to refuse clemency.
They argue that Singapore did not take into account Nguyen's cooperation with authorities since his arrest at Changi Airport in December 2002, while flying from Cambodia to Melbourne with 396 grams (14 ounces) of heroin strapped to his back and in hand luggage.
Under Singapore's constitution, clemency can be granted in return for cooperation with police.
Downer said he had written "a last plea" to his Singaporean counterpart George Yeo this week, highlighting Nguyen's assistance to police in Singapore and Australia investigating drug trafficking, reports the AP.
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