Singapore rejects to reconsider planned execution of Australian heroin trafficker

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Tuesday that he urged Singapore to reconsider the planned execution of an Australian heroin trafficker, but was told that the decision was irreversible. Downer said he met Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo late Monday on the sidelines of the APEC ministerial meetings in the South Korean port city of Busan to plead for the life of Vietnam-born Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, who is expected to go to the gallows within a month.

Downer said he was pessimistic about Nguyen's fate.

Yeo explained Singapore's decision and said his government considered Australia's plea, Downer told reporters.

"But in the end he said that the decision of the Singapore Cabinet has been made, the decision of the president has been made and those decisions are irreversible," Downer said.

"I will always do my best to try to save the life of this Australian," he said, but added that he did not want to raise false hopes. "It's not only wrong for me to do that, it's cruel to do that."

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 luggage.

Australian officials have told Singapore that Nguyen could become a crucial witness in any prosecution of drug traffickers, but Singapore said his offense was serious and it would remain firm on its tough position against drug trafficking.

Singapore has said it would be hard to explain to its people why Nguyen should be exempted from that policy, Downer has said. Australia's Labor Party leader Kim Beazley has urged Prime Minister John Howard to ask his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, to reconsider the execution when they meet at the annual APEC summit this week. Downer said Howard might raise the issue, but declined to elaborate.

Downer refused to answer when asked if Yeo informed him of the execution date but said it would be in the "short term."

"I, at this stage, don't have any other angles that I can pursue but I'm happy to take advice and hear other ideas and I'll always continue to push the case until the last moment," he said. "But I'm quite pessimistic about it,” reports the AP. I.L.

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