Australian lawmaker flies to Singapore to save heroin trafficker’s life

A state government lawmaker who branded the pending execution of an Australian heroin trafficker "a barbaric act," flew to Singapore Wednesday in a bid to save the young man's life. Victoria state Attorney-General Rob Hulls said he planned to meet with Singapore's Justice Minister Ho Peng Kee on Thursday to plea for the life of Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, of the state capital Melbourne, who is due to be hanged on Dec. 2.

"Whilst there's life, there's hope," Hulls told reporters in Melbourne before leaving for Singapore.

Hulls rejected suggestions that his government's strong criticisms of the death penalty, including his own description of the planned execution as "a barbaric act," could prove counterproductive.

"The fact is, I'll be as diplomatic as possible when I meet with the minister but a young life is at stake here," Hulls said. "I will be as humble as I possibly can, requesting that the Singaporean government reconsider the issue of clemency for this young man," he added.

Hulls plans to deliver a letter from Victorian Premier Steve Bracks to the Singapore government outlining the government's opposition to the death penalty and mitigating factors in the case.

Singapore has repeatedly rejected Australian pleas for clemency for Van Nguyen who was arrested at the city-state's Changi Airport in 2002 en route from Cambodia to Melbourne carrying 396 grams (14 ounces) of heroin.

Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday ruled out taking Singapore to the International Court of Justice to prevent the execution, saying the move could be counterproductive in the bid to save his life. But Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer is continuing to examine legal options, speaking Wednesday with Sydney-based international law expert, Christopher Ward.

Ward has told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio that Australia would have a case to argue in the International Court of Justice based on Singapore's declarations that regional cooperation should be encouraged in fighting transnational crime. Downer said getting Singapore to accept the court's jurisdiction remained an obstacle, reports the AP. I.L.

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