Appeal to spare Nguyen’s life

Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, is due to be executed within a month after he was sentenced to death for smuggling almost 400 grams of heroin into Singapore.

Under Singapore’s constitution, an appeal for clemency has a stronger chance of succeeding if the accused provides information that helps police.

But in Nguyen’s case Singaporean President S. R. Nathan rejected appeals to spare his life.

His lawyer Lex Lasry QC said Nguyen had aided Australian Federal Police with detailed information about a heroin smuggling ring.

“This decision either appears to be a bad mistake, an error of judgment, or to, in some way, to deliberately ignore those parts of the Singapore constitution that provide particularly for clemency in circumstances where someone has offered assistance to law enforcement. And that’s what our client’s done,” Mr Lasry told ABC radio.

“He is in a position, were he able to do it, to give evidence in any prosecution they (might have) brought,” he said.

“He would be the primary witness in the prosecution of any criminal conspiracy, of which he was a relatively minor part.”

Mr Lasry said Nguyen had smuggled the drugs to help pay off his twin brother’s debts.

Nguyen’s mother Kim has made an impassioned plea to the federal government to pressure the Singaporean government to save her son.

“He is my heart,” Ms Nguyen told reporters. “If something happens to my son, my heart will be stopped.”

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he would write to Singapore’s foreign minister to ask him to review the decision.

But earlier Mr Downer said the government had done all it could within its power.

“Tragically, and I feel very badly about this because I’m a complete opponent of capital punishment, I really do feel terribly sad about this, but I honestly, to be frank about it, I’m not sure that there’s much else we can do,” Mr Downer told ABC radio.

“I mean, we can make more appeals but I think at this point it’s just not going to have any effect,” he said.

Prime Minister John Howard said the government had tried everything at a political and diplomatic level.

“The answer came back on Friday that the execution would go ahead,” he said.

“I am very sorry to say that I don’t think the prospects of anything changing are realistic.”

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