25 Nov 2005

Only a miracle can save Nguyen, Downer says

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There will be no appeal to the International Court of Justice to stop convicted drug smuggler Van Nguyen's execution.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says nothing but a miracle will save Van Nguyen from execution, as all diplomatic and legal options are exhausted.

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Former prime ministers Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser have joined the chorus of politicians and lawyers calling for Van Nguyen to be granted clemency.

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An editorial in the Straits Times is the best clue so far to the Singapore Government's thinking on the case of Van Nguyen.

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From ABC News
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says only a miracle can now save Melbourne man Van Nguyen, who is due to be executed in Singapore next Friday for drug trafficking.

The Federal Government has shut the door on taking Singapore to the International Court of Justice.

Mr Downer says he has received expert legal advice supporting the opinion of Government lawyers that Australia has no basis for court action.

But Mr Downer says he will continue to make representations to the Singaporean Government.

"And hope that by some miracle they decide to change their minds," he said.

Nguyen's lawyer Lex Lasry QC says his legal team will not give up.

He says the issue of a mandatory death penalty should be considered by those attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Mr Lasry says Singapore should also allow its position on Nguyen to be tested in the International Court of Justice.

"So my request with respect to the Australian Government is to formally ask the Singapore Government to consent to the jurisdiction of the international court and let's hope that it's made with Singapore's consent," he said.

Mr Downer says CHOGM offers no hope to those seeking to prevent the execution of Nguyen.

Mr Downer doubts the matter would get much traction at CHOGM.

"In the context of CHOGM, in the context of the Commonwealth it might be slightly less than, but around half of all the members of the Commonwealth do have capital offences," he said.

"They do execute people."

Former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam says Australia has acted too late.

"They should have been taking it up with Singapore and our neighbours for many years," he said.

The Government says it has always argued strongly against capital punishment.

Execution presence denied

Nguyen's lawyers say they have been denied permission to attend his execution.

Mr Lasry says he and lawyer Julian McMahon wanted to offer support to their client.

Mr Lasry says Singapore's decision is hard to understand.

"We applied to be present for our client's sake for the comfort that it would give him," he said.

"Although we'll say more about this later, but it's difficult to understand why our attempt to comfort our client by being present would be rejected out of hand by the Government but it has been."

Singaporean media

The Singapore media have warned that more Australians will probably face a similar fate.

Nguyen's family visited him for the fourth day in a row, knowing their time together is quickly coming to an end.

The case is attracting more attention in Singapore with the nation's biggest newspaper the Straits Times warning that more Australians will be hanged if they try to smuggle heroin.

Strongly defending Singapore's death penalty policy, the paper's editorial said Australians had to show their breeding by learning to accept it.

The English language paper has close links to the Singaporean Government and its editorials are considered a clear indication of official views.

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