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Transcript of doorstop interview: 1 December 2005: Nguyen.



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The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

E and OE

1 December 2005

Transcript

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Doorstop Interview - Nguyen

Downer: We're pleased that the Singapore government has agreed to our request for Van Nguyen and his mother to make some physical contact before he's taken off and executed. At the last meeting they will have some physical contact. I'm not sure of the details but of course

we will know once she's had that contact. We've obviously done everything we can to try to save his life. We've clearly been unsuccessful but we have - both the Prime Minister and I invested quite a lot in ensuring that there could be some physical contact between a mother and her son when the son is to be executed. It'll perhaps be very meagre compensation - of course it will be - but it will be nice that they can touch each other.

Journalist: Do you accept the statement from Singapore that full contact encounters can be traumatic and likely destabilise (inaudible)?

Downer: My view is that a prisoner who is to be executed confronts the greatest of all destabilisation to have his life taken away from him. So I don't really identify with that statement. I am nevertheless glad that some physical contact will be possible and they have made a special exemption in this case because of the efforts that the Prime Minister and I have made and we appreciate that.

Journalist: So this is better than nothing?

Downer: It is better than nothing, yes. I mean we can only imagine - all of us - but we can imagine it's a lot better than not being able to have any physical contact. We hear of many cases where requests have been made for physical contact and they've been denied. So we weren't very optimistic when we first made the request and the Prime Minister followed it up in his conversation with Prime Minister Lee in Malta and I've been following it up since from time to time. But anyway, I'm pleased that this decision has been made.

Journalist: Senior council today has started a prosecution in the Melbourne Magistrate's court against Van Nguyen -charging him with conspiracy to import heroin and that the government should now extradite him. What do you think of that?

Downer: It's way too late, I mean he has been in prison for years. If such an initiative was ever to have any likelihood of success it would have had to have been initiated years ago, or certainly months ago. Not on the day before he's going to die. And secondly we have looked very carefully at this whole question of extradition and under the extradition agreement that we have with Singapore and this is typical of extradition agreements that we have- where somebody is already in custody extradition doesn't happen automatically. Secondly you must remember that there is a principal called double jeopardy - you cannot prosecute somebody for an offence for which they have already - can't charge somebody for an offence for which they have already been charged. He's already been charged and convicted of drug trafficking, to lay charges again for…

Journalist: (inaudible)

Downer:… well, it's still drug trafficking. To be honest with you, it's just pointless to do something like this- hours before he's going to the gallows. If somebody thought this as such a great idea they should have come up with it months if not years ago, firstly. Secondly, we have examined very carefully this whole question of extradition and on the basis of the principal of double jeopardy and the fact the Van Nguyen is held in custody in Singapore, there isn't a basis for extradition.

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