Singapore issues verdict Tuesday on execution of a disabled Malaysian
Kuala Lumpur — Singapore’s Supreme Court will decide on Tuesday the fate of a Malaysian man on death row believed to be mentally disabled, his family and rights group said Friday.
The appeals court hearing was scheduled for November 10, the day before Naganthran K. Dharmalingam was executed by hanging for attempting to smuggle less than 43 grams (1.5 ounces) of heroin into the country. But the hearing was postponed after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in a case that drew international attention.
His sister Sarmila Dharmalingam said she was told by a Malaysian lawyer that the hearing would now take place on Tuesday.
If the court rejects the appeal, UK-based rights group Reprieve said Naganthran, 33, would again be at risk of execution, which could come very quickly.
In a statement released via Reprieve, his brother Navinkumar Dharmalingam said Naganthran’s mental state had “severely deteriorated”.
“I don’t think he had any idea he would be executed. He didn’t seem to understand it at all. When I visited him, he talked about coming home and eating home cooked food with our family. It broke my heart that he seemed to think he would come home,” Navinkumar said. “.
“He has other delusions about taking a three-hour shower and sitting in a garden. He often does not remember the simplest things and some of what he says is quite incoherent,” added Navinkumar, who visited his brother several times in a Singapore prison prior to the November 10 appeal hearing.
“Naga is at imminent risk of execution although he should be protected from the death penalty because of his mental disability and as a victim of trafficking,” said Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has made clear his commitment to championing the rights of people with disabilities. “To allow this mockery of justice to happen would be inconsistent with those promises,” Foa added.
The Malaysian national was sentenced to death in November 2010 under Singapore’s strict anti-drug laws. Previous attempts to reduce his sentence to life imprisonment or obtain a presidential pardon have failed, despite pleas from the international community and rights groups.
Opponents of the death penalty say Nagantran’s IQ of 69 was revealed during an earlier hearing in the lower court. This level is internationally recognized as an intellectual disability. But the court ruled that Nagaentran knew what he was doing.
Legal experts – including the Asia Network Against the Death Penalty and Amnesty International – have described the execution of a mentally disabled man as inhumane and a violation of international law and Singapore’s constitution.
The Malaysian leader, members of the international community, representatives of the European Union and global figures such as British businessman Richard Branson called for Nagantran’s life to be saved, and used the case to draw attention towards anti-death penalty advocacy.
Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs said in response that the country took a “zero tolerance stance against illegal drugs” and that the death penalty had been clarified at its borders.
Anyone found to have more than 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of heroin faces the death penalty in Singapore, although judges can reduce this to life imprisonment at their discretion. The last execution in Singapore was in 2019.
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