The Singapore government says its diplomats in China have been unable to visit two of its citizens who were sentenced to death there for drug offences after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as more details emerge on the circumstances leading to their arrest five years ago.
This follows a claim by one of them that there had been no visit from officials for more than a year.
The Singapore foreign ministry said its consulate-general in the Guangdong province had been visiting Siti Aslinda Junaidi and Mohd Yusri Mohd Yussof regularly before the virus outbreak this year.
Aslinda, 35, and Yusri, 44, were convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in July this year.
Aslinda recently revealed in a letter that the Singapore consul had not visited her for the last 15 months.
“I don’t know why. Quite worried here,” she wrote in a letter to her daughter sighted by MalaysiaNow.
Meanwhile, more details have emerged about her case through court documents cited by CNN.
The report said Yusri’s sentence could be commuted to life imprisonment, but that Aslinda who is considered to have played a more active role in the crime could face execution by firing squad if she fails in her appeal.
According to court documents seen by CNN, Aslinda met a man online in 2014, who offered her between US$2,000 and US$3,000 to move goods such as handbags and toner cartridges between China and Cambodia.
On Oct 24, 2015, customs in Shenzhen found 28 women’s handbags with 11kg of methamphetamine concealed in the lining. CNN said the drugs could have fetched up to US$220,000 in the US.
The report named the man who had offered her the job as Chibuzor Onwuka although it is unclear whether he was arrested, with court papers saying his case was being “handled separately”.
Aslinda is currently awaiting an appeal at the Guangdong High Court.
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On Christmas Eve, her Singapore lawyer M Ravi, a prominent human rights campaigner in the city-state, said he had finally been able to find a lawyer in China who was willing to provide his services pro bono.
“It is so expensive to hire a lawyer in China. Some of them asked ridiculous fees,” he added in a Facebook post.
News on Aslinda was not carried by Singapore’s mainstream media until yesterday, with a report by The Straits Times.
Ravi said progress had been made in giving Aslinda legal aid following the coverage by CNN.
“The pro bono lawyer stepped forward following the CNN report this afternoon – power of the world media!” he posted on Facebook.
On Dec 15, Aslinda’s 17-year-old daughter Ismiraldha told MalaysiaNow that there had been a lack of documentation on her mother’s case.
“What I can say is that when this happened, I was just 12 years old. I’m not too sure.
“But I can assure you that all these years nothing has been done,” Ismiraldha said.
In a handwritten letter to Ismiraldha last month, Aslinda told her daughter that her sentence was “unfair”.
“I must fight for my right no matter how. I know it’s difficult for you to accept this and I got to do something for this,” Aslinda wrote.