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Singapore court to decide fate of Malaysian prisoner 48 hours before post-Deepavali execution

The high court is set to hear a constitutional challenge to stop the Nov 10 execution of mentally unstable drug convict Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Lawyer Mahajoth Singh holds a placard in the lone protest he has been staging daily outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
Lawyer Mahajoth Singh holds a placard in the lone protest he has been staging daily outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.

A Singapore court will hear a challenge against the death sentence of a mentally unstable Malaysian prisoner some 48 hours before his execution at Changi prison on Nov 10.

Prominent lawyer M Ravi, representing Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam who was convicted of a drug offence a decade ago, said he had filed a constitutional challenge based on two articles in the republic’s constitution relating to the right to life, as well as to Singapore’s obligation to respect a UN-sanctioned treaty prohibiting the execution of intellectually disabled or retarded persons.

Ravi said they are seeking an interpretation of Article 9 in line with its international obligations, citing a judgment in 2010 on the importance of adhering to the treaties it had signed.

He said the challenge also invokes a constitutional clause in Article 12 on the right to equality and equal treatment.

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam has been diagnosed with a low IQ and ADHD.

“We are arguing that there is no rational nexus of the execution of Nagaenthran towards the social object of deterrence because Nagaenthran’s mental disability does not allow him to understand or appreciate deterrence. And therefore we contend that the execution is irrational and a capricious act of the state,” Ravi said in a statement today.

Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) revealed last Thursday that Nagaenthran’s mother had been informed in a letter from the Singapore Prison Service dated Oct 26 that her son would be executed on Nov 10.

Nagaenthran has been diagnosed with mental disabilities and a low IQ level, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

He was convicted in 2011 of illegally importing 42.72g of diamorphine and sentenced to death under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, a controversial law that the city-state’s leaders have defended as an effective deterrent against drug trafficking.

“That Singapore is determined now to go on with this execution is shocking and sickening,” said LFL.

Activists have also urged Putrajaya to intervene and appeal on behalf of Nagaenthran, reminding the government of Malaysia’s recent appointment to the UN Human Rights Council.

“We urge the minister of foreign affairs to interfere and to appeal to stop this execution and change Nagaenthran’s death sentence to life in prison,” said Angelia Pranthaman of anti-death penalty group Sebaran Kasih, who also questioned the timing of the execution during the Deepavali festival.

A group of civil society activists are also planning to hand over a memorandum at Parliament tomorrow, in a bid to highlight the case to Malaysian MPs.

Meanwhile, lawyer Mahajoth Singh has been staging a lone protest outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur since Sunday, hoping to raise awareness about Nagaenthran’s plight as well as to get the Malaysian government to intervene.