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Stand-off as Singapore court insists ill lawyer be present to argue Pausi’s case

Prominent human rights lawyer M Ravi says 78-year-old Violet Netto is ill after receiving her Covid-19 vaccine jab and in no condition to attend court.

Our Regional Correspondent
2 minute read
An auxiliary police officer stands outside the Supreme Court in Singapore, which comprises the High Court and Court of Appeal. Photo: AFP
An auxiliary police officer stands outside the Supreme Court in Singapore, which comprises the High Court and Court of Appeal. Photo: AFP

A stand-off appears to be underway at the Singapore court as the judges hearing the bid by Malaysian Pausi Jefridin to have his death sentence declared unconstitutional have ordered his 78-year-old lawyer who is suffering from side effects due to her Covid-19 vaccine jab to be present to argue his case.

Prominent human rights lawyer M Ravi said in a Facebook Live video that Violet Netto, whose firm filed the application for Pausi on a pro bono basis, was also still recovering from having contracted Covid-19.

It is understood that she had been given an MC from Feb 17 to 23.

“Things are really ridiculous,” Ravi said. “She is ill. I am taking her to the clinic right now.

“We have been told that the court will not accept the MC. She’s at her house and she is panicking. She is very ill. What are we supposed to do?”

Lawyer N Surendran meanwhile questioned the need for such haste in the matter.

“The action by the Singapore High Court this morning in threatening and harassing a sick 78-year-old lawyer, who defends death row prisoners on a pro bono basis, is sickening,” he said in a Twitter post.

“What’s the hurry? Only kangaroo courts behave this way.”

The application filed yesterday was fixed for hearing at 9.30am today. Activists and lawyers had said that the rushed hearing date was to enable Singapore authorities to immediately hang Pausi and Singaporean Roslan Bakar who is scheduled to be executed alongside him.

Pausi and Roslan, who were charged with trafficking 96.07g of diamorphine and 76.37g of methamphetamine in 2008, were convicted in 2010.

They failed in an appeal in 2017 to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment, despite lawyers citing medical reports on their intellectual capabilities which would render their execution illegal under Singapore laws as well as international treaties.

Their executions, scheduled for yesterday, were postponed as lawyers rushed in a last-minute bid to save them from the gallows.

Singapore has some of the world’s toughest drugs laws, and insists that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime.

But news of their imminent executions has been met with criticism including by the United Nations which said this week that the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences is incompatible with international human rights law.

Their case is similar to that of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, a Malaysian diagnosed with an IQ of 69 who was to have been executed in November last year.

He was granted a stay of execution after a diagnosis of Covid-19 just before the court was due to hear a last-ditch appeal to save his life.

His hearing is believed to have been set for this month.

Ravi today said that right to counsel includes the health and condition of the lawyers themselves.

“Access to justice also means that the lawyer must be in good health,” he added.