Monday, May 16, 2022

Singapore set to execute another drug offender ahead of Ramadan

An activist says this raises fears that authorities are 'trying to clear the backlog' in prison.

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Singapore authorities are set to execute yet another man convicted of drug offences, with 68-year-old Abdul Kahar Othman to be hanged on March 30, just three days before the start of Ramadan.

Singapore-based group Transformative Justice Collective (TJC) said Kahar’s family was informed of his execution date on March 23, making him the eighth prisoner on death row to be issued an execution notice since 2019.

Kahar, who TJC said had struggled with drug addiction since he was 16, was convicted of two counts of trafficking 66.77g of diamorphine in 2013. He was sentenced to death in 2015.

“The death penalty is a cruel and irreversible punishment that is often carried out against people who have already suffered greatly in a world hostile to their plight,” TJC said.

“Most of the people we put to death in Singapore are racially oppressed people with mental health issues and disabilities, who have lived in poverty without access to adequate treatment and care for addiction.”

Others who have been issued an execution notice include Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, a mentally disabled Malaysian whose plight drew international criticism of Singapore’s continued use of the death penalty.

Also on the list are Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, Syed Suhail Syed Zin, Moad Fadzir Mustaffa, Roslan Bakar, Pausi Jefridin and Rosman Abdullah.

Roslan, Pausi and Rosman lost their appeals on March 16, with the High Court judge saying no new arguments had been raised that were different from earlier pleas, and accusing them of abusing the court process.

Pannir’s final appeal meanwhile was dismissed last year.

The judgment for Nagaenthran’s application will be delivered in the city-state on March 29.

Singaporean independent journalist Kirsten Han, who has been actively highlighting the stories behind those condemned to death for drug offences, spoke of concerns that the prison authorities were “trying to clear the backlog”.

“Watching all this, it feels like every time an attempt to carry out an execution gets stalled, the authorities just look for the next guy in the queue,” she said on Twitter.

“It certainly gives credence to the fear that the prison is trying to clear the backlog and ‘make space’.”

Nagaenthran, now 34, was arrested in 2009 for trafficking a small amount of heroin into Singapore, which has some of the world’s toughest drug laws, and handed a then mandatory death sentence the following year.

Supporters say Nagaenthran has an IQ of 69 – a level recognised as a disability – and was coerced into committing the crime.

He was scheduled to be hanged in November last year but the verdict sparked criticism due to concerns he has intellectual disabilities, with the European Union and British billionaire Richard Branson among those condemning the decision.

According to Amnesty International, Singapore is among more than 30 countries worldwide where drug-related offences are still punishable by death.

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