Sunday, July 3, 2022

After Nagaenthran, another Malaysian fights to stay alive without lawyers

Datchinamurthy Kataiah's case bears many similarities to that of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, amid a climate of intimidation against lawyers handling death row cases.

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Yet another Malaysian on death row in Singapore has filed a last-ditch attempt to stay his execution on Friday, even as outrage over the recent hanging of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam continues to reverberate throughout Malaysia and the city-state.

Datchinamurthy Kataiah’s application will be heard by the Singapore High Court at 9.30am today, on the eve of his execution.

The application seeks to prohibit the execution on the grounds that it is unlawful to hang him while he still has a legal challenge pending.

His challenge is scheduled to be heard on May 20.

In a move reminiscent of Nagaenthran’s failed attempt to escape the gallows, Datchinamurthy will be arguing his own case as he and his family have been unable to secure the services of a lawyer, rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said.

“It is unheard of for an execution to be carried out while the prisoner’s case is still ongoing in court,” LFL chief coordinator Zaid Malek said.

Adding that lawyers in Singapore were now afraid to represent prisoners on death row due to concerns over reprisals from the attorney-general and courts, Zaid said Datchinamurty’s life would depend on his argument in court.

Nagaenthran was executed yesterday for trafficking a small amount of heroin into Singapore despite efforts at both the domestic and international level to halt his death sentence given his mental disability.

He had an IQ of 69, a level recognised as a disability, and was reportedly coerced into committing the crime.

His final appeal was brought by his mother Panchalai Supermaniam, who appeared in court herself as she was unable to find a lawyer in the island republic willing to represent him.

The Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers later launched a scathing attack on her, warning that it would not hesitate to cite critics who repeated what it described as “false allegations” contained in Panchalai’s affidavit for contempt.

“The AGC takes a serious view of any act that may constitute contempt, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action to protect the administration of justice,” it said.

Prominent Singapore rights lawyer M Ravi said while he had previously represented Datchinamurthy, he was now facing several actions brought by the state.

“Lawyers do not want to represent as they fear reprisal from the state,” he added.

Ravi said the proceeding on May 20 was over the prison sending Datchinamurthy’s privileged communications with his lawyers to the attorney-general.

“An application was previously filed by our firm to determine the extent of the breach by the prison. The question before the court is, can they hang him this Friday when he has a hearing date fixed on the case to be heard on May 20?”

Meanwhile Nabila Massrali, the EU spokesman for foreign affairs and security policy, urged Singapore to adopt a moratorium on all executions and to join the worldwide trend to abolish the capital punishment.

“The European Union calls on the authorities to halt this execution, and to commute the sentence to a non-capital punishment,” she said, referring to Datchinamurthy’s looming execution.

“As a matter of principle, the European Union strongly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. It is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.

“The European Union will continue to work for the abolition of the death penalty in the few remaining countries that still apply it.”

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