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Singapore executes another ethnic Malay involved in racial bias suit

This comes less than a week after fellow plaintiff Nazeri Lajim was hanged under controversial circumstances.

Our Regional Correspondent
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A casket van enters Singapore's Changi Prison in this file photo. The Singapore government has often cited its tough laws including its death penalty as a deterrent against drug crimes. Photo: AFP
A casket van enters Singapore's Changi Prison in this file photo. The Singapore government has often cited its tough laws including its death penalty as a deterrent against drug crimes. Photo: AFP

Singapore is believed to have hanged another man sentenced to death for a drug charge at dawn today, in what is seen as the city-state's defiance of international criticism following a series of executions carried out under controversial procedures, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

But unlike other executions in the past, the details of the person hanged have been sketchy as family members remain mum. The Singapore authorities likewise maintain strict secrecy in scheduling or carrying out hangings. MalaysiaNow has relied on multiple inside sources to confirm this hanging. 

When contacted, a spokesman at Changi Prison was tightlipped, saying only the next of kin have access to such information.

Authorities typically notify the family members of those scheduled for execution through a letter from the prison as well as a phone call, informing them of additional visitation hours and asking them to make funeral preparations.

Prisoners in their final days are also made to sit through a bizarre photo session at Changi Prison, where they are told to smile for the camera while wearing their favourite clothes.

MalaysiaNow understands that the latest execution, the sixth this year, was that of an ethnic Malay Singaporean aged 49, arrested in 2015 for trafficking in cannabis. He was one of 17 prisoners who had filed a historic suit accusing the Singapore state of racial bias in their prosecutions in capital punishment cases. 

The suit was thrown out last year and their lawyer M Ravi was slapped with heavy fines after being accused of abuse of process by the attorney-general (AG). 

The AG has been dragging lawyers to court of late, accusing them of abuse of process in filing death row applications. 

This is the second of the 17 plaintiffs to have been executed, after the hanging of Nazeri Lajim, a 64-year-old Singaporean who had been addicted to drugs since the age of 14, and who had maintained throughout that the drugs he was caught with were for his personal consumption.

A day before his execution, Nazeri, appearing without a lawyer, made a desperate final appeal to judges for more time to say farewell to his family members. However, he was told by the court that he would hang as scheduled the next morning. 

Critics have spoken of a climate of fear within Singapore's legal fraternity about representing death row inmates, after several vocal lawyers were penalised or lost their licence to practise for taking up late-stage death row cases. 

The PAP-led Singapore government, which has ruled the republic since its exit from Malaysia, has rejected criticism of its death penalty, saying it has been effective in controlling the drug menace.

But an increasing number of Singaporeans appear to be against this view, with protests even held to call for the abolition of the death penalty. 

Critics have also pointed out that almost all of those executed under Singapore's drug laws have been low-level mules from poor families, a view shared by British aviation magnate Richard Branson who had pleaded for the life of Malaysian Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who was executed despite being diagnosed with a mental disability. 

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