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Singapore carries out another double dawn hanging after marathon midnight appeal

The prisoners in a suit that could stay the execution of their fellow inmates waited for 10 hours only to be told that it was an abuse of process.

Staff Writers
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Activist Kokila Annamalai wears a T-shirt with a sign against the death penalty during a protest at the Speakers' Corner in Singapore on April 3. Photo: AFP
Activist Kokila Annamalai wears a T-shirt with a sign against the death penalty during a protest at the Speakers' Corner in Singapore on April 3. Photo: AFP

Two more death row inmates were hanged at dawn today in a double execution at Singapore's Changi Prison after the inmates waited 10 hours until past midnight to learn if their appeal in court would succeed. 

Abdul Rahim Shapiee was executed alongside his co-accused in a drug case, Ong Seow Ping, after a week that saw judges giving tight deadlines to 24 prisoners who filed a suit against the government over their inability to seek the service of lawyers in the wake of heavy penalties slapped on those representing death row inmates.

The suit was thrown out by a Singapore court on Aug 3, a day after the prisoners were told to submit elaborate paperwork in support of their case despite their lack of counsel.

With no lawyers to represent them, one of the death row prisoners, Iskandar Rahmat, argued on their behalf.

Last night, after a 10-hour wait to learn the outcome of their appeal, the judge announced at 12.40am that the court had rejected their suit, calling it an "abuse of process" and paving the way for today's executions just hours later.

This comes after the court had asked them to provide specific examples to back their claim that lawyers would not take up their cases, and submit them in a matter of hours.

Iskandar said the prisoners were dependant on visits from families in preparing the required affidavits. 

"We were caught off guard and totally unprepared to prepare for such an urgent hearing," Iskandar was quoted as saying by Kirsten Han, one of the activists who have been vocal in condemning Singapore's recent prison executions.

Han said with the exception of Rahim, none of the 24 prisoners had had family visits since the claim was filed. 

"There was therefore no way for them to communicate with their families on this matter."

Today's hangings take the number of prisoners executed in Singapore to 10 in just four months, as the city-state continues to shut out international condemnation over its spate of executions, the highest such toll this year in Southeast Asia.

International bodies such as Amnesty International and the United Nations' Human Rights Office were among those who joined the growing criticism from activists and lawyers campaigning to end the death penalty.

"Rather than having a unique deterrent effect on crime, these executions only show the utter disregard the Singaporean authorities have for human rights and the right to life," Amnesty said on July 22 in a strong statement that would not find space in Singapore's tightly controlled media.

The Singapore government has scoffed at those who question its death penalty for drug offences, despite statistics showing that most individuals hired to courier drugs are from poor families.

Instead, the PAP-led regime insists that the death penalty has been a deterrent to drug crimes.

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