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After 21 years in prison, ex-death row inmate celebrates Raya a free man

But life outside the prison walls has changed greatly for Razali Ahmad.

2 minute read
Razali goes to a shopping centre with his mother to buy what they need for Aidilfitri.
Razali goes to a shopping centre with his mother to buy what they need for Aidilfitri.

It is a bright, sunny day much like any other in Kuala Lumpur as pedestrians bustle about on last-minute errands before Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Among them is Razali Ahmad, who together with his mother, is heading for a shopping centre in the heart of the capital city.

The otherwise mundane task has new meaning for him as he escorts his mother through the traffic under the scorching heat: for the first time in 21 years, he will be celebrating Raya as a free man.

For more than two decades, he had been on death row in prison, waiting for the day that his name would be called for execution.

While friends and relatives celebrated Raya at home, the food and customs surrounding the celebration were but a distant memory.

But when his name was finally called, it was not for execution but for release.

"This is the best Raya of my life," Razali, now 49, told MalaysiaNow.

"It's a big miracle for me and the others who have been released."

From prison to freedom

Razali was convicted under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

In November, the Federal Court commuted his sentence to 30 years' imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane in accordance with the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023.

The lashes were administered at Kajang Prison before he was released.

RazaliAhmad_exdeathrow2Today, Razali breathes the air of freedom but much has changed since his imprisonment.

His mother is 70 years old and no longer as mobile as she once was. His father, meanwhile, is a stroke patient under long-term care in hospital.

And as an ex-convict, it is almost impossible for Razali to find a job – a fact which he understands but finds sad nonetheless.

"Aren't we people who can start a new life? Don't we deserve a future?

"If an ex-convict can become prime minister, we deserve a chance to at least earn a living," he said.

Unable to find an employer willing to hire him, he has opened a small shop in Danau Kota, Gombak, with the help of his friends. There, he spends his evenings selling clothes and snacks.

During the day, he helps his stepmother who runs a catering business near her home.

He also accepts any invitations he receives to speak about his experience with students at colleges and universities.

His message to young people is clear: stay away from drugs and other crimes.

"That is my goal now. I want to save the young generation after 21 years in prison."