Singapore postpones death penalty for prisoners infected with Covid-19

The Singapore court decided to postpone the execution of a Malaysian man in a controversial case, after he tested positive for nCoV.

Judge Andrew Phang Boon Leong today told the Court of Appeal that Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam could not be sentenced because the death row inmate had Covid-19. As a result, the death penalty by hanging, which was scheduled to take place on November 10, has now been postponed. “It is not clear how long the adjournment will last,” Judge Andrew said.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, 33, was arrested in 2009 for smuggling 42.7 grams of heroin into Singapore, a country with some of the strictest drug laws in the world. He was sentenced to death in 2010.

Activists hold a photo of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam during a protest against the death penalty against him in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 3.  Photo: AFP.

Activists hold a photo of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam during a protest against the death penalty against him in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 3. Photo: AFP.

The verdict caused international outrage because Dharmalingam is said to be mentally retarded. Advocates of Dharmalingam claim that Dharmalingam’s status means he cannot act on reason.

Lawyers for Dharmalingam and groups fighting to save him argue that Singapore violated international law by executing an intellectually disabled person. However, all legal appeals and petitions for Dharmalingam’s clemency were unsuccessful.

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs said Dharmalingam “was fully processed under the law and represented by legal counsel throughout the proceedings”. However, the lawyers argued that Dharmalingam should not have been sentenced to death under Singapore law because of his inability to understand his actions.

A psychologist rated Dharmalingam’s IQ as 69, which is internationally recognized as the threshold for intellectual disability. Dharmalingam has spent more than a decade in prison and his condition has deteriorated, according to defense attorneys.

When he rejected Dharmalingam’s appeal in 2018, the appeals court argued that Dharmalingam was transporting drugs “to pay off a debt”, he knew it was illegal, so he “hidden the pack of heroin by tying it to his left thigh”. In addition, Dharmalingam “constantly changed his testimony about his education each time he was questioned, apparently to indicate a lower level of education”.

“This is the criminal mindset, weighing the risks and benefits associated with criminal conduct. Nagaenthran weighed the risks of transporting drugs, taking into account the amount of money he hoped to receive and making a decision. take risks,” Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement in 2018.

Singapore has the strictest drug laws in the world. Trafficking in a certain amount of drugs, for example 15 grams of heroin, will be sentenced to death under the Drug Abuse Act. Following Dharmalingam’s case, the law was amended to allow convicts to escape the death penalty under certain circumstances.

Huyen Le (Follow AFP, CNN)

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