Singapore enforces drug charges against Malaysia after mental disability appeal rejected

People take part in a vigil before the planned execution of Malaysian drug dealer Naganthran Dharmalingam, outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Hasnur Hussain

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  • Nagaenthran Dharmalingam has been on death row for over a decade
  • Brother confirmed the execution after the failure of legal appeals
  • Candlelight vigils were held in Singapore and Malaysia
  • The case has drawn international calls for clemency

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore executed a Malaysian man convicted of drug smuggling on Wednesday despite pleas for a pardon on the grounds that he had an intellectual disability in a case that has drawn international attention, his family said.

Naganthran Dharmalingam, 34, was on death row over a decade ago for smuggling 44 grams (1.5 ounces) of heroin into Singapore, which has some of the strictest drug laws in the world. His lawyers have filed multiple appeals against his execution saying he is mentally handicapped.

His brother Naveen Kumar, 22, said by phone that the execution had taken place, and said the body would be returned to Malaysia where a funeral would be held in the town of Ipoh.

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A Singapore court on Tuesday rejected Nagantran’s mother’s legal challenge, paving the way for execution by hanging.

At the end of Tuesday’s session, Dharmalingam and his family reached through a gap in a glass screen to hold each other’s hands tightly as they sobbed. His shouts of “Mama” could be heard throughout the courtroom. Read more

Singapore authorities do not usually comment on executions.

About 300 people held a candlelight vigil in a park in Singapore on Monday to protest the planned execution.

In a statement, anti-death penalty group Reprieve called the execution a “tragic miscarriage of justice”, but also said it felt it could be a “watershed moment” for opposition to the death penalty in Singapore.

A vigil was also held outside the Singapore High Commission building in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday evening to demand clemency for a demonstrator, who was holding a sign reading “Singapore absolves Naganthran from the gallows.”

The Naganthanran case has captured the world’s attention, as a team of UN experts and British billionaire Richard Branson joined with Malaysia’s prime minister and human rights activists to urge Singapore to commute his sentence.

His lawyers and activists said Nagantran’s IQ was 69, a level recognized as an intellectual disability. However, the courts decided that he knew what he was doing at the time of the crime, and ruled that there was no admissible evidence showing any deterioration in his mental state.

The Malaysian government said in a statement that it respects Singapore’s legal system, but indicated that it had sent another letter this week to ask the state government to reconsider and commute the sentence.

While Malaysia has similar penalties for drug trafficking, the country has imposed a moratorium on all executions since 2018, pending efforts to reform its death penalty laws.

“Singapore authorities must immediately halt the current wave of executions and urgently review legislation on the use of the death penalty, with a view to abolishing it, in light of this horrific issue,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The Singapore government says that the death penalty is a deterrent to drug smuggling and that most of its citizens support the death penalty. Read more

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Additional reporting by Chen Lin in Singapore and Rosanna Latif in Kuala Lumpur, by Ed Davies; Editing by Stephen Coates

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