Wednesday, 1 December, 2021

S’pore urged not to hang mentally disabled trafficker

SINGAPORE: Singapore faced calls Friday not to hang a mentally disabled Malaysian man for trafficking a small amount of heroin into the city-state, with campaigners criticising the planned execution as "despicable", reports AFP.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was arrested in 2009 for transporting 43 grams -- equivalent to about three tablespoons -- of the drug into Singapore, and sentenced to death the following year.

After exhausting a series of legal challenges in the city-state, which has some of the world's toughest anti-narcotics laws, the 33-year-old is set to be hanged on Wednesday.

It will be the first execution since 2019 in Singapore, which maintains the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime despite mounting pressure from rights groups for its abolition.

Supporters say that Nagaenthran has an IQ of just 69, a level that is recognised as an intellectual disability, and was struggling with an alcohol problem at the time of the crime.

"To hang a person convicted merely of carrying drugs, amid chilling testimony that he might not even fully understand what is happening to him, is despicable," said Rachel Chhoa-Howard from Amnesty International.

"We urge the authorities to immediately halt plans to execute Nagaenthran."

Human Rights Watch said it was a breach of international law to execute someone with an intellectual disability, and proceeding with the hanging would be "disproportionate and cruel".

Nagaenthran's lawyer M. Ravi will mount a last-ditch legal challenge on Monday, arguing that proceeding with the execution would violate Singapore's constitution.

The Malaysian may "have a mental age below 18", the lawyer posted on Facebook, after he recently visited him in prison.

The planned execution is "irrational and a capricious act of the state", he added.

But Singapore's home affairs ministry defended the decision to press ahead with the hanging, saying that legal rulings had found Nagaenthran was not suffering from an "abnormality of mind" at the time of the offence.

"Nagaenthran was found to have clearly understood the nature of his acts," it said in a statement.