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Singapore executes low-IQ man charged with drug-trafficking

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, 34, had been on death row for over a decade after he was convicted of trafficking about 43 grams (1.5 oz) of heroin into Singapore

FPJ Web Desk | Updated on: Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 09:11 AM IST

Activists hold posters against the impending execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, sentenced to death for trafficking heroin into Singapore, during a candlelight vigil gathering outside the Singaporean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 | AP
Activists hold posters against the impending execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, sentenced to death for trafficking heroin into Singapore, during a candlelight vigil gathering outside the Singaporean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 | AP
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Singapore on Wednesday executed a mentally disabled Malaysian man condemned for a drug offense after a court dismissed a last-minute challenge from his mother and international pleas to spare him.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, 34, had been on death row for over a decade after he was convicted of trafficking about 43 grams (1.5 oz) of heroin into Singapore. The city-state’s government has said its use of the death penalty for drug crimes is made clear at the borders.

Nagaenthran’s family and social activists confirmed the execution Wednesday.

“On this score may I declare that Malaysia is far more humane,” his sister Sarmila Dharmalingam said. “Zero to Singapore on this.”

Nagaenthran’s supporters and lawyers said he had an IQ of 69 and was intellectually disabled, and that the execution of a mentally ill person was prohibited under international human rights law.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, Nagaenthran and his family had reached through a gap in a glass screen to grasp each other's hands tightly as they wept, according to a Reuters report. His cries of "ma" could be heard in the courtroom.

In an earlier statement, the government said they found he "did not lose his sense of judgment of the rightness or wrongness of what he was doing".

In 2009, Nagaenthran was caught crossing into Singapore from Malaysia with 43g (1.5oz) heroin strapped to his left thigh.

Under Singapore's laws, those caught carrying more than 15g of heroin are subject to the death penalty.

During his trial, the 34-year-old initially said he was coerced into carrying the drugs, but later said he had committed the offence because he needed money.

The court said his initial defence was "fabricated". He was eventually sentenced to death by hanging.

In 2015, he appealed to have his sentence commuted to life in prison on the basis that he suffered from an intellectual disability.

In the end, the court found that he was not intellectually disabled. A push for presidential clemency was also rejected last year.

"The Court of Appeal found that this was the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question," said Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs in an earlier statement.

On Monday, a few hundred people turned out to show their opposition to the death penalty, gathering in Hong Lim Park, a small patch of ground in the city centre that is the only place where the government allows public assemblies. The Malaysian government, United Nations experts, the European Union, civil society groups and celebrities including British entrepreneur Richard Branson had also called for Naga’s life to be spared.

“The use of the death penalty for drug-related offences is incompatible with international human rights law,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote in a statement calling on Singapore to halt Naga’s execution. “Countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the “most serious crimes”, which is interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing.”

Singapore also plans to hang Datchinamurthy Kataiah, another Malaysian convicted of drug offences, on Friday in what the OHCHR said appeared to be “an alarming acceleration in execution notices in the country”. Abdul Kahar Othman, a Singaporean also convicted of drug-related offences, was hanged on March 30, the first person to be executed by the country in two years.

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Published on: Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 09:11 AM IST