In Singapore, “back to the world before” also includes the death penalty

In Singapore, a painful countdown has begun for Nagaenthran Dharmalingam. This 34-year-old Malaysian can be hanged at any time following an appeal rejected by the Singapore judiciary. Naganenthran was arrested in 2009 for transporting 42.72 grams of heroin and is mentally handicapped. A state of health which for the defense is not compatible with an execution.

From our correspondent in the region,

Never before has the health of a person sentenced to death been the subject of so much attention in Singapore. With an IQ rated at 69 by medical experts, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam is considered to suffer from an intellectual disability. A reality that his defense has always sought to highlight in order to avoid hanging him, in vain. And the failure of the appeal procedure, which this Tuesday required new psychological expertise to deepen the state of mental health in Nagaenthran, seems to mark the culmination of a long legal wait of thirteen years for this Malaysian who was arrested at Singapore airport in 2009 with the equivalent of three tablespoons of heroin on him.

A delayed execution for … Covid-19

With a cynical irony, in the midst of a global pandemic, if the mental state of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam was therefore not subject to as careful care as his defense would have wished, only coronavirus would have allowed Nagaenthran Dharmalingam to postpone for the first time the date of his execution , which was first scheduled for November 10 before it was canceled in the extremities when the largest stakeholder tested positive for Covid-19.

Since then, his family and relatives claim to have seen his mental state worsen behind bars. In a letter to the President of Singapore in December 2021, the mother of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam thus assures that her son, whom she calls Nagen, seemed disoriented when she could see him in November 2021: ” We found out that his mental state had worsened since we last saw him years ago. The nose is disoriented and cannot maintain eye contact when talking to people. Nagen has moments of clarity but does not record what people are saying to him and talking about himself as if he were another person. It does not make whole sentences and is inconsistent. Sometimes his eyes wander around the room as if he is looking at people who are not there. Nagen talks about going home and eating homemade food »

Described by his mother as a naive person who trusts people as soon as they speak “nicely” to him, and always ready to help his family, this portrait of Nagaenthran is also taken up by those who are outraged at his condemnation , such as. Nathaniel Tan, a Malaysian intellectual known for his involvement in the opposition, who thus recalled, in an editorial titled Shame Nagaenthran and appeared in the independent newspaper, Malaysiakinithe circumstances which led Nagaenthran to agree to the transport of substances: “TheNagaenthran Dharmalingam’s story begins in 2009 when he worked in Johor Bahru. His father had to undergo heart surgery, so he sought to borrow 500 Ringgits (106 euros) from a man, “K”. “K” told him he would lend the money to Nagaenthran if he agreed to transport something in Singapore . When Nagaenthran refused, K assaulted him and threatened to kill his girlfriend. “.

The defendant’s family was found guilty of abusing the process

But this narrative was never that of Singapore’s judicial system, which this week considered the request for a new expert report on the convict’s cognitive abilities to be “an overt abuse of process” aimed at “unjustifiably delaying” the execution. . In vain, this procedure is also costly for the defense, recalls Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a researcher at Amnesty International Southeast Asia: ” The Attorney General ordered that the illegal costs of the appeal be paid personally by the lawyers for those who were in danger of execution, on the grounds that the complaint, several of which were filed to prevent planned executions, constitutes an abuse of process. “.

A request that is not unusual, the researcher notes, but constitutes for her a “ economic pressure that has a devastating effect on legal activism in Singapore “.

In this rich little state in Southeast Asia, which is proud to be at the top of the rankings when assessing the security of the various countries, there are actually very few who are moved by the fate of the death row inmates and can often be on the radar authorities for this. Among them is Jolovan Wham, convicted of organizing an undeclared protest in 2017 when he lit candles with a small group outside the Singapore jail to show respect for a man whose execution was imminent.

This week, Jolovan Wham was one of the few present in court, this time in support of Nagaenthran. ” Because of covid, there really weren’t many peoplehe recounts, but still a dozen police officers patrol around ”. Nagaenthran, I think, understood the court’s decision, but probably less the process itself, which led to the dismissal of his appeal. “.

An increase in executions despite international mobilization

While Nagaenthran’s case has had global repercussions in recent weeks with appeals for mercy from the UN, the EU, the King of Malaysia and people like the British millionaire Richard Branson, Jolovan Wham does not believe that this media coverage in Singapore changes anything: “ I do not think the situation can change here because the government has rather doubled this case and cited studies that the majority of Singaporeans continue to support the death penalty “.

On the part of Amnesty International, we note that “tDuring his 18 years in office, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s cabinet has not once approved an order allowing the president to pardon a person facing execution. But if there was time to do it, it would be now “. We remember that” theThe UN body responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which Singapore is a party, has stated that the use of the death penalty for persons with mental or intellectual disabilities was prohibited. and finally, there is concern about a resurgence of convictions and executions in Singapore.

For in addition to the case of Nagaenthran, after two years without execution, it looks “back to normal”, as Singapore announced by reopening its borders, for example, also to rhyme on a renewed activity for the finers. At dawn on Wednesday, March 30, Abdul Kahar bin Othman was hanged. This 68-year-old man was also convicted after being arrested in 2013 with 67 grams of opioids. Next to Nagaenthran, another man with a similar profile is also awaiting death, Pausi Jefridin. This Malaysian with an IQ of 67 was arrested in 2008 with 76 grams of methamphetamine.

But while convictions and executions suddenly appear to be resuming in Singapore, one activity has never seen a decline during the Southeast Asia pandemic, despite the death sentences often prevalent in the region: drug trafficking.

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