Man sentenced to death in Singapore via Zoom call

Above, a view of the Supreme Court building against the backdrop of the skyline of Singapore’s central business district on May 27, 2016. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Man sentenced to death in Singapore via Zoom call

  • First criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore
  • Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and has hanged hundreds of people for narcotics offenses

SINGAPORE: A man has been sentenced to death in Singapore via a Zoom video-call for his role in a drug deal, the city-state’s first case where capital punishment has been delivered remotely.
Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction on Friday, court documents showed, with the country under lockdown to try and curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.
“For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing,” a spokesperson for Singapore’s Supreme Court said in response to Reuters’ questions, citing restrictions imposed to minimize virus spread.
It was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore, the spokesperson added.
Genasan’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, said his client received the judge’s verdict on a Zoom call and is considering an appeal.
While rights groups have criticized the use of Zoom in capital cases, Fernando said he did not object to the use of video-conferencing for Friday’s call since it was only to receive the judge’s verdict, which could be heard clearly, and no other legal arguments were presented.
California-based tech firm Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment made via its representatives in Singapore. The Attorney General’s Chambers, the public prosecutor, referred Reuters’ questions to the Supreme Court.
Many court hearings in Singapore have been adjourned during a lockdown period that started in early April and is due to run until June 1, while cases deemed essential have been held remotely.
Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and has hanged hundreds of people — including dozens of foreigners — for narcotics offenses over past decades, rights groups say.
“Singapore’s use of the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and the use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. HRW has also criticized a similar case in Nigeria where a death sentence was delivered via Zoom.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 3 min 47 sec ago

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”