KUALA LUMPUR: The Singapore Court of Appeal on Tuesday reserved a ruling on Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, a Malaysian national on death row, in a case that has drawn international attention over the man’s mental disability.
The 34-year-old was arrested in 2009 for trafficking nearly 43 grams of heroin into Singapore, which has some of the world’s strictest anti-drug laws. He was sentenced to death in 2010.
After losing several appeals, Dharmalingam was to be executed by hanging in November. The execution was stayed amid pressure from international rights groups, Malaysia’s prime minister, and the EU, as the defense filed another appeal.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, Dharmalingam’s Singaporean counsel, Violet Netto, pleaded with the judges to show “mercy” and allow him to undergo an independent psychiatric assessment.
His Malaysian lawyer, N. Surendran, told Arab News that the judgment was likely to be “in the upcoming days.”
He said: “The lawyers put up a good submission. Of course, you can’t execute someone who is mentally challenged. (It’s) a total breach of Singapore’s procedures and own law.
“We hope they make the right decision and not proceed with the execution,” he added.
Dharmalingam was allegedly coerced into the crime and his lawyers argued that with an IQ of 69 — a level recognized as a disability — he is not capable of making any intellectual decision. He was arrested at 21, after the bundle of heroin equivalent to about three tablespoons was found strapped to his thigh.
The case put a spotlight on Singapore’s use of capital punishment, which triggered international condemnation. If Dharmalingam was hanged, it would be the first execution in Singapore since 2019.
An online petition urging the Singaporean president to pardon Dharmalingam has gathered more than 101,000 signatures, with petitioners highlighting that executing mentally disabled people was prohibited under a UN convention the country was a signatory of.
Zaid Malek of Lawyers for Liberty, a Malaysian human rights and law reform NGO, which has also urged Singapore to reconsider its decision, told Arab News that capital punishment for mentally disabled people was against international human rights.
“We hope for the (Singapore Courts) to have a proper consideration of Dharmalingam’s current mental state,” he said.
“Our position is that a person with mental disabilities cannot be sentenced to death.”