Singapore court rejects Malaysian man’s final appeal against execution

Activists hold placards in protest at the impending execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam. (File/AFP)
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  • Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was sentenced to death in 2010 after trafficking nearly 43 grams of heroin
  • Defense argued that with an IQ of 69 — recognized as a disability — he was not capable of proper decision-making

KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore’s top court rejected on Tuesday a last-ditch appeal by a Malaysian man against his death sentence, dismissing his legal team’s argument that he has an intellectual disability.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, 34, was sentenced to death in 2010 after trafficking nearly 43 grams of heroin in a bundle strapped to his thigh into Singapore, which has some of the world’s strictest drug laws. His execution was stayed in November last year amid pressure from international rights groups, Malaysia’s prime minister, and the EU.

Dharmalingam’s defense had filed another appeal, saying that he had learning disabilities and that with an IQ of 69 — a level recognized as a disability — he was not capable of proper decision-making. This meant that under international law he could not be executed. They had also requested an independent psychiatric evaluation.

The Singapore Court of Appeal said the appeal had “no factual and legal basis” and that Dharmalingam’s defense had put “nothing forward to suggest that he has a case.”

M. Ravi, a former member of Dharmalingam’s legal team in Singapore, told Arab News that the decision was “absolutely shocking.” Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “He was not given an opportunity (to be examined) by his psychiatrist. The court said there is no medical evidence,” he said. “This is a serious violation of international law. I would ask for the Malaysian government to take this matter to the international court of justice and ask for an interim stay immediately.”

Dharmalingam’s Malaysian lawyer, N. Surendran, said the court made the ruling without considering his client’s medical records. “That they did not even allow an independent psychiatric assessment shows that there is no fairness or impartiality in the court’s handling of the matter,” he said.

His sister told Arab News the family is now hoping that his appeal for a pardon, supported by several rights groups, would succeed. “We appeal to the public to urge the Singapore government to grant him this, we hope our prayers come true,” Sharmila Dharmalingam said. “Our only hope is clemency.”

The case has put a spotlight on Singapore’s use of capital punishment and zero-tolerance drug laws. Rights group Amnesty International has condemned the court’s decision.

Brian Yap, Amnesty International’s Malaysia researcher, said it was high time for the Singaporean authorities to act and “stop a grave travesty of justice from taking place and end its inhumane, shameful strategy of using the death penalty to address drug-related problems.”