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Singapore plans to execute man over 1kg of cannabis

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A Singaporean man is scheduled to be hanged next week for conspiring to smuggle 1kg of cannabis in the city-state’s first execution in six months, rights groups said.

Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, would be executed on Wednesday, according to a notice from the Singapore Prison Service that was received by his family and posted on social media by rights advocates.

Amnesty International condemned the decision, calling it “extremely cruel.”

Protesters hold candles during a candlelight vigil against the death penalty in Singapore on April 26 last year. Photo: EPA-EFE

“If carried out, this execution would be in violation of international law and in stubborn defiance of continued outcry over Singapore’s use of the death penalty,” an Amnesty spokesperson said.

In many parts of the world — including in Thailand — cannabis has been decriminalized, with authorities abandoning prison sentences, and rights groups have been mounting pressure on Singapore to abolish capital punishment.

The city-state has some of the world’s toughest laws against the use and sale of narcotics, saying that the death penalty remains an effective deterrent against trafficking.

Tangaraju was convicted in 2017 of “abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic” 1.0179kg of cannabis, twice the minimum volume that merits the death sentence.

He was sentenced to death in 2018, and the Singaporean Court of Appeal upheld the decision.

Prosecutors said he owned two mobile phone numbers used as contacts.

“What is especially troubling is that Tangaraju ... never actually handled the drugs,” human rights advocate Kirsten Han (韓俐穎) said. “He was also questioned by the police without legal counsel, and said that he was denied a Tamil interpreter.”

Singaporean High Court Judge Hoo Sheau Peng (符曉平) said that anyone who abets the commission of a crime under the law shall also be guilty of that offense and liable to the same punishment.

Hoo said that “the charge against the accused had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Singapore resumed execution by hanging in March last year, after a hiatus of more than two years.

Eleven executions were carried out last year — all for drug offences.

Among those hanged was Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, whose execution sparked a global outcry, including from the UN and British billionaire Richard Branson, because he was deemed to have a mental disability.

The UN says that the death penalty has not proven to be an effective deterrent globally and is incompatible with international human rights law, which only permits capital punishment for the most serious crimes.


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