A mentally impaired Malaysian man convicted of smuggling heroin into Singapore in 2009 will be executed next week, his sister and lawyer said Wednesday.
Traveling from Malaysia, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who was 21 at that time, was arrested with 42.72 grams (1.5 ounces) of heroin strapped to his leg at Woodlands Checkpoint in Singapore in April 2009. He was handed a death sentence under the city state’s strict anti-drug law a year after his arrest.
Dharmalingam’s lawyers argued that he “acted as a drug mule under duress from a friend who had assaulted him and threatened to kill his girlfriend.” Attorney N Surendran also said the man has an IQ of 69, a level recognized as a disability.
Speaking to AFP on Wednesday, Sarmila Dharmalingam, the man’s sister, said his family was informed that he would be executed by hanging on April 27. His family and three siblings will reportedly travel to the city-state to see him before his execution.
The ruling comes after Singapore’s top court rejected last-ditch appeals that lawyers filed in March.
Under Singapore’s 1974 Misuse of Drugs Act’s Second Schedule, any illegal export or import of heroin (diamorphine), amounting to not less than 10 grams (0.35 ounces) and not more than 15 grams (0.52 ounces), is punishable by 30 years up to life imprisonment with 15 strokes of the cane. Those caught with more than 15 grams of heroin, however, will receive the mandatory death sentence.
- Ravi, a Singaporean lawyer representing 25 death row inmates, including Dharmalingam, said the news about the man’s execution is “heartbreaking.”
“The Singapore state will never be able to recover from the disgrace it’s going to face internationally in hanging an intellectually disabled person,” the lawyer wrote on his LinkedIn page.
“Everything from the beginning is wrong about this case. Even the government psychiatrist at the trial admitted that Nagenthren suffered from an abnormality of mind,” he added.
“I will say that all Singaporeans will have blood in [sic] their hands next Wednesday as the execution is done in their name. You have a duty to stop this.”
MalaysiaNow reported Ravi as saying that the only way to save the man from execution is for Putrajaya, a city in Malaysia where the Prime Minister’s Office is located, to take Dharmalingam’s case to the International Court of Justice for the Malaysian government to obtain an interim stay.
Kokila Annamalai, a social activist from Transformative Justice Collective, has organized a candlelight vigil for Dharmalingam at the Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park on April 25.
Dharmalingam’s execution, originally planned for November last year, was postponed after the news of his death sentence sparked widespread condemnation from human rights groups, European Union representatives and British billionaire Richard Branson.
Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob also tried to intervene by asking Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for leniency in a letter.
Human rights advocates also called on the government to save Dharmalingam’s life through petitions filed on Change.org and Amnesty International. The Change.org petition has received over 102,000 signatures out of its 150,000 goal, while 8,115 people had signed the Amnesty International petition as of this writing.
Singapore has continued its practice of capital punishment. In March, the government executed Abdul Kahar bin Othman, a Singaporean man of Malay descent, for two charges of trafficking heroin in 2013. Othman’s death marked the first execution the city-state had carried out since November 2019.