Activists, family of man sentenced to death in Singapore over cannabis pleads for clemency

Activists, family of man sentenced to death in Singapore over cannabis pleads for clemencyActivists, family of man sentenced to death in Singapore over cannabis pleads for clemency
Michelle De Pacina
April 25, 2023
The family of Tangaraju Suppiah — who was convicted in Singapore of trafficking cannabis — and activists are pleading for clemency ahead of his scheduled execution on Wednesday.  
Tangaraju, 46, was convicted of “abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic” more than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cannabis from Malaysia to Singapore in 2013. 
Although he was not caught during the delivery, prosecutors traced two phone numbers used by a delivery man back to Tangaraju. The defendant claimed he was not the person communicating with the traffickers, claiming to have lost one of the phones and denying owning the second one. However, he was sentenced to death in 2018. 
Tangaraju’s family and activists called for clemency and raised concerns that Tangaraju was not provided with adequate legal counsel.
They claimed that Tangaraju was not given access to an interpreter and was forced to present his last appeal on his own because his family was not able to secure a lawyer.
“Tangaraju said his English is not that good, he wanted an interpreter but he couldn’t get one. Then he’s really disadvantaged because if he can’t properly understand the police statement that was read back to him, how could he make any amendments?” activist Kirsten Han told Al Jazeera.
“Access to counsel has to start from the moment a police investigation is commenced until the moment a person has been escorted to the gallows,” Sara Kowal, vice president of the Capital Punishment Justice Project, also told Al Jazeera.

We have real fair trial concerns in this case, in terms of access to counsel, access to interpreters, and just even the nature of the charge itself. If you’re going to have the death penalty, you also have to have the highest standard of fair trial rights and not be afraid of extreme rigor and review being applied to it.

Singaporean authorities dismissed the claims, saying that Tangaraju only requested for an interpreter during the trial, and not earlier. They also claimed that the defendant had access to legal counsel throughout the process.
On Sunday, British billionaire Richard Branson called for a review of the case and for Tangaraju’s life to be spared.
“Singapore may be about to kill an innocent man,” Branson wrote in a blog post. “The death penalty is already a dark stain on the country’s reputation. An execution following such an unsafe conviction would only make things worse.” 
Branson similarly criticized Singaporean authorities last year for hanging Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, a 33-year-old intellectually impaired Malaysian man convicted of trafficking heroin in 2010.
In response, Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry accused Branson of “disrespect for Singapore’s judges and our criminal justice system.”
The ministry noted that the country’s death penalty was “essential” in an approach that has been “effective in keeping Singapore safe and secure.”
Last year, Singapore reportedly hanged 11 people for drug offenses. Tangaraju’s hanging on Wednesday is set to be the country’s first this year.  
While Tangaraju’s family has yet to hear from Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob regarding their plea for clemency, they were able to meet Tangaraju at Changi Prison behind a glass partition last week.
“He puts up a brave front for my mother because he does not want her to break down,” his niece, Subhashini Ilango, told BBC. “He has mentally prepared for this day to come. He does feel there’s a great injustice and he’ll be executed for something he did not do.”
Tangaraju’s family noted that they will continue to fight for reforms in the legal system. 
“If such an injustice happens to my brother, I wouldn’t want it to happen to anybody else so I will continue to fight,” Tangaraju’s sister Leela said.
Share this Article
© 2024 NextShark, Inc. All rights reserved.