HONG KONG: Singapore killed a man accused of orchestrating a cannabis delivery on Wednesday, despite his family’s pleadings for mercy and activists’ complaints that he was convicted on flimsy evidence.
Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, was condemned to death in 2018 for assisting in the trafficking of one kilogram of marijuana. Trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis is punishable by death in Singapore.
According to a tweet from activist Kirsten Han of the Transformative Justice Collective, which fights for the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore, Tangaraju was hanged Wednesday morning and his family was issued the death certificate.
Although Tangaraju was not captured with the cannabis, prosecutors said phone numbers pointed to him as the person in charge of planning the marijuana delivery. Tangaraju had insisted that he was not in contact with the others involved in the case.
At a United Nations Human Rights Council briefing on Tuesday, spokesman Ravina Shamdasani urged Singapore’s government to implement a “formal moratorium” on drug-related executions.
“Imposing the death penalty for drug offenses is incompatible with international norms and standards,” Shamdasani said, adding that mounting data indicates the death penalty is useless as a deterrence.
According to Singapore officials, there is a deterrence impact, citing studies that show traffickers carry amounts less than the threshold that would result in the death penalty.
In contrast to its neighbors, the island-state imposes the death penalty for narcotics offenses. Cannabis has virtually been legalized in Thailand, while Malaysia has abolished the required death penalty for major offences.
Singapore executed 11 people for drug charges last year. One case that drew international attention was a Malaysian man whose attorneys claimed he was mentally impaired.
The Asia Network Against the Death Penalty called Tangaraju’s execution “reprehensible.”
“The Singaporean government’s continued use of the death penalty is an act of flagrant disregard for international human rights norms and calls into question the legitimacy of Singapore’s criminal justice system,” the statement stated.
Relatives and activists had written to Singaporean President Halimah Yacob pleading for mercy. Tangaraju’s niece and nephew appealed to the public in a video broadcast by the Transformative Justice Collective to raise concerns to the government about Tangaraju’s upcoming death.
Tangaraju’s motion for a stay of execution, filed on Monday, was denied without a hearing on Tuesday.
“Singapore claims to provide ‘due process’ to people on death row, but in reality, fair trial violations in capital punishment cases are the norm: Defendants are being left without legal representation when facing imminent execution, as lawyers who take such cases are intimidated and harassed,” said Maya Foa, director of the non-profit human rights organization Reprieve.
According to critics, Singapore’s death sentence has only targeted low-level mules while doing nothing to deter drug traffickers and big syndicates. Singapore’s government, on the other hand, claims that all those executed received full due process under the law and that the death sentence is required to safeguard its population.
In a blog post, British billionaire Richard Branson, an outspoken opponent of the death sentence, also appealed for the execution to be halted, saying that “Singapore may be about to kill an innocent man.”
Singapore officials reacted angrily to Branson’s charges, claiming that he had demonstrated disdain for the Singaporean court system because evidence proved Tangaraju’s guilt.