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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Family of Singapore man on death row for cannabis case asks for clemency

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SINGAPORE—The family of a Singaporean man due to be hanged next week over a kilogram of cannabis pleaded for clemency from the authorities Sunday and urged a retrial.

Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, was sentenced to death in 2018 for conspiring to smuggle the drugs and the Court of Appeal has upheld his sentence which is scheduled to be carried out on Wednesday.

“We don’t think my brother’s had a fair trial … I have faith the president will read all our petitions,” his sister Leelavathy Suppiah told reporters in Tamil at a news conference.

“Since young, he’s been kind and well-liked by everyone, and he’s never done anything bad to anyone … he’s sacrificed everything to help his family,” she added, breaking down in tears.

It will be Singapore’s first execution in six months.

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Tangaraju was convicted in 2017 of “abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic” 1,017.9 grams (35.9 ounces) of cannabis, twice the minimum amount that merits the death sentence under the city-state’s tough drug laws.

In many parts of the world—including in neighbouring Thailand —cannabis has been decriminalised and rights groups have been mounting pressure on Singapore to abolish capital punishment.

The Asian financial hub has some of the world’s toughest anti-narcotics laws and insists the death penalty remains an effective deterrent against trafficking.

Family members, relatives and friends signed appeals at the news conference and activists said they would deliver the petitions to the president’s office.

Rights activists and family members say there were loopholes in the case and that Tangaraju never handled the drugs. They also claim he was questioned by police without legal counsel, and that he was denied a Tamil interpreter during the recording of his first police statement.

Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau said he “had access to legal counsel throughout the process” and that the judge found it “disingenuous” given Tangaraju’s admission he had made no request for an interpreter for any of the other statements.

Singapore resumed execution by hanging in March 2022 after a hiatus of more than two years.

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

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

Tangaraju’s niece Subhashini Ilango, 26, said her uncle had been brave and has said he “is prepared” for Wednesday but that his death will be unjust.

“But he believes that God will help him.”

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