Singapore hangs Malaysian drug trafficker despite a plea for clemency from the UN

The vigil outside Changi Prison held for Prabagaran Srivijayan. Photo: Kirsten Han/Facebook

Singapore executed a Malaysian drug trafficker today, despite a plea for clemency from the United Nations and concerns expressed by rights groups over alleged flaws in his trial.

Prabagaran Srivijayan was arrested in 2012 after 22.24 grams (0.8 ounces) of heroin was found in the car he was driving when it was stopped at a checkpoint going to Singapore.

He was sentenced to death two years later after being convicted of drug-trafficking. Trafficking certain volumes of illegal drugs into Singapore carries a mandatory death penalty unless certain conditions are met for the sentence to be commuted.

A group of people, including his family, had gathered outside Changi Prison yesterday to hold a vigil for him.

The 29-year-old was executed in prison on Friday, the city-state’s Central Narcotics Bureau said in a statement. Executions in Singapore are carried out by hanging.

The bureau said the amount of drugs he was caught with “is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 265 abusers for a week”.

He had maintained his innocence and had launched appeals in both Singapore and his home country, including a bid in Malaysia’s Court of Appeal to get the neighbouring city-state referred to the Hague-based International Court of Justice.

His appeals in Singapore, including a last-ditch court challenge Thursday and an appeal to the president, were all rejected.

The United Nations had opposed the planned execution, with the UN rights body’s Southeast Asia office this week urging Singapore not to proceed while the Malaysian appeal was still pending.

Amnesty International had raised concerns about the fairness of the trial, including the alleged failure of the authorities “to follow up leads and call on key witnesses that would corroborate his version of events”.

But following the execution, the narcotics bureau said that Srivijayan was “accorded full due process under the law, and he was represented by legal counsel throughout the process”.

Singapore has consistently maintained that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime and has rejected calls to abolish capital punishment.

Malaysia also uses capital punishment, executing murderers and drug traffickers by hanging. The system, like that in Singapore, dates back to British colonial rule.

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