Singapore executes ‘low IQ’ prisoner despite desperate appeals

Protesters hold a candle light vigil last night outside Singapore’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Amnesty International Malaysia
Protesters hold a candle light vigil last night outside Singapore’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Amnesty International Malaysia

A mentally impaired Malaysian man some Singaporeans had been desperately fighting to save was executed this morning.

Death row inmate Nagaenthran “Nagen” Dharmalingam, 34, was hanged this morning despite multiple appeals and public protests. 

Nagen, who was said to have an IQ of 69, was convicted of trafficking heroin from Malaysia over a decade ago. He had risen in media attention in recent years after activists joined forces and called upon the government to abolish the death penalty. 

Multiple protests were held where hundreds rallied against capital punishment. It put a spotlight on marginalized convicts guilty of drug-related offenses. Another Malaysian, Datchinamurthy Kataiah, who similarly trafficked heroin into the city-state, is set to be hanged Friday.

Last night, a vigil was held outside the Singapore Embassy in Kuala Lumpur where supporters stood holding makeshift candle holders and singing the Malaysian National Anthem before being chased away by police.

Nagen’s mother yesterday made a desperate urgent last appeal to the court that was dismissed, with Court of Appeal judges calling any overturn “an abuse of the court’s process.”

According to the activists, Nagen’s final wish to hold hands one last time with his family was granted through a slit in the glass partition in court, and he spent a final two hours with them in its holding area.

Several international human rights associations and celebrities such as Richard Branson and Stephen Fry, publicly denounced the execution.

Human rights NGO Reprieve said in a statement this morning that Nagen’s death will leave a huge stain on Singapore’s justice record and said its system targeting drug mules instead of the source is “broken.”

“Nagaenthran Dharmalingam’s name will go down in history as the victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice. Hanging an intellectually disabled, mentally unwell man because he was coerced into carrying less than three tablespoons of diamorphine is unjustifiable and a flagrant violation of international laws that Singapore has chosen to sign up to,” Director Maya Foa said.

The United Nations on Monday even urged Singapore “to halt the imminent execution” of Nagen and Kataiah, saying that its use of capital punishment was “incompatible with international human rights law.”

They noted Singapore’s “alarming acceleration in execution notices” following the execution of 68-year-old Malaysian Abdul Kahar Othman last month, which had been the first in over two years since the pandemic hit.

Other stories you should check out:
Burnout plagues over half of Singapore: survey
Singaporeans rally against death penalty as two more head to gallows

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