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Singapore executes man convicted of cannabis trafficking

The state ignored pressure from the UN and Amnesty International urging authorities not to proceed.



Tangaraju Suppiah was hanged for conspiracy to traffic cannabis. Photo: Transformative Drug Collective

Via CannaReporter

Singapore authorities have carried out a sentence condemning a man to death for conspiring to smuggle 1kg of cannabis into the country, ignoring international pressure not to proceed.

Singapore is in the global spotlight for carrying out the death sentence of 46-year-old Tangaraju Suppiah, ignoring international calls for the city-state to abolish capital punishment or grant Singaporean clemency. 

A spokesman for the Singapore Prison Service confirmed to the media that Suppiah had ‘his capital sentence carried out today at Changi Prison Complex’ on Wednesday 26 April. 

The Singaporean was charged in 2017 with ‘involvement in a conspiracy to traffic’ 1kg of cannabis into the country. 

Allegedly, the defendant only used his cell phone to assist the operation, however, he was sentenced to death in 2018 and the Court of Appeal upheld the decision. 

In November 2022 Suppiah obtained permission to apply for a review of the appeal, but the request was rejected by the court in February 2023. 

Suppiah, who represented himself, argued that the prosecution was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he and another individual had agreed to traffic the specified amount of cannabis. However, the court did not accept the defendant’s claims.

Family’s plea for clemency

Suppiah’s family launched a desperate plea for clemency to the authorities, as well as a retrial.

At a press conference, his sister, Leelavathy Suppiah, stated that her brother ‘didn’t get a fair trial’. Despite this, Suppiah confided to journalists on Sunday that he had ‘faith’ that the president would read their petitions.

The UN and Amnesty International took firm positions on the matter, urging the authorities not to proceed with the execution.

Human rights activist Kirsten Han told French media outlet, Agence France-Presse: “What is especially worrying is that Suppiah never actually had any contact with the seized cannabis.”

Richard Branson criticises Singapore

British millionaire Richard Branson also took a position on the death sentence and reportedly received a response from the Singaporean authorities.

Branson, who is a member of the Geneva-based Global Commission on Drug Policy, wrote on his blog on Monday that Suppiah was ‘nowhere near’ drugs at the time of his arrest, and that Singapore could be on the verge of convicting an innocent man to death.

Branson, a well-known opponent of the death penalty, saw his statements refuted by the Singapore Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry argued that the case had been analysed for more than three years by the courts and that Branson’s claim was ‘manifestly false’.

In the statement, the Ministry characterised it as ‘regrettable’ that Mr Branson, in wanting to defend his position [against the death penalty] ‘pretends to know more about the case than the Singapore courts’.

UN pressured authorities to desist from execution

The UN also took a firm stand against what marks will be the 12th execution since March 2022 related to drug trafficking. 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the government to urgently reconsider the enforcement and take steps to fully respect the most fundamental of human rights – the right to life.

The UN Human Rights Office (UNOHR) admitted in a statement its concern about the trial of  Suppiah and respect for the guarantees of a fair trial, and asked the authorities not to proceed with his execution. 

According to the UNOHR, the imposition of the death penalty for drug offences is incompatible with international standards. Countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty can only apply it to the ‘most serious crimes’, interpreted as extremely serious crimes involving intentional homicide.

The death penalty is still used in a small number of countries, mainly because of the myth that it deters crime. 

Mounting evidence, however, shows that it is ineffective, which is why the UNOHR has urged the Singaporean government to adopt a formal moratorium on executions for drug-related offences and to guarantee the right to a fair trial for all defendants, according to its international obligations.

CannaReporter sent questions to the Prime Minister of Singapore and the President of the Republic of Singapore, but had not received any comment at the time of publication.

This article was originally published by CannaReporter and is reprinted here with permission. 

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