Human Interest

Singapore executes first death row prisoner in over two years

Singapore, Mar 30 (EFE).- Singapore on Wednesday hanged a man convicted of drug trafficking, becoming the city-state’s first execution in over two years.

Abdul Kahar bin Othman, a 68-year-old Singaporean, was executed at 6 am local time (22:00 GMT Tuesday) in Changi Prison, reported human rights lawyer Ravi M Ravi.

“Abdul Kahar was executed at 6am today. Does this make Singapore a better place, and us better people, executing this 68 year old man who had drug addiction issue(s) since he was a teenager and fell into the structural gap in society and became a victim himself?” he asked on Facebook.

“The best answer we gave Kahar was to just kill him. There is such a thing as karma and Singapore will face it in due course.”

Kirsten Han, member of the NGO Transformative Justice Collective, told Efe that she had heard “from family members of other inmates about the funeral being soon.”

Han and others had participated the previous evening in a vigil for Kahar at the gates of the prison.

Kahar’s execution has not been confirmed by the authorities, who treat these issues with opacity and often do little more than reveal an annual list of hangings, the execution method used in Singapore.

Activists say this was the first execution in the city-state since November 2019.

In 2013 Kahar, who has struggled with drug addiction since he was about 16 years old, was sentenced on two counts of drug trafficking a total of 66.77 grams of diamorphine (opioid), Transformative Justice Collective said.

A week ago his brother, Mutalib, received a letter from the Singapore Prison Service announcing that Kahar’s execution had been scheduled for Mar. 30.

“I don’t feel it’s fair to kill people. Yeah you can punish them – it’s okay to punish people, but not kill,” Mutalib said in an Instagram Live conversation on Tuesday with the Transformative Justice Collective.

Born into a large low-income family, Kahar experienced poverty and hunger, became addicted to drugs and spent much of his life behind bars.

In 2005 he was released from 10 years’ preventive detention and he tried to rehabilitate himself with the help of his brother, who regrets the lack of reintegration support and guidance from the authorities.

According to activists in Singapore, Kahar’s case exemplifies the alleged bias against the population with fewer resources and opportunities – circumstances, they say, are shared by most prisoners on death row, where convictions for drug trafficking abound.

Transformative Justice Collective and other NGOs in the region warn that capacity on death row could be almost full, raising fears that executions could soon be accelerated.

Several prisoners have already exhausted their last judicial avenues, including the Malaysian Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who in 2010 was sentenced to death for trafficking 42.7g of heroin into Singapore.

A court on Tuesday rejected a final appeal by his lawyers who said his trial violated international laws as he has intellectual disabilities, sparking criticism from the United Nations and the European Union, among others.

“Dharmalingam lost his appeal, clearing the way for his execution by hanging as early as this week. This shocking outcome is despite serious concerns about his intellectual and mental capacity, and collective outrage from around the world,” Amnesty International said in a statement Tuesday.

“The use of the death penalty in Singapore violates international human rights law and standards. The death penalty is never the solution to crime or the solution to address the risks and harms of using drugs. We call on the government to abolish the death penalty once and for all,” it added.

Singapore has some of the most draconian drug laws on the planet, handing down a mandatory death penalty for trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin, while organizations against capital punishment denounce that it does nothing to curb consumption, and instead they promote rehabilitation. EFE

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