KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A Malaysian man with a mental disability is to be hanged next week in Singapore after losing a final appeal, rights groups said Wednesday, but his Malaysian lawyer mounted a new bid to halt the execution.
Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam has been on death row since 2010 for attempting to smuggle less than 43 grams (1.5 ounces) of heroin into Singapore. His scheduled hanging last November sparked widespread criticism, including from the European Union and British business magnate Richard Branson, because he is believed to be mentally disabled with an IQ of 69 — a level internationally recognized as an intellectual disability.
A Singapore court ruled that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing by violating Singapore’s harsh anti-drug laws. Nagaenthran lost his final appeal on March 29.
Nagaenthran’s Malaysian lawyer wrote an immediate letter to Singapore’s attorney general seeking a halt to the execution on April 27.
Lawyer Surendran Nagarajan said Singapore Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon has presided over various appeals by Nagaenthran. Menon was attorney general when Nagaenthran was convicted in 2010, raising the issue of a conflict of interest with him presiding over the appeals, Surendran said.
“Our client is constitutionally entitled to a rehearing of the matters heard and decided by Justice Sundaresh Menon,” he said in the letter, posted on his Facebook page.
The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network and Transformative Justice Collective also called for a halt to the execution. They said the Singapore government has not given Nagaenthran any independent psychiatric assessment and dismissed his disability solely on feedback from the prison department.
“To provide Nagaenthran with an independent psychiatric assessment at this stage would cause no prejudice" to Singapore but demonstrate it has given a person with a disability the right to exercise his legal rights, they said.
Nagaenthran and several other recent death row cases have put the spotlight on Singapore’s policy of capital punishment for drug-related offenses. Singapore’s home affairs ministry has said the country has a “zero-tolerance stance against illicit drugs” and that the death penalty is made clear at its borders.