Singapore to Hang Malaysian Man for Drug Possession amid Calls to Halt Execution

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Singapore will be executing a Malaysian man of Indian descent on Wednesday for possessing 1.5 ounce of heroin amid pleas from legal and human rights groups to halt the execution. Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, 33, was arrested in April 2009 for trying to smuggle nearly 43 grams of heroin into Singapore, found strapped to his left thigh.

Going by the strict drug laws of Singapore, he will now be hanged. However, human rights groups are making a last ditch effort to hold the execution as Dharmalingam's IQ was disclosed during the trial as 69, a level that is internationally recognized as an intellectual disability.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam
Nagaenthran Dharmalingam Twitter

Dharmalingam was arrested after setting foot on Singapore with drugs in 2009. His lawyers argued that he "acted as a drug mule under duress from a friend who had assaulted him and threatened to kill his girlfriend."

However, that didn't help much. Despite a diagnosis by a Singaporean psychiatrist, the court still pushed the death sentence on Dharmalingam, arguing that he had "conflicting accounts of the reasons for his offending."

He will now be finally hanged on Wednesday. This also makes Dharmalingam the first prisoner to be executed by the city state since 2019.

However, his lawyers are now making a last ditch effort to halt the execution arguing that he is mentally unstable.

"We will be filing an application in court [on Tuesday]. When we file it we will serve it on the Attorney-General," M Ravi, a Singaporean lawyer who is representing 25 death row inmates, including Dharmalingam, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Will Dharmalingam Get a New Life?

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It is not known what will happen to Dharmalingam but efforts are being made to save him. "He doesn't really get what is happening," his Malaysian lawyer N Surendran said.

"He has some vague idea that something is going to happen to him on the 10th of November but he thinks he is going to go to a beautiful garden and be happy there. It's beyond words."

Human rights groups have been arguing that Dharmalingam has an IQ of 69, which was disclosed during the trial, a level that is internationally recognized as an intellectual disability. They are saying that he was also found to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a drinking disorder that together could affect his judgment, decision making, and impulse control.

So far Dharmalingam's legal team has been unsuccessful in their attempt to appeal against the Singaporean court's ruling. They also appealed to Singapore President Halimah Yacob but to no avail.

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have also echoed calls to save Nagaenthran, saying the execution of a disabled person violates international laws and won't deter crime.

That said, Singapore has always been strict with its drug laws. In a bid to maintain law and order in one of the world's safest cities, Singapore makes no apology for using the death penalty as a deterrent against serious crimes.

It once had the highest per-capita execution rate in the world, hanging more than 400 prisoners between 1991 and 2004, mainly for drug offences.