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SINGAPORE – A Malaysian drug trafficker on death row is confirmed to have COVID-19 and as such, will not be executed as scheduled on Wednesday (10 November).
Justice Andrew Phang, who revealed Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam's infection in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, ordered the stay of execution in the case of the 33-year-old Malaysian until further notice and ordered the hearing to be adjourned for a date to be fixed.
Nagaenthran had appeared in court before his appeal hearing, surrounded by five prison officers. He was in court for about 15 minutes but left before the hearing started.
“The judicial execution is scheduled for tomorrow. I cannot imagine as the prisoner has been afflicted with COVID-19... I think it’s our view that the execution can't take place anyway,” said Justice Phang, who is one of the Judges of Appeal alongside Justices Judith Prakash and Kannan Ramesh.
Justice Phang added that in this case the court had to “use logic, common sense and humanity”. “It is unfortunate. This is the fault of no one, it just happened.”
Nagaenthran’s lawyer Ravi Madasamy and Senior State Counsel Wong Woon Kwong from the Attorney-General’s Chambers expressed surprise at the update.
The courtroom was packed with 19 people in the public gallery, with a queue forming before and during the hearing.
Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to the Singapore Prison Service for further details in light of Nagaenthran's infection.
A day earlier, High Court judge See Kee Oon had dismissed Nagaenthran's bid to escape the death penalty, rejecting the argument that Nagaenthran had a mental age below 18. Nagaenthran was granted a stay of execution as Ravi filed an appeal, which was fixed for hearing on Tuesday.
Describing Ravi's belief about Nagaenthran's mental age as "inadmissible in law", Justice See noted that Ravi conceded to not possessing the medical expertise to comment on the matter.
"There is no credible basis upon which his assertions as to the plaintiff’s mental age can be considered. Moreover, as Supt Shahrom bin Thamby Ahmad (the officer-in-charge of the unit where Nagaenthran is housed) has made clear in his reply affidavit, Mr Ravi has only met the plaintiff once in the last three years, for a mere 26 minutes in all from 9.20 am to 9.46 am on 2 Nov 2021."
"It would appear that Mr Ravi has never met the plaintiff prior to that meeting either. At any rate, he does not claim to have done so in his affidavit, added Justice See.
Nagaenthran had been given due process in accordance to the law and it was not open to him "to challenge the court’s findings pertaining to his mental responsibility, whether directly or indirectly, in yet another attempt to revisit and unravel the finality of those findings," Justice See said.
He noted that it was not in dispute that Nagaenthran had been assessed to have an IQ of 69. During his trial, the judge had found that Nagaenthran was not suffering from intellectual disability to any degree but accepted that he had borderline intellectual functioning.
Nagaenthran’s failed application is the latest in a string of appeals to have his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. His case recently gained momentum with civil activists, who call for the death penalty for him to be dropped in light of his mental condition.
Nagaenthran was arrested and charged in 2009 with importing one packet of granular substance containing not less than 42.72 grammes of diamorphine. The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of diamorphine imported is more than 15 grammes.
He was given the death penalty in November 2010. He appealed against his conviction and sentence, and the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal on 27 July 2011.
After the amendments to the death penalty regime under the Misuse of Drugs Act came into effect in January 2013, Nagaenthran filed a re-sentencing application in 24 February 2015, to set aside the death sentence imposed on him and have it commuted to a sentence of life imprisonment.
The application sought to determine whether he was suffering from an abnormality of mind which substantially impaired his mental responsibility for the offence. The High Court dismissed the application on 14 September 2017, finding that Nagaenthran was not suffering from an abnormality of mind at the time of the offence.
On 27 March 2015, Nagaenthran filed a judicial review application against the public prosecutor’s decision to not issue a certificate of substantive assistance under Section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act. The High Court dismissed the application on 4 May 2018.
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