Singapore gives two drug mules a chance to leave death row

Yong Yun Leong (left) and Yong Yun Chung (centre), the brothers of convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong, leave the High Court with lawyer M Ravi, in Singapore on April 4, 2011. Yong Vui Kong, on death ro for drug trafficking had what could be his final appeal thrown out on Wednesday by the city-state's highest court

Two drug mules on death row in Singapore were given the chance to escape the gallows on Wednesday after helping in anti-narcotics efforts.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers said on Wednesday that public prosecutors would certify that Singaporean Subashkaran s/o Pragasam and Malaysian Yong Vui Kong have “substantively assisted” the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) “in disrupting drug trafficking activities within and outside of Singapore".

Subashkaran, 29, and Yong, 24, who face the death penalty for drug trafficking, could therefore find their sentences reduced.
If the two prisoners are able to prove to the court that they only played the role of couriers within the meaning of the Misuse of Drugs Act, “the prosecution will be leaving the sentence to the discretion of the court”, the AGC said.
Yong's case was thrust into the spotlight in recent years by activists campaigning for his release from death row. He was first sentenced to death for trafficking 47.27 grams of heroin before celebrating his 19th birthday in 2008, after prosecutors refused to amend his charges when trial judge Justice Choo Han Teck asked them to, given his young age.
After Yong's execution was hastened when he withdrew his appeal against the sentence, human rights lawyer M Ravi took over his case and successfully pushed for a stay of execution, while submitting an appeal for Yong after failing to obtain a Presidential pardon from then-president S R Nathan.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Subashkaran was arrested in 2008 and convicted in 2011 of trafficking at least 186.62 grams of heroin. He lost an appeal against the verdict in March this year.
Lawyers for the two are scheduled to appear in court next month to discuss their clients' cases, the report said.
Last November, Law Minister K Shanmugam announced changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act that allowed the courts more flexibility in meting sentences to people found guilty of trafficking drugs in excess of certain quantities.
In essence, this meant that not all drug traffickers in this category would face the death penalty. If they could prove that their involvement in the crime was merely in transporting drugs, as well as substantively assist the CNB in its investigation and in nabbing guilty persons further up in the chain, the courts would be able to decide whether to sentence them to death or life imprisonment.
This new ruling applied to drug courier 29-year-old Abdul Haleem Abdul Karim, who was in April the first in Singapore to be convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment instead of to death, because he had provided assistance to the authorities.
The AGC says there are currently 26 people facing the death penalty for drug-related offences who can apply for resentencing under the new ruling.