Singapore Executes Mentally Disabled Man, Ignoring Pleas

SINGAPORE — Singapore on Wednesday executed a mentally disabled Malaysian man condemned for a drug offense after a court dismissed a last-minute challenge from his mother and international pleas to spare him.

Nagaenthran K.Dharmalingam was 34 years old when he was convicted for trafficking approximately 43 grams (1.5″ oz.) of heroin into Singapore. The city-state’s government has said its use of the death penalty for drug crimes is made clear at the borders.

Nagaenthran’s family and social activists confirmed the execution Wednesday.

“On this score may I declare that Malaysia is far more humane,” his sister Sarmila Dharmalingam said. “Zero to Singapore on this.”

Nagaenthran’s supporters and lawyers said he had an IQ of 69 and was intellectually disabled, and that the execution of a mentally ill person was prohibited under international human rights law.

Singapore’s courts ruled, citing psychiatrists’ testimony in court, that he was not mentally disabled and had understood his actions at the time of his crime.

“Nagaenthran Dharmalingam’s name will go down in history as the victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice,” said Maya Foa, director of non-governmental organization Reprieve.

“Hanging an intellectually disabled, mentally unwell man because he was coerced into carrying less than three tablespoons of diamorphine is unjustifiable and a flagrant violation of international laws that Singapore has chosen to sign up to.”

Nagaenthran’s mother and father had filed Monday a motion arguing it was illegal to continue with Nagaenthran’s death sentence. They also argued that Nagaenthran may not have had a fair trial since the chief justice that presided over Nagaenthran’s appeals was the attorney general at Nagaenthran’s conviction in 2010. This filing suggested that there could be conflict of interests.

The court dismissed the motion, describing it as “frivolous.”

His family said Nagaenthran’s body will be brought to their hometown in Malaysia’s northern state of Perak, where they have made preparations for his funeral.

After two years of executions being stopped in Singapore due to the COVID-19 pandemic, executions were resumed by Singapore with the execution of a trafficker in March.

Anybody found with more than 15g (0.5 ounces), of heroin will be sentenced to death in Singapore. However, judges have the power to reduce it to life imprisonment at their own discretion. Attempts to reduce Nagaenthran’s sentence or obtain a presidential pardon failed.

Malaysia’s leader, European Union representatives and global figures such as British business magnate Richard Branson called for Nagaenthran’s life to be spared and used the case to advocate for ending capital punishment.

Ng from Kuala Lumpur

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