Singapore hangs Indian-origin man over 1 kg of cannabis

Singapore hangs Indian-origin man over 1 kg of cannabis

Singapore on Wednesday (April 26) hanged an Indian-origin prisoner convicted in 2017 for “abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic” one kilogram of cannabis, the authorities said.

The city-state went ahead with hanging Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, ignoring international appeals for the country to abolish capital punishment.

“Singaporean Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, had his capital sentence carried out today at Changi Prison Complex,” a spokesperson for the Singapore Prisons Service told AFP.

Singapore ignored international appeals

The Singaporean authorities ignored a plea by the United Nations Human Rights Office for Singapore to “urgently reconsider” the hanging, and an appeal by the British tycoon Richard Branson to halt it, claiming that his conviction did not meet standards.

Branson, a member of the Geneva-based Global Commission on Drug Policy, wrote on Monday (April 24) on his blog that Tangaraju was “not anywhere near” the drugs at the time of his arrest and that Singapore may be about to put an innocent man to death.

The Ministry of Home Affairs in Singapore had responded on Tuesday (April 25) to Branson’s comments, saying it showed “disrespect” for Singapore’s judges and criminal justice system.

Also read: Indian-origin man sentenced to 12 years jail for attacking Singapore enforcement officer

Tangaraju was convicted in 2017 of “abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic” 1,017.9 grams of cannabis, twice the minimum volume required for a death sentence in Singapore.

He was sentenced to death in 2018 and the Court of Appeal upheld the decision.

Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry responded on Tuesday (April 25) that Tangaraju’s guilt had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The ministry said two mobile phone numbers that prosecutors said belonged to him had been used to coordinate the delivery of the drugs.

Court of Appeal dismissed Suppiah’s plea for review

A court in Singapore on Tuesday (April 25) dismissed an application by Tangaraju Suppiah to have his case reviewed, a day before the hanging.

Justice of the Court of Appeal Steven Chong dismissed Suppiah’s bid for a review application to be made, and for his execution to be stayed, according to Channel News Asia. In a 15-page judgment, Justice Chong explained that Tangaraju had failed to show a legitimate basis for the court to review his case.

“There is also no basis for the court to exercise its inherent power to reopen a concluded criminal appeal,” he said. “This application is therefore dismissed without being set down for hearing,” Justice Chong was quoted as saying in the report.

Tangaraju was sentenced to death after failing to fulfil any of the criteria that would free him from death row.

Also read: Has death penalty helped rape survivors? There’s no empirical evidence either way

He later appealed against his conviction and sentence, but it was dismissed in August 2019, with the court agreeing that Tangaraju had conspired to traffic in cannabis, and that he had used a phone to communicate with his accomplice, Mogan Valo.

Tangaraju filed a criminal motion in November 2022 for permission to apply to review the concluded appeal. The court dismissed this as well in February 2023.

In his latest bid, Tangaraju, who was self-represented, argued that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he and Mogan had an agreement to traffic the specific quantity of 1017.9 grams of cannabis.

However, Justice Chong said it was never Tangaraju’s case at trial that the agreement with Mogan was to traffic an amount that was below the threshold amount for capital punishment, or any lesser quantity.

“It thus appears that the applicant is essentially seeking to advance an entirely new argument,” the Channel had Justice Chong as saying.

He added that the agreement to traffic the quantity found in Mogan’s possession was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, in any event. Justice Chong agreed with the prosecution that this new argument was premised on “false assertions”.

Mogan had testified that he had collected cannabis from another person and had been instructed to deliver the drugs to Tangaraju. He testified that he knew the “two rectangular-shaped blocks wrapped in white packaging” were cannabis upon his own inspection, and the drugs were subsequently analysed and found to contain 1017.9 grams of cannabis.

Justice Chong found that there was no legitimate basis for the court to exercise its power of review.

“The new arguments which the applicant has advanced at the eleventh hour do not warrant the court’s exercise of its inherent power to reopen a concluded criminal appeal,” he added.

Pressure on Singapore to abolish capital punishment

Cannabis has been decriminalised In many countries – including neighbouring Thailand. Rights groups have been pressuring Singapore to abolish capital punishment.

Singapore has some of the world’s most stringent anti-narcotics laws and insists that the death penalty remains an effective deterrent against drug trafficking.

But the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights disagrees.

Also read: Singapore hangs Indian-origin Malaysian drug trafficker amid outcry over executions

“The death penalty is still being used in a small number of countries, largely because of the myth that it deters crime,” the OHCHR said in a statement on Tuesday (April 25).

Tangaraju’s family had pleaded for clemency while also pushing for a retrial.

Suppiah’s execution is the first one in the last six months, and 12th in the last one year in Singapore. It resumed executions in March 2022 after a gap of more than two years.

The United Nations maintains that the death penalty has not proven to be an effective deterrent globally and is incompatible with international human rights law, which only permits capital punishment for the most serious crimes.

(With inputs from agencies)

Read More
Next Story