Singapore executes man for trafficking 1 kg cannabis

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SINGAPORE: Singapore, on Wednesday, executed a man convicted of trafficking one kilogram of cannabis, ignoring international calls to abolish capital punishment.

Tangaraju Suppiah, a 46-year-old Singaporean, was hanged early on Wednesday in Changi Prison and the family have received a death certificate, his sister Leelavathy Suppiah told CNN.

Tangaraju was first sentenced to death in 2018 for “abetting the trafficking of more than one kilogram of cannabis (1,017.9 grams),” according to a statement from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). The court found he was in phone communication with two other men caught trying to smuggle cannabis into Singapore.

Previous appeals against his conviction and death sentence were dismissed by the courts in 2019 while petitions for presidential clemency were also unsuccessful, CNB added.

“Tangaraju was accorded full due process under the law and had access to legal counsel throughout the process,” CNB’s statement said while describing capital punishment as “part of Singapore’s comprehensive harm prevention strategy.”

Notably, Tangaraju’s sentence was lambasted by rights groups and campaigners for its severity at a time when many other nations, including neighbouring countries, have adopted a more lenient approach towards drugs and capital punishment.

While cannabis has been legalized in a growing number of nations worldwide, Singapore maintains some of the world’s harshest drug laws and its government remains adamant that capital punishment works to deter drug traffickers and must remain in place to maintain public safety.

Tangaraju’s sister Leelavathy spoke of her brother’s anguish and determination before his death sentence was carried out.
“Even from inside prison, he wanted to fight for his innocence,” she told CNN. “He believed that there would be a fair trial and wanted to prove his innocence – every step of the way.”

Last year Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis following years of campaigning by activists on the ground.

Meanwhile, Malaysia, Singapore’s closest neighbor, passed sweeping legal reforms earlier this month to remove the mandatory death penalty and trimmed the number of offenses, including drug crimes, punishable by death – a move welcomed by rights defenders.
But the Singapore government has continued to resist calls for reform, carrying out eleven executions last year alone, all for drug-related trafficking offenses.

Under the law, anyone caught trafficking, importing or exporting certain quantities of illegal drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or cannabis products receives the mandatory death sentence.

“Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance stance against drugs and applies a multi-pronged approach to combat drugs,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement responding to international criticism of Tangaraju’s execution.

“The death penalty is an essential component of Singapore’s criminal justice system and has been effective in keeping Singapore safe and secure.” (ANI)

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