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Singapore executes man convicted of cannabis trafficking, ignoring UN position



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Singapore authorities have today, April 26, carried out a sentence condemning a man to death for conspiring to smuggle about a kilogram of cannabis. The United Nations took a position to pressure Singapore to withdraw from the act, and Amnesty International also created a letter asking the prime minister to take action. The family alleged an unfair trial and other irregularities in the process and asked for clemency.

Tangaraju Suppiah, 46 years old, had his capital sentence carried out this morning.

Singapore is in the global spotlight for carrying out the death sentence of Tangaraju Suppiah, completely ignoring international calls for the city-state to abolish capital punishment, or grant the Singaporean clemency. Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, had "his capital sentence carried out today at Changi Prison Complex", a spokesman for the Singapore Prison Service confirmed to France Media Agency.

The 46-year-old Singaporean was charged in 2017 with "involvement in a conspiracy to traffic" 1.017,9 grams of cannabis into the country. Allegedly, the defendant only used his cell phone to assist the operation, however, he was sentenced to death in 2018 and the Court of Appeal upheld the decision. Tangaraju still came in with an action in November 2022 to obtain permission to apply for review of the completed appeal. The request was rejected by the court in February 2023. Tangaraju, who represented himself, argued that the prosecution was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he and another individual had an agreement to traffic the specified amount of 1.017,9 g of cannabis. However, the court did not grant the defendant's claims.

Family asked Singapore Prime Minister for clemency

Leelavathy Suppiah, sister of convicted cannabis trafficking man Tangaraju Suppiah, poses with family members as she holds a petition asking for clemency in Singapore on April 23, 2023. – (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

Tangaraju Suppiah's family has launched a desperate plea for clemency to the authorities, as well as another trial. Her sister, Leelavathy Suppiah, stated that the "brother didn't get a fair trial" at a press conference. Regardless, he confided to journalists on Sunday that he has "faith that the president will read all of our petitions."

A United Nations (UN) and international Amnesty have already taken firm positions on the matter. British millionaire Richard Branson also took a position on the death sentence, having even received a response from the Singaporean authorities.

Branson, who is a member of the Geneva-based Global Commission on Drug Policy, wrote on his blog on Monday that Tangaraju was "nowhere near" drugs at the time of his arrest, and that Singapore could be on the verge of convicting a innocent man to death.

“What is especially worrying is that Tangaraju never actually had any contact with the seized cannabis”, said human rights activist Kirsten Han told the AFP. A post on Facebook reads what was the man's last meal: Chicken rice, nasi biryani, ice cream soda and milo-flavored sweets. These were the foodstuffs that Tangaraju requested from Changi Prison authorities the week before his execution.

United Nations pressured authorities to desist from execution

The United Nations also took a firm stand against this, which will be the 12th execution since March 2022, all related to drug trafficking. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged the government to urgently reconsider the enforcement and take steps to fully respect the most fundamental of human rights – the right to life.

The UN Human Rights Office (UNOHR) admits in a statement its concern about the trial of Tangaraju Suppia and respect for the guarantees of a fair trial, and asks the authorities not to proceed with his execution. For the UN Human Rights Office, the imposition of the death penalty for drug offenses is incompatible with international norms and standards. Countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty can only apply it to the “most serious crimes”, interpreted as extremely serious crimes involving intentional homicide.

The death penalty is still used in a small number of countries, mainly because of the myth that it deters crime. Mounting evidence, however, shows that it is ineffective, which is why UNOHR has urged the Singaporean government to adopt a formal moratorium on executions for drug-related offenses and to guarantee the right to a fair trial for all defendants, according to with its international obligations.

Richard Branson criticizes Singapore, which maintains position

Richard Branson, is a well-known opponent of the death penalty, and defended that the verdict against Tangaraju does not meet the standards of criminal sentencing and that “Singapore may be about to kill an innocent man” as he was nowhere near the drugs when he was arrested.

The millionaire saw his statements refuted by the Singapore Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry argued that the case had been analyzed for more than 3 years by the courts and that Branson's claim was "manifestly false". In the statement, the Ministry characterized it as “regrettable that Mr. Branson, in wanting to defend his position (against the death penalty), pretends to know more about the case than the Singapore courts”

CannaReporter has sent questions to the Prime Minister of Singapore and the President of the Republic of Singapore, not having received, for the time being, any clarifications.



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