Singapore’s top court was urged to show “mercy” on Tuesday as it heard the last-ditch appeal of a Malaysian man facing execution despite criticism from supporters who say he is mentally disabled.
Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was arrested in 2009 for trafficking a small amount of heroin into the city state, which has some of the world’s toughest drugs laws, and handed a then mandatory death sentence the following year.
After losing several appeals, Dharmalingam was to be executed by hanging in November. The execution was stayed amid pressure from international rights groups, Malaysia’s prime minister, and the EU, as the defense filed another appeal.
During yesterday’s proceedings, Dharmalingam’s Singaporean counsel, Violet Netto, pleaded with the judges to show “mercy” and allow him to undergo an independent psychiatric assessment.
His Malaysian lawyer, N. Surendran, said that the judgment was likely to be “in the upcoming days.”
He said, “The lawyers put up a good submission. Of course, you can’t execute someone who is mentally challenged. It’s a total breach of Singapore’s procedures and own law.
“We hope they make the right decision and not proceed with the execution,” he added.
The appeal was supposed to take place months ago but was delayed after Nagaenthran contracted Covid-19. Campaigners fear chances of success are slim. If Nagaenthran is hanged, it would be the first execution in Singapore since 2019.
Ahead of yesterday’s hearing, Nagaenthran’s sister Sarmila Dharmalingam said the family was “stressed and frightened thinking of my brother’s current situation”.
Speaking from the family home in Malaysia, she urged the Singapore government to “spare him from the gallows, give him a second chance”.
Rights groups have been ratcheting up pressure, with Amnesty International urging Singapore to spare Nagaenthran and “prevent a travesty of justice”.