Singapore executes mentally challenged Indian-origin Malaysian drug trafficker

He spent more than a decade mounting legal challenges but they were dismissed by Singapore's courts. A push for presidential clemency was also rejected last year.

Published: 27th April 2022 10:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th April 2022 10:33 AM   |  A+A-

Activists hold posters against the impending execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, sentenced to death for trafficking heroin into Singapore. (Photo | AP)


SINGAPORE: Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a mentally challenged Indian-origin Malaysian man found guilty of drug trafficking, was executed in Singapore on Wednesday, his family said, after a top court dismissed a last-ditch legal challenge from his mother in a controversial case that caught global attention and attracted calls for clemency.

Dharmalingam, 34, was arrested in 2009 for trafficking 42.72 grams of heroin into Singapore, which has some of the world's toughest drugs laws, and was handed a death sentence the following year.

He was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint (a causeway link with Peninsular Malaysia) while entering Singapore, with the bundle of drugs strapped to his thigh.

His brother Navin Kumar told Malaysia's national news agency Bernama the execution was carried out on Wednesday morning and the funeral would be held in the town of Ipoh in Malaysia. Dharmalingam was on death row for more than a decade and exhausted all legal recourse.

He was first scheduled to be hanged on November 10 last year but filed a last-minute challenge. His case was highly controversial as he was assessed by a medical expert to have an IQ of 69 - a level that indicates an intellectual disability.

He spent more than a decade mounting legal challenges but they were dismissed by Singapore's courts. A push for presidential clemency was also rejected last year.

"The Court of Appeal found that this was the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question," said Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs in an earlier statement.

His mother, who came to the Singapore court from northern Malaysia, failed in her last-minute appeal to save her son on Tuesday.

The court dismissed the last-ditch appeal by his mother, saying Dharmalingam has been given "due process in accordance with the law", prompting his relatives to break down in tears in court. The government said he "clearly understood the nature of his acts".

"This a last-minute application, brought just two days before the scheduled execution, and is the seventh application (not including appeals) brought by Nagaenthran after his appeal against conviction was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2011 more than 10 years ago," Singapore's Attorney General's Chambers said on Wednesday.

"It is the latest attempt to abuse the court's processes and unjustifiably delay the carrying into effect of the lawful sentence imposed on Nagaenthran," it said.

The plan to execute him sparked widespread criticism due to concerns about his intellectual disabilities, with the United Nations, the European Union and British billionaire Richard Branson among those condemning it.

In November last year, it was reported that Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had written to his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong seeking leniency in this case.

Thousands of others had also signed a petition, arguing that the execution of a mentally ill person is prohibited under international human rights law.

The execution was on Tuesday condemned by rights group Reprieve, who called him the "victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice".

"Nagen's last days were spent, like much of the last decade, in the torturous isolation of solitary confinement," said Reprieve's Director Maya Foa.

"Our thoughts are with Nagen's family, who never stopped fighting for him; their pain is unimaginable." He was supposed to be hanged on November 10, 2021, but found temporary respite on November 9 after the court was told he had tested positive for Covid-19 when he appeared for a last-bid attempt against his death sentence, Malaysia's official Bernama news agency reported.

Under Singapore's laws, those caught carrying more than 15 grams of heroin are subject to the death penalty.

Singapore resumed executions last month after a hiatus of more than two years, when it executed another drug trafficker.


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  • Babloo Ramisetty

    Good riddance. Why can't you just say he is Malaysian? Love to twist tales
    3 months ago reply
  • Deena Dayalan

    Whole world knows about Singapore's penalty for carrying drugs into the country. Still
    3 months ago reply
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