Despite last-minute pleadings for mercy from his family and activists, Singapore has hanged 46-year-old Tangaraju Suppiah, who was found guilty in 2018 of trafficking more than 1kg (2.2 pounds) of cannabis.
Kirsten Han, an advocate against the death sentence, posted on Twitter that Tangaraju’s family had reported receiving the death certificate.
The sentence was carried out at Changi jail in the east of the island, a representative of the nation’s prison system told the AFP news agency.
In 2018, Tangaraju Suppiah received a death sentence for his role in the attempted trafficking of just over 1kg of cannabis. He was using a phone number that was being used to communicate with traffickers trying to transport drugs into Singapore, a judge discovered.
According to Tangaraju’s relatives and campaigners, the 46-year-old was denied access to a Tamil interpreter while questioned by the police and was not given proper legal representation.
The execution was condemned by Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson, who also noted that Tangaraju’s guilt was “far from clear cut” given that he had never actually touched the cannabis in question, had been interrogated by police without a lawyer, and had been denied access to a Tamil interpreter when he requested one.
Amnesty International said the execution was “illegal” and the procedures “violated international law and standards.”
After carrying out 11 death penalties in the previous year, Singapore carried out its first execution in the last six months.
Concern over applying the mandatory death penalty in drug cases is growing among Singaporeans, and the hanging of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam last year led to the unusual protests rarely seen in the closely regulated city-state.
The authorities stated in response to an appeal made on behalf of Tangaraju by British business mogul Richard Branson that the evidence against him was conclusive and that the kilogram of cannabis would have been “sufficient to feed the addiction of about 150 abusers for a week.” It reaffirmed the necessity of its strict policies.
“Our approach has worked for us, and we will continue charting our own path according to what is in the best interests of Singaporeans,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
However, the executive coordinator of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), Dobby Chew, claimed that recent executions had caused severe worries.
He pointed out that Kalwant Singh was hanged in July of last year after working with investigators. In contrast, Tangaraju’s accused co-conspirators who were captured with the drugs were either imprisoned or given a discharge. Nagaenthran was executed even though his IQ revealed an intellectual handicap.
“None of these people are persons of significance in the grand scheme of drug trafficking operations in Singapore, and yet, they are killed under the guise that it was necessary to protect Singapore,” Chew said.
The United Nations says countries that retain the death penalty should use it only for the most severe crimes, which does not include drug offenses. On Tuesday, it urged Singapore to halt Tangaraju’s execution.
“Singapore’s continued use of the death penalty for drug possession is a human rights outrage that makes much of the world recoil and wonder whether the image of modern, civilized Singapore is just a mirage,” HRW’s Robertson said.
Neighboring Malaysia recently passed legal reforms to remove the mandatory death sentence for offenses including drugs and give judges the discretion to decide on sentencing.
It currently has a moratorium on executions.