Mr Mourthi is asking for an apology from the Singapore government for the execution of his then 23-year old son, Vignes Mourthi. Vignes was hanged in Singapore in September 2003 after having been found guilty of trafficking in 27.65g of heroin. Vignes had always maintained his innocence till the day he died.
Mr Mourthi’s demand for an apology comes after he learned of the circumstances which led to the conviction of his son involving police officer Sergeant Rajkumar.
Rajkumar, who was the officer in charge of the sting operation which led to the arrest of Vignes outside the An Nur Mosque in Woodlands, was also the key prosecution witness during the trial proceedings.
What angers Mr Mourthi and his family is that Rajkumar, while giving testimony during the trial as the prosecution’s key witness, was himself also being investigated for rape, sodomy and bribery by the authorities. Neither Vignes’s lawyer nor his family knew about this at that time. Rajkumar’s testimony against Vignes was believed to have largely contributed to the conviction of Vignes.
After Vignes’s execution, Rajkumar was found guilty of bribery in a later trial and was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Giving support to Mr Mourthi on Tuesday were members of Lawyers For Liberty (LFL), a human rights and law reform initiative in Malaysia and members of the Civil Rights Committee of Kuala Lumpur and the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. Mr N Surendran, a lawyer with LFL, presented a memorandum of protest to a representative of the Singapore High Commission.
“We now know the key witness in Vignes’s trial was himself being investigated for rape, sodomy and later convicted of corruption,” Mr Surendran said.
LFL’s memorandum also highlighted the reported remarks made by then-Chief Justice Yong Pung How in the appeal hearings. “When asked by lawyer M Ravi whether the innocent Vignes can be hanged due to merely procedural matters,” the LFL’s memorandum says, “the Chief Justice replied, ‘Yes, the answer is yes.’”
“Here you have an appalling instance of a miscarriage of justice,” Mr Surendran told the media. “Vignes Mourthi was innocent,” he added.
In its memorandum of protest, LFL calls for the Singapore government to “[acknowledge] the enormous miscarriage of justice that happened in Vignes’ case” and demand the Singapore government “make amends” to Vignes’s family. The lawyers call for “immediate reforms in the Singapore judiciary to ensure Singaporean judges appreciate and respect human life and freedom; take appropriate action according to the Constitution against Chief Justice Yong Pung How; halt all pending executions in Singapore and commute death sentences to imprisonment” and to “cease immediately the malicious persecution of British author Alan Shadrake.”
Mr Shadrake is the author of Once A Jolly Hangman, a book about the death penalty in Singapore. The book includes a chapter on the case of Vignes Mourthi. Mr Shadrake was arrested in July and has been charged with contempt of court. His hearing will take place on the 30th of August.
In the meantime, Mr Mourthi says he will appoint a lawyer to seek redress for his son.
“I know he is innocent,” Mr Mourthi said of his son. “I want to know what the Singapore government is going to do about this. I hope the truth will finally come out.”
Read also: Activists cry murder over Singapore hanging (Free Malaysia Today)
TOC’s video report of Tuesday’s events at the Singapore High Commission;
The Memorandum of Protest delivered to the Singapore High Commission:
MEMORANDUM OF PROTEST
Wrongful execution of M’sian Vignes Mourthi and malicious prosecution of Alan Shadrake
1. On 26 September 2003, Vignes Mourthi was hanged in Changi prison for alleged drug trafficking.
2. The key testimony on which he was convicted was the evidence of one Sgt Rajkumar who arrested Vignes.
3. Alan Shadrake in his book ” The Jolly Hangman” reveals the shocking truth about the trial and conviction of Vignes. At the time Sgt Rajkumar gave the sworn testimony in court which convicted Vignes, Rajkumar was under investigation for rape, sodomy and bribery! Subsequently he was convicted of corruption and sent to prison for 15 months. Vignes was hanged by the neck until he died on the testimony of this man.
4. In a breathtakingly malcious act, Singapore police and authorities concealed this crucial fact from Vignes’ lawyer M.Ravi. Vignes went to the gallows bitterly denying to the end that he had ever trafficked in drugs. He was only 21 years old when arrested.
5. The callousness and indifference to human life by the Singapore government and judiciary is shown by the now notorious remarks of Chief Justice Yong Pung How. When asked by lawyer M.Ravi whether the innocent Vignes can be hanged due to merely procedural matters, the Chief Justice replied ” Yes, the answer is yes.”
1. On 19 July 2010, a day after Alan launched his book in Singapore, police arrested him for Criminal Defamation and Contempt of Court.
2. Alan was interrogated by police 8 to 10 hours a day despite a weak heart, and now faces trials which may may send him to prison for years. He remains resolute and has said ” I will not be cowed.” His only crime is revealing the truth to the people of Singapore and the world.
We the undersigned demand that the Singapore government:
a. acknowledges the enormous miscarriage of justice that happened in Vignes’ case;
b. clears the sullied name of Vignes Mourthi and make amends to his suffering family;
c. institute immediate reforms in the Singapore judiciary to ensure Singaporean judges appreciate and respect human life and freedom;
d. take appropriate action according to the Constitution against Chief Justice Yong Pung How ;
e. halt all pending executions in Singapore and commute death sentences to imprisonment;
f. cease immediately the malicious persecution of British author Alan Shadrake.
LAWYERS FOR LIBERTY
Civil Rights Committee KUALA LUMPUR AND SELANGOR CHINESE ASSEMBLY HALL