This piece was first published on We Believe In Second Chances.
Kirsten Han, Khairulanwar Zaini and Priscilla Chia /
The case of a young man condemned to death for drug trafficking raises troubling questions about the Mandatory Death Penalty in Singapore, and how it is applied.
Roslan bin Bakar was arrested on 18 July 2008 at the house of his step-brother, and subsequently charged with trafficking in 96.07 grams of diamorphine and 76.37 grams of methamphetamine. He was found guilty and sentenced to death on 22 April 2010.
His appeal has been dismissed and he is currently awaiting the outcome of his clemency petition.
Throughout the investigation, the trial and even up till today, Roslan has continued to insist upon his innocence, denying that he was even present at the scene. During the trial, several points of doubt were raised in his defence:
1. The prosecution’s case relied on the testimony of three men who were also at the scene: Nuradaha Putra bin Nordin, Mohammed Zamri bin Mohamed Sopree and Pausi bin Jefridin. A fourth man, Norzainy bin Zainal, who was also at the scene on 14 June 2008, testified that Roslan was not there.
Apart from the testimonies, there was a lack of any concrete evidence to tie Roslan to the crime.
2. In his closing submissions for Roslan, lawyer Mr Ram Goswami said that although officials from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) had been monitoring vehicles used on the day of the alleged crime, “not a single CNB officer had given evidence” that Roslan had been at the scene.
3. The other men had provided a phone number, claiming it to be Roslan’s. They said he had used it to make calls setting up the whole drug pick-up. However, there was no evidence to prove that the phone number provided was registered to Roslan.
In fact, the closing submissions for Roslan states that “[t]o the Court’s question to the DPP [Deputy Public Prosecutor] as to who was the registered owner of this number, DPP Koh informed the Court that she was foreigner one Wang Yanghua who was no longer in Singapore”.
4. During the investigations, as well as the trial, Roslan provided an alibi for 14 June 2008, saying that he had been at home and then at the Turf Club. His mother and step-brother testified to corroborate his story.
Roslan was arrested on 18 July 2008 and charged with having trafficked drugs on 14 June 2008 – more than a month ago. At the time of arrest, he did not have any drugs on him.
During the trial Roslan testified that the others had testified against him so as to escape the capital charge. He believed that in the holding cell, the others had “already discussed about this case and they wanted to implicate him”.
“Guilty as charged”
Judge Choo Han Teck delivered his judgement on 22 April 2010. He found Roslan guilty of drug trafficking and handed down the Mandatory Death Penalty.
With regard to Roslan’s alibi, Judge Choo stated in his written judgement that Roslan’s mother did not have much recollection of the day and that “Shamsubari [Roslan’s step-brother] appeared a little too anxious to provide an alibi. Contrasting their evidence with that of Nuradaha, Zamri, Norzainy, and Pausi, I am satisfied that the alibi was not true.”
He went on to say, “I am mindful that Norzainy was trying his best not to identify Roslan, but his denial, inserted in the rest of his evidence and that of the others, strengthened the prosecution’s case against Roslan.”
Judge Choo also disagreed with Roslan’s testimony that the others had attempted to frame him, saying, “I found no credible evidence of any motive for the others to conspire so.”
Capital charges withdrawn
Nuradaha’s capital charge was reduced after representations made by his counsel to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Despite his initial vehement denials, Nuradaha admitted under cross-examination that “the reduction of the [capital] charge acted as an inducement for him to testify against Roslan”. He said that the instructions from his lawyer were that “when he take the offer [of the reduced charge], he had to attend Court hearing as what he was doing now”.
Zamri also had his capital withdrawn with a discharge not amounting to an acquittal. He affirmed that he knew that the state might still proceed with the charge if it so desires.
The Court of Appeal and clemency petition
Roslan’s appeal was dismissed on 17 March 2011. According to his sister, Inah, the Court of Appeal judges did not explain their decision, and there is no written judgement.
When contacted, Roslan’s lawyer, Mr Goswami, declined to speak with us.
Roslan’s clemency petition was submitted to the President S R Nathan on 28 June 2011.
In the petition, Roslan reiterated his claim of innocence, saying that the drugs in question never belonged to him, but to one “Yusof bin Kassim also known as Kimo”.
He said that “while in remand, Yusof bin Kassim, Nuradaha Putra bin Nordin, Norzainy bin Zainal, Mohamed Zamri bin Mohamed Sopree and Pausi bin Jefridin had all conspired to pin the blame on [him] for the drug transaction… so that Yusof bin Kassim would be exonerated and the capital charge against the others would be withdrawn or reduced”.
The petition also stated that Roslan “prays that further and thorough investigations be conducted to determine the actual involvement and culpability of [Yusof bin Kassim, Nuradaha Putra bin Nordin, Norzainy bin Zainal, Mohamed Zamri bin Mohamed Sopree and Pausi bin Jefridin] and the real culprits be brought to justice” and closed with the following statement:
“The Petitioner prays that real justice be done to him.”