By Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe in Second Chances

Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe in Second Chances interviewed the sister and cousin of death-row inmate Kho Jabing when they were here in May 2015, after we managed to raise some funds to cover their travel expenses.

Kho Jabing, 31, was convicted and sentenced to death under section 300 (c) of the Penal Code. In the evening of 17 February 2008, Jabing together with four of his friends were at Geylang. According to Jabing’s statement, the intention in heading to Geylang, among the five of them was to commit a robbery in light of the fact that their previous plan to rob two co-workers was aborted.

When they spotted their victims along Lorong 4, Jabing assaulted the deceased with what was described as either a piece of wood or a tree branch, which he had picked up while approaching the victim. Galing, his co-accused, had also assaulted the deceased with a metal belt buckle. Unfortunately, the deceased succumbed to the severe and multiple injuries inflicted by the piece of wood. His three other friends were not involved in this assault, as they had parted with Galing and Jabing before the robbery and assault took place.

The Court of Appeal affirmed Jabing’s conviction on 24th May 2011. The court held that it was beyond reasonable doubt that Jabing intended to, and did inflict multiple head injuries on the deceased.  Jabing was thus sentenced to suffer the mandatory death penalty, which was still in place during his sentence and conviction.

Jabing was afforded an opportunity to be re-sentenced because of the amendments to the death penalty regime in 2013. On 18 November 2013, Justice Tay Yong Kwang re-sentenced Jabing to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. The prosecutor appealed the re-sentencing decision. On 14th January 2015, the Court of Appeal, by a majority decision (with two out of the five judges dissenting) overturned Justice Tay’s decision and sentenced Jabing to death.

The majority justified imposing the death sentence on the basis that Jabing “exhibited a blatant disregard for human life” due to the “sheer savagery and brutality exhibited by the Respondent (Jabing)” in inflicting the blows to the deceased. The minority judges however, disagreed with the death sentence imposed by the majority. Justice Woo Bih Li and Justice Lee Seiu Kin reasoned that there was a “reasonable doubt (as to) whether Jabing’s blows were all inflicted when the deceased was laying on the ground” which made it “unsafe to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he (Jabing) acted in away which exhibited a blatant disregard for human life”.

On behalf of Jabing, his lawyers submitted a clemency petition to the President on 24 April 2015. Under the Constitution of Singapore, the President may grant clemency at the advise of the Cabinet, or a minister representing the Cabinet. In other words, the President has no power to grant anyone a clemency unless the Cabinet advises so.

Being the sole breadwinner of his family, his incarceration has led to a loss of income. His mother, who is ill and unable to work, currently lives on the kindness of her neighbours, and little welfare. Her sister is a home maker, whose husband is himself, earning a salary that is just enough to support their small family. As she lives away from her mother, she has little ability to take care of her. We sincerely urge the government to consider this, and grant him mercy.

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