Lawyer N Surendran and counsel Raul Lee Baskaran, are representing death-row inmates, K Datchinamurthy and S Prabagaran to seek the declaration from the Malaysian Government and Foreign Ministry that they are legally obliged to protect and give them a right to a fair trial and/or right to life and liberty. They also want a declaration from the court that Putrajaya is obliged to protect their lives and freedom.
In 2011, 32-year-old Datchinamurthy together with J Christeen, a Singaporean, were arrested by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers for trafficking 44.96g of diamorphine. Christeen was spared the death sentence as she had provided ‘substantive assistance’ to the CNB. Datchinamurthy has exhausted his final appeal two years ago after the Singapore Court of Appeal asserted the sentence of the High Court.
While, 29-year-old Prabagaran was convicted in 2012 after the Singapore immigration checkpoint found 22.24g of diamorphine, a pure form of heroin, in his car. He claimed during the trial that he did not know there were drugs in the car, which he had borrowed from a man named Nathan.
Lawyers denied access to client by prison service
In their bid to prove the case for Prabagaran in Malaysia, representing lawyers for Prabagaran have sought access from the Singapore Prison Service to visit their client. However, the Prison Services have denied their access, stating that the lawyers are not Advocates and Solicitors of Singapore.
M Ravi, founder of the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign who is working with N Surendran and human rights lawyers Latheefa Koya to stop Prabagaran’s execution, wrote on his Facebook that they are looking for answers to why the lawyers are being denied access to their clients.
Noting a similar application was made by a Nigerian lawyer in 2007 to visit Amara Tochi, a Nigerian accused of drug-trafficking and a death-row prisoner. That request was also denied on the basis that he was not an Advocate and Solicitor of Singapore.
In about 2010, Ng Chow Ying, a Malaysian lawyer who was representing then-death-row inmate, Yong Vui Kong was denied based on the same reasons.
Apparent discriminatory treatment by the Singapore Prison Service
However, it is noted that the Prisons Service approved the request for access by Australian Lawyers to visit Van Nguyen, an Australian-Vietnamese who was on death-row in Singapore, before his execution, lawyers who are also not allowed to practice law in Singapore.
“Why the discrepancies?” asked Mr Ravi and noted in his post that he has had access in the past to his Singapore client facing capital punishment in Malaysia.
He added, “There is a serious lack of transparency here and it is unclear the grounds on which the Prisons Service can and cannot grant access for lawyers,”
“Surely something so important as right to access by lawyers cannot be so arbitrary? What about Article 12 and the right to equal treatment under the law?,”
He also pointed out that even though Singapore lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam is still representing Prabagaran in Singapore, the Malaysian lawyers need to directly advise Prabagaran on his application before the Malaysian courts and take his instructions thereon.
Mr Ravi asks in his post, “Where can we get answers for these very critical and fundamental questions? Must we run to the courts every time for such challenges?”
TOC has written to the Singapore Prison Service for their response on the claims and will include their response when they reply.