Two Malaysian death row prisoners in Singapore have filed an application in the High Court against the Attorney-General and the Home Affairs Minister to halt their execution and to provide protection for a former Singapore Prison Services (SPS) officer who is willing to testify regarding their case.
In a copy of the application, filed on Tue (28 Jan) and seen by TOC on Wed (29 Jan), the two Malaysian detainees sought a stay of execution on the basis that there is “an imminent risk” of undergoing execution that is not “in accordance with law” should the recent allegations of brutality in judicial executions be true.
The mandatory protection order for the former SPS officer against criminal and civil liabilities, according to the document, was sought by the plaintiffs “to enable him to provide the necessary information” in support of their application.
The two Malaysians in the immediate case — Datchinamurthy s/o Kataiah and Gobi s/o Avedian — were convicted on drug trafficking charges separately, and were sentenced to death in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
Last Jul, families of the two Malaysians, alongside activists from human rights organisations including LFL and Amnesty International, submitted a memorandum to President Halimah Yacob in a bid to appeal for clemency for Mr Gobi and Mr Datchinamurthy.
The memorandum called upon Mdm Halimah and the Government of Singapore to reconsider the death penalty, particularly against drug mules “while the drug kingpins and traffickers are still at large”.
“We hope that you, Madam President, and the Government of Singapore would take a moment to reconsider the death penalty. It has proven not to be an effective deterrent and will not improve crime rates or trends in Singapore,” the memorandum read.
Previously, Pannir Selvam Pranthaman — another Malaysian death row prisoner convicted for drug trafficking — was granted a stay of execution in May last year. However, a procedural application he made was dismissed by the High Court in Jul the same year.
Allegations on judicial execution method in Changi Prison “untrue, baseless and preposterous”: MHA
The allegations concerning the “brutal” and “unlawful” process of execution by hanging in Changi Prison first surfaced in a statement by LFL on its website on 16 Jan.
Citing an unnamed former SPS officer’s account, LFL advisor N Surendran said that the former officer and other prison officers were purportedly instructed to carry out a brutal procedure involving the kicking of the neck of the prisoner whenever the rope breaks during a hanging.
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on 22 Jan subsequently instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a Correction Direction under the Act, following LFL’s recent allegations on the judicial execution methods employed in Changi Prison.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its statement said that Correction Directions were also issued against media outlets such as TOC and Yahoo! Singapore, and to journalist Kirsten Han, for publishing and sharing articles and/or Facebook posts containing “falsehoods” pertaining to the allegations.
MHA also said that the statement made by LFL on 16 Jan regarding the alleged judicial execution methods in Changi Prison is “untrue, baseless and preposterous”.
The Ministry added that all executions by the state “are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others”.
MHA added that Singapore law also requires a Coroner — a Judicial Officer of the State Courts — to establish an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to ensure that “the execution was carried out duly and properly”.
“For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any “special training to carry out the brutal execution method” as alleged.
“Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with,” MHA said.
A pre-trial conference for Mr Gobi and Mr Datchinamurthy’s case has been set for 18 Feb.