Death-row inmate not told of stay-of-execution by prison, mentally prepared to be hanged the following morning

The death-row inmate who was granted an interim stay of execution of the death sentence on Thursday (17 Sept), was not told of the matter and had made mental preparation for his hanging on Friday morning.

Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, a 44-year-old Singaporean, had been scheduled to be hanged on Friday (18 Sept) at Changi Prison for drug trafficking offences committed back in August 2011.

However, the High Court ordered the stay of execution for his death sentence on Thursday after Human Rights lawyer, M Ravi successfully filed a criminal motion and appeal to contest the dismissal of the Judical Review Application that was heard earlier in the morning on the same day.

But despite the order issued by the High Court, the Singapore Prison Service claimed no instructions of the matter.

At 6pm yesterday, Syed was allowed to make his final call to his family. TOC spoke to Syed’s uncle and he shared that Syed was of the impression that he was making his final call and that he will be executed the following day.

Syed’s sister who had also spoke with Syed on his last call, informed M Ravi and his legal team about this and at or about 7.30pm, a call was made to the Prison Service where the officer picking up the call said that the prison service has not received the update.

TOC understands that M Ravi and his team immediately wrote to inform the Prison Service of the stay of execution order and were scrambling past 8pm to get a confirmation from the Prison Service that the order of the stay of execution has been received.

It was only till 8.45pm that the family members of Syed were assured that he will not be executed this morning.

M Ravi posted an update on Friday morning, stating that he is visiting Syed and “look forward to a full Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into this matter.”

TOC has written to the Singapore Prison Service and will include their reply when they respond.

Another screw-up?

A lorry driver, who was part of a traffic incident in 2018, has served two extra days in prison due to an error by the officer, the State Court said in a statement on 2 Sept.

On 14 Jan, 59-year-old Teo Seng Tiong was sentenced to seven weeks’ imprisonment and a fine of S$500 with a two-year driving ban after being found guilty of swerving his lorry into a cyclist and failing to make a police report within 24 hours of the accident.

According to the State Court, Mr Teo’s appeal against conviction was dismissed by the High Court on 20 July and he started serving his imprisonment term on the same day.

His fine was paid at the High Court and has been notified to the State Court that same day.

“However, the State Courts officer in charge of the case erroneously failed to update the Warrant of Commitment and the State Courts’ case management system to reflect that the fine had been paid,” the statement read.

In light of this “said error by the State Courts’ officer”, the State Courts’ case management system was not updated.

Hence, when the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) asked the State Courts on 21 and 22 Aug whether the fine had been paid, the State Courts told SPS that “the fine had not been paid”.

“In the circumstances, Mr Teo served the default imprisonment term of two days,” the State Court said.

If M Ravi and his legal team had not follow up on the matter, would the execution have carried on since the Prison Service allegedly claimed that it did not receive any updates from the court.

And instead of serving an additional of a couple of days in jail, there might be an unlawful execution that could have taken place.

Background of case

In January 2016, Singapore’s High Court found Syed guilty of trafficking under 40 grams of heroin, court documents stated. The judgement pointed out that he is unable to prove that he was keeping the drugs for personal consumption, citing cost and financial difficulties. The documents also noted that Syed sold a packet of heroin to a man for S$5,700.

The Singaporean was convicted under the Misuse of Drug Act. Under this law, any individual who is in possession of more than 2 grams of heroin is presumed to have it for trafficking purposes, unless can be proven otherwise. The sentence for drug trafficking is the death penalty.

Then, on 10 September this year, Syed’s family received a letter informing them that Syed will be executed on this Friday and encouraged them to make funeral arrangements. His family was only told about his planned execution eight days earlier, and only allowed to visit Syed four hours per day.

Given that most of his close relatives reside in Malaysia, they are not permitted to visit him due to the border closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Ravi also noted that he is taking the case on a pro bono basis, and his team has hope.

“Hope is the foundation that humanity rests its faith upon,” he said. He continued: “No justice system is full proof and hence the death penalty is not safe for it is irreversible”.

If that’s not all, a petition on has also been set up urging President Halimah Yacob to grant clemency for Syed, or at the very least, a stay of execution. At the time of writing, the mercy petition has gathered over  25,000 signatures.

Court of Appeal to hear the appeal at a later date

In Mr Ravi’s latest Facebook post, he revealed that Justice See Kee Oon heard the case this morning and informed his team that the Court of Appeal is not available to hear the appeal tomorrow.

As such, Justice See said that he will be informed of the hearing date once it is scheduled before the Court of Appeal.

Separately, the human rights lawyer also highlighted the applications that were filed today.

“The Judicial Review Application this morning was a constitutional challenge on the disuse of the Presidential Pardon Process and Suhail, who is a Singaporean complained of unequal treatment and discriminatory treatment on grounds of nationality in executing a Singaporean in an expedited manner over foreigners facing execution,” Mr Ravi wrote.

He added, “I have also separately filed another application by way of Criminal Motion to urge the Court of Appeal to reopen its earlier decision as Suhail was not previously resentenced under Section 33B(3) of the Misuse of Drugs Act which is an alternative sentencing regime available for persons suffering from psychiatric conditions and medical evidence can be adduced.”

“I urgently sought the expertise of a leading psychiatrist Dr Ken Ung yesterday who is willing to see Suhail to provide a report.”

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September 2020