Death-row inmate Tangaraju Suppiah’s last-minute appeal denied by Singapore court

Death-row inmate Tangaraju Suppiah’s last-minute appeal denied by Singapore court

SINGAPORE — In a judgment issued on Tuesday afternoon, Justice Steven Chong denied the last-minute application made by Tangaraju Suppiah, a Singaporean who was convicted and sentenced to death in October 2018 for abetting by conspiracy to traffic 1,017.9g of cannabis.

Tangaraju is scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning.

Tangaraju sought to challenge his conviction by presenting new arguments regarding his knowledge of the quantity of drugs involved in the case.

However, the court found that he did not meet the requirements for a review application under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

Justice Chong stated that the applicant had failed to demonstrate any legitimate basis for the court to exercise its power of review.

He further emphasized that, given the applicant’s previous opportunity to raise these arguments during the trial, there was no reason why they could not have been raised earlier.

Additionally, the court noted that Tangaraju’s new arguments were premised on false assertions and were contrary to the evidence presented at the trial.

Justice Chong dismissed the claim that the Prosecution had failed to prove the specific quantity of cannabis Tangaraju and his co-conspirator Mogan had intended to traffic.

The court also pointed out that filing another application for permission to make a review application was impermissible under the CPC, as it would amount to an abuse of the court’s process.

As a result, Tangaraju’s last-minute attempt to challenge his death sentence has been denied with being set down for a hearing, and he is set to be executed tomorrow morning, as originally scheduled.

Tangaraju’s conviction largely circumstantial and based on inferences

Speaking in a live Facebook video on Monday, human rights lawyer M Ravi has urged Singaporeans to speak out against the execution of Tangaraju.

Mr Ravi, who previously represented Tangaraju, has highlighted several concerning aspects of the case, including Tangaraju’s lack of access to an interpreter and legal counsel during his trial.

“The troubling features about his case that I would like to talk to you about, is that he says that he had no access to an interpreter because he asked for an interpreter and he was denied one, and his statements were taken without an interpreter. ”

In his latest live video on Facebook, Mr Ravi further noted that Tangaraju did not have access to counsel when his statements were taken.

“Although you have a right to counsel in Singapore, your right to access to counsel or to a lawyer can be denied for about three of two or three weeks.”

“So therefore, people like Tangaraju and those who are facing death penalty, essentially many of them who come from low-income group, who are vulnerable, who are low educated like Tangaraju, do face a high risk of execution or face the high risk of conviction in this death penalty system.”

Another troubling aspect of Tangaraju’s case, as noted by Ravi, is that he was not caught with the drugs.

The case against him is largely circumstantial and based on inferences. He was tied to the offence by two phone numbers found on the mobile phones of two men arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau, one of which had been used to coordinate the cannabis delivery.

However, Tangaraju was already in remand for a separate offence by the time he was linked to this case, and the mobile phones were never recovered for analysis.

Tangaraju also denied having asked one of the suspects to collect drugs or having arranged to meet somebody to collect drugs. The court did not examine whether Tangaraju had the financial ability to purchase 1kg of cannabis for trafficking.

Aspects of the investigation also raise serious concerns of due process and fairness. As is standard practice in Singapore, Tangaraju was interrogated by the police without being accompanied by legal counsel.

Furthermore, his requests for a Tamil interpreter during the recording of his statement were denied. He said that he had trouble properly understanding the investigating officer’s questions, or the recorded statement when it was read back to him. For the trial, witness statements and phone records were also not disclosed to Tangaraju’s defence.

Tangaraju’s supposed co-conspirator, Mogan Valo, was the one arrested in possession of the cannabis. He pleaded guilty to a non-capital offence of possession for the purposes of trafficking 499.99g of cannabis (just 0.01g below the 500g threshold for the mandatory death penalty for trafficking cannabis). Others involved in the offence were given discharges not amounting to acquittal.

Tangaraju represented himself as no lawyer is willing to take up his case

Mr Ravi, in his live video, went on to suggest that Tangaraju’s case was indicative of broader issues within Singapore’s legal system, with lawyers unwilling to take on cases that risk disciplinary action or cost orders.

He added that Tangaraju had represented himself recently in court. His sister, Leela had sought legal representation, but lawyers are not willing to take up his case.

“Last night (on Sunday), I spoke to a lawyer who said that he is he will be he would be willing to take up his case. And he said that there are reasonable grounds to reopen his case, but he said that he is afraid that he will face cost orders and also disciplinary actions.”

The prospect is real because Mr Ravi himself had already gone through that, being faced with $70,000 personal fines from various complaints filed against him over his legal practices.

“So lawyers, when they are frightened to take up the cases, it brings a disrepute to the entire profession because we have taken an oath to advance fearless advocacy on behalf of our client. ”

“Secondly, the system is broken without legal representation for persons like Tangaraju, ” Mr Ravi added.

Tangaraju filed an application at the end of 2022 seeking a review of his case. Despite his family’s best efforts, they were unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him. Tangaraju was left to self-represent, and his application was dismissed summarily at the beginning of this year.

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