Executed inmate, Tangaraju Suppiah and Justice Steven Chong who dismissed his appeals and who was the Attorney General when Tangaraju was charged for the offence.

CORRECTION NOTICE:

This article (dated 28 April 2023) contains a false statement of fact.

Tangaraju s/o Suppiah was in fact represented by legal counsel and had an interpreter during his trial.

For the correct facts, click here: https://www.gov.sg/article/factually190523


We are legally obliged to post the notice from the Singapore Government above.


Singapore executed Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, on Wednesday, despite international calls to halt the execution and reconsider Singapore’s use of capital punishment.

Tangaraju was convicted in 2017 of conspiracy to smuggle one kilogram of cannabis, and his sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2018. However, a shocking revelation by human rights lawyer Mr M Ravi has raised questions about the fairness of the trial.

In a Facebook post on Thursday evening, Mr Ravi expressed horror at discovering that Justice Steven Chong, who presided over Tangaraju’s appeal on Tuesday, was also the Attorney General (AG) when Tangaraju was charged on 19 May 2014.

Justice Chong assumed the position of AG between 25 June 2012 to 24 June 2014.

This apparent conflict of interest or appearance of biasness raises serious concerns about the fairness of the trial, as well as questions about the correct legal procedure.

Mr Ravi stated in his Facebook post, “This is a travesty of justice. This is precisely the reason why a lawyer needs to be present at all stages. It is tragic that not only Tangaraju had no counsel but also did not even have a hearing where Steven J had dismissed the case summarily on Tuesday. We need answers.”

He further explained, “Even if Tangaraju had consented to Steven J hearing his case, it still raises profound concerns of fairness of trial under international human rights law and the best practice was for Steven J to disqualify himself from hearing the case. Justice hurried is justice buried. Give us Tangaraju back, can you?”

Justice Chong was also the judge to dismiss Tangaruju’s criminal motion in February this year.

The revelation adds to the already troubling aspects of Tangaraju’s case. Mr Ravi, who previously assisted Tangaraju at one point, said he did not have access to an interpreter or legal counsel during his trial.

In a Facebook live video on Monday, Mr Ravi mentioned, “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.”

Additionally, he was not caught with the drugs, and the case against him was largely circumstantial and based on inferences. Tangaraju was interrogated by the police without legal counsel, and his requests for a Tamil interpreter were denied.

Mr Ravi suggested that Tangaraju’s case is indicative of broader issues within Singapore’s legal system, with lawyers unwilling to take on cases that risk disciplinary action or cost orders.

He highlighted this in his live video, saying, “So lawyers, when they are frightened to take up the cases, it brings disrepute to the entire profession because we have taken an oath to advance fearless advocacy on behalf of our client.”

Tangaraju was forced to represent himself in court after his family was unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him. His application for a review of his case was dismissed summarily at the beginning of this year.

The execution took place despite pleas for clemency from Tangaraju’s family and calls by British tycoon Richard Branson to halt it. The United Nations Human Rights Office also urged Singapore to “urgently reconsider” the hanging.

Wednesday’s execution was the first in six months and the 12th since last year in the city-state. Singapore resumed executions in March 2022 after a hiatus of more than two years.

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