Richard Branson, for the third time, urges President Halimah to pardon Nagaenthran, calls death penalty a ‘horrible blotch’ on Singapore’s reputation

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UPDATE: A last-ditch motion filed by Nagaenthran’s mother, Panchalai Supermaniam, on Tuesday (Apr 26) afternoon, was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

This means that Nagaenthran is likely to be executed at 6:00 on Wednesday morning.

Mdm Panchalai had filed a criminal motion to challenge the legality of previous judgments, based on the grounds of conflict of interest, as Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who been the serving attorney-general who had prosecuted Nagaenthran and secured his conviction, had also dismissed his appeals.

Appearing before court without a lawyer, Mdm Panchalai explained that their family had filed the motion in order to buy time to obtain a lawyer for Nagaenthran.

Her argument was called baseless by Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Woon Kwong, however.

Mdm Panchalai’s motion was dismissed by Justices Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash and Belinda Ang, who composed the Court of Appeal.

Justice Phang said the court deemed the application to be “devoid of merit”.

British billionaire Richard Branson has called once again for a stay of execution for convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who is set to be hanged on Wednesday (Apr 27).

Mr Branson, who has been campaigning against the death penalty for years along with other business leaders, said of Madam Halimah, “I really just hope that on Wednesday evening, she does not have this young man’s death on her hands.

Mr Branson, 71, was recently interviewed by Agence France-Presse, which was published on Apr 25. In it, he asked Halimah Yacob, the President of Singapore, to grant clemency to Nagaenthran, who is said to have an IQ of 69 and to suffer from an intellectual disability.

“We just beg her to grant him clemency. We beg her to reconsider whether in this day and age Singapore should… be in the business of hanging people.

It’s just so inhumane.

I don’t think civilised countries should be in the business of killing their own people, or killing anybody.”

Nagaenthran, 34, has been on death row for 11 years. He was arrested for drug trafficking when he was 21, and sentenced to death for importing 42.72g of heroin into Singapore. At his trial, he claimed he had been coerced by a man who assaulted him and threatened to kill his girlfriend.

His case landed in the international spotlight last year, and he had originally been scheduled to hang on Nov 10. But his execution was delayed when he tested positive for Covid-19 on Nov 8.

Mr Branson first spoke out against Nagaenthran’s death penalty on that day, saying, “I join many others concerned about this tragic case in calling on Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob to use her pardon powers and spare Nagaenthran’s life. It would be the just and fair thing to do.”

Earlier this year, on Feb 25, he said, “No one is doubting what he (Nagaenthran) did, but virtually everyone I have heard from agrees that he does not deserve to die, including Malaysia’s King and Prime Minister, a great number of human rights advocates, as well as more than 100,000 people who have signed a petition for the execution to be halted.”

The billionaire executive told AFP that while he has “enormous respect” for Singapore, the death penalty is the one aspect of Singapore that is “really negative”.

“It’s the one horrible blotch on its reputation,” he said, urging Singapore to “abolish the death penalty altogether” and “do what most other civilised countries have done”.

Nagaenthran’s mother is set to mount a legal challenge at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday (Apr 26).

On Monday night, a candlelight vigil at Hong Lim Park was held for Nagaenthran as well as for Datchinamurthy Kataiah, 36, who was in a neighbouring cell to Nagaenthran for many years and is scheduled for hanging on Apr 29, Friday.

In 2015, Datchinamurthy, also a Malaysian national, was sentenced to hang after having been found guilty of smuggling 44.96gm of diamorphine into Singapore in 2011.

On March 30, Singapore carried out its first execution in more than two years. Abdul Kahar bin Othman, 68, had been convicted on two charges of trafficking diamorphine in 2013 and given the death penalty two years later. /TISG

Paul Tambyah, Alfian Sa’at, among those slated to speak at vigil for Nagaenthran & Datchinamurthy, who are scheduled for execution later this week

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