Saturday, February 27, 2016

Another Malaysian on Singapore death row to plead for clemency

A Malaysian man sentenced to hang in Singapore said he hoped his death would serve as a warning for all would-be drug traffickers, even as his family and lawyers rushed out an appeal for clemency. Datchinamurthy Kataiah, 31, was convicted in January 2011 of trafficking 44g of heroine across the Causeway from Johor to Singapore, and was sentenced to death in 2014. He said he was not aware of the contents of the package he was carrying in his vehicle. His fiancĂ©, who only wanted to be known by her first name Priya, said Datchinamurthy – or Datch, as he is fondly called – was looking to make extra money at the time she was expecting their first child together. "He really regrets it. For that 40 minutes that he had that package, he will now have to die," Priya told The Malaysian Insider at an interview in Singapore shortly after his appeal was quashed on February 5. "It just seems so unfair. He is a good, good man." 10 executions in 5 years A total of 10 people were executed in Singapore since 2010, according to statistics provided by the Prisons Department. Out of the 10, seven were hung for drug offences, and three for murder. An official with the Home Ministry said the government did not reveal nationalities of convicts or those awaiting capital punishment, but according to anti-death penalty organisation "We Believe in Second Chances", many of those executed could have been Malaysians. "I wouldn't be surprised if there have been executed Malaysians (among the 10) – there seems to be quite a number of Malaysians arrested for drug crimes," said Second Chances co-founder and director Kirsten Han. "It's likely there are many more, but because prison authorities do not release the nationalities of convicts, it's rather piecemeal like this. We never know what we're missing." What the NGO knows is that Datch is one out of nine Malaysians currently on death row in Singapore who are either waiting for their appeals to be heard, or are waiting for a date of execution. Slim chance for mercy Following the rejection of his appeal, Datch's lawyers are now preparing to submit documents to appeal for clemency in what will be his last chance at staying alive. "He doesn't cry, he is calm when I see him," said Priya of her fiancĂ© during prison visits following the appeal rejection. "There is this invisible wall around him now, he has a face of peace. He says he is ready to die." Under Singapore's law, anyone convicted of drug trafficking is liable for the death penalty if the weight of the drugs exceeds the stipulated threshold. In 2012, the government completed a review of its mandatory death penalty laws, giving the courts discretion of withholding capital punishment for cases where the trafficker is proven to only have played the role of the courier, or provided information to the police to aid investigations in tracking down a drug syndicate. In Datch's case, prosecutors did not disclose why he did not meet the conditions for a lighter sentencing of life imprisonment and caning. His lawyers said they would file the documents seeking clemency from Singapore President Tony Tan by May this year. Another Malaysian was spared the noose in November last year when the Singapore Court of Appeal granted him a stay of execution for a judicial review barely 24 hours before he was due to be executed. After his stay of execution, family members of Kho Jabing – who was convicted of murdering a Chinese national – sought to gain public support for the Sarawakian by launching an online petition and meeting local lawmakers. Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem pledged last year to plead clemency for his case. Jabing's lawyer said they had yet to be given a court date to appear for sentencing. Priya said Jabing's case gave the family a glimmer of hope, but added that both she and Datch were realistic in assessing his chances for reprieve, considering the fact that the city state had not had any case of death row convicts receiving clemency in the past decade. "We have been told the chances for clemency are slim, but we are hoping against all odds that Datch's case will be properly reviewed, and that the President and the Cabinet will see that he does not deserve to die." "I don't believe anyone deserves to die for this crime. He made a mistake, and he surely has to pay for it, but death is too harsh." Priya said his situation was causing a toll on his 60-year-old mother who lives in Johor Baru. Datch's father died three years ago while he was in Changi prison. "A life sentence punishes the wrongdoer. A death sentence punishes the family." – February 28, 2016.]]>

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