Singapore Confirms Mentally Disabled Indian-Origin Malaysian’s Death Sentence


Singapore: Singapore’s top court Tuesday dismissed a mentally disabled Malaysian man’s last-ditch appeal against a death sentence, with his family saying they were “devastated” and “shocked” by the ruling.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was arrested in 2009 for trafficking a small amount of heroin into the city-state, which has some of the world’s toughest drugs laws and handed a then mandatory death sentence the following year.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam was sentenced to death in 2010 for importing 42.72g of heroin into Singapore in 2009 in a bundle strapped to his thigh.

He previously failed in his appeals to the High Court in 2011, to the Apex Court in 2019, and in his petition to the president for clemency.

He was originally scheduled to be hanged in November, but the plan sparked criticism due to concerns about his intellectual disabilities, with the European Union and British billionaire Richard Branson among those condemning it.

The 34-year-old lodged a final appeal, with his lawyers arguing that executing someone with mental disabilities violated international law.

But the Court of Appeal rejected the challenge, with Singapore’s Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon saying it had “no factual and legal basis”, and domestic legislation takes precedence over international law.

Nagaenthran had been “afforded due process” and his defence had put “nothing forward to suggest that he has a case”, he said, adding the Malaysian’s lawyers were filing “hopeless” motions after several appeals had already been rejected.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam was represented by Violet Netto. His former lawyer Ravi Madasamy, better known as M Ravi, was also in attendance.

Earlier this month, Netto had argued for him to receive an “independent” psychiatric assessment and “up-to-date full neuro-cognitive test” to evaluate his competence to be executed and prescribe the necessary treatment.

The prosecution had responded that there was no reliable evidence that Nagaenthran’s mental condition had deteriorated and that he was not competent for execution, and no basis to grant the application for him to be assessed by a panel of psychiatrists.

The Court of Appeal said the appellant’s central argument was that “because of an alleged deterioration in the appellant’s mental faculties since the time of his offence, the sentence of death cannot be allowed to be carried out”.

However, there was no admissible evidence to show such a decline in Nagenthran’s mental condition.

The only evidence provided for the application was an affidavit of Ravi in which he made a “bare assertion” about the appellant’s mental age.

Concluding its judgment, the Court of Appeal said the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty were always “difficult matters”.