SINGAPORE (AP) — The Singapore Court of Appeal on Tuesday dismissed a last-minute legal challenge filed by the mother of a mentally disabled Malaysian man in an attempt to halt his execution for drug trafficking.
The dismissal of the motion clears the way for the execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, 34, to proceed Wednesday.
The motion, filed Monday by his mother, Panchalai Supermaniam, argued that Nagaenthran may not have received a fair trial because Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who presided over his previous failed appeals, was attorney general at the time he was convicted in 2010, creating a potential conflict of interest.
Nagaenthran’s lawyers and supporters say he has an IQ of 69, and that the execution of a mentally disabled person is prohibited under international human rights law.
The court ruled Tuesday that the motion was “devoid of merit” and that no court in the world would allow the matter to be prolonged “ad infinitum.”
“There must come a time when the last word of the court is the last word,” said Justice Andrew Phang, one of the judges.
Nagaenthran was arrested in 2009 for trafficking about 43 grams (1.5 ounces) of heroin into Singapore and was sentenced to death in 2010 under the country's strict anti-drug laws.
He previously failed in appeals to the High Court in 2011, the Court of Appeal in 2019 and a petition for clemency to the president of Singapore.
Following the court ruling Tuesday, Nagaenthran asked for permission to hold his family’s hands in the courtroom as a “final wish.”
He was allowed to do so, and was granted two hours to spend with his family in the Supreme Court building.
He and his mother appeared in court Tuesday without a lawyer, with his mother saying she was unable to find one to represent her.
“We need a lawyer, I want my son back alive, that is why I made his application,” she said via an interpreter. “We are in dire straits now, we really want to speak to a lawyer who can advise us on how to … move forward.”
His case has drawn international attention, with public figures such as the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, and actor Stephen Fry publicly appealing for him not to be executed.
“Immediately dismissing this motion so they can rush Nagen to the gallows at dawn tomorrow lays bare the truth about what fair trial rights and access to justice looks like in death penalty cases in Singapore, despite the government’s repeated claims to afford those facing the death penalty full due process,” said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, a private organization.
On Monday, hundreds of people in Singapore held a candlelight vigil at a park to protest the scheduled execution.
Several recent death row cases have put the spotlight on Singapore’s policy of capital punishment for drug-related offenses. Singapore’s home affairs ministry says the country has a “zero-tolerance stance against illicit drugs” and that the death penalty is made clear at its borders.