Lacking legal counsel, family of Malaysian man on death row in Singapore makes last-ditch effort to challenge death sentence

·2-min read
Nagaenthiran Dharmalingam today filed a legal challenge in court through his mother Panchalai Supermaniam, who was unrepresented, the hearing of which the Singapore Court of Appeal has scheduled for 2.30pm tomorrow. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Nagaenthiran Dharmalingam today filed a legal challenge in court through his mother Panchalai Supermaniam, who was unrepresented, the hearing of which the Singapore Court of Appeal has scheduled for 2.30pm tomorrow. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — The mother of a mentally disabled man on death row in Singapore is making a last ditch effort to appeal her son’s conviction and death sentence at the republic’s Court of Appeal today.

Nagaenthiran Dharmalingam today filed a legal challenge in court through his mother Panchalai Supermaniam, who was unrepresented, the hearing of which the Singapore Court of Appeal has scheduled for 2.30pm tomorrow.

According to human rights legal group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), Panchalai was unable to find any legal counsel and had to file the appeal with help from friends.

The date of the hearing will also be on the eve of Nagaenthiran’s execution.

“It has become very difficult to secure the services of Singaporean lawyers to take such legal challenges because lawyers have been consistently penalised and heavily fined by the Attorney General’s chambers and judiciary for doing so, resulting in Panchalai having to file the case herself in the court registry.

“The basis of the legal challenge is that Judge Sundaresh Menon who presided over and dismissed Nagaenthiran’s appeals was also the AG who prosecuted Nagaenthiran and secured his conviction.

“This is a blatant denial of fair trial and unheard of in the Commonwealth judicial systems,” LFL chief coordinator Zaid Malek said in a statement here.

Panchalai will also be unrepresented by lawyers during the hearing tomorrow.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, 33, has been on death row for more than a decade for trafficking 42.72 grams of heroin into Singapore, a South-east Asian city-state known for having some of the world’s toughest laws against illegal drugs.

His case has attracted international attention, with Malaysia’s prime minister, a group of UN experts and British billionaire Richard Branson among those who have called on Singapore to commute his death sentence.

The court had stayed Nagaenthiran’s execution last year without ruling on his appeal after he tested positive for Covid-19 a day before he was due to be hanged.

His former lawyer M Ravi and activists say his intellect was at a level recognised as a mental disability, and he has other disorders affecting his decision-making and impulse control.

Authorities have said Singapore courts were satisfied that he knew what he was doing when committing the offence.

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