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Singapore Executes Man for Involvement in Selling Cannabis

In this image taken and provided by Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, members of Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) hold candle outside Singapore Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (ADPAN via AP)
Singapore Executes Man for Involvement in Selling Cannabis
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Singapore on Wednesday executed a man accused of coordinating a cannabis delivery.

Cannabis is another word for the drug marijuana.

The man was executed although his family asked for clemency and activists protested his sentence. They said the evidence against the man was weak.

A court in Singapore sentenced Tangaraju Suppiah to death in 2018 for assisting in the trafficking of 1 kilogram of cannabis. Under Singapore’s laws, delivering more than 500 grams of cannabis may result in the death penalty. Tangaraju was 46 years old.

Tangaraju was hanged Wednesday morning. The news came from a message on Twitter from activist Kirsten Han of the Transformative Justice Collective. The group supports ending the death penalty in Singapore.

Tangaraju was not caught with the cannabis. But government lawyers said phone numbers proved he was the person responsible for trafficking the drugs. Tangaraju said he was not the one communicating with the others connected to the case.

Ravina Shamdasani is the spokesperson for United Nations Human Rights. She called on Singapore’s government to suspend executions for drug-related crimes.

Executing people “for drug offences is incompatible with international norms and standards,” said Shamdasani. She added that increasing evidence shows the death penalty is ineffective at stopping crime.

Singapore officials said the punishment is effective. They said studies show that drug traffickers carry less than the amount that would bring an execution.

Singapore’s use of the death penalty for drugs is different than its neighbors. In Thailand, cannabis is mostly legal. Malaysia has ended the required death penalty for serious crimes.

Singapore Prison Service main entrance is seen Wednesday, April 26, 2023.(AP Photo/Lionel Ng)
Singapore Prison Service main entrance is seen Wednesday, April 26, 2023.(AP Photo/Lionel Ng)

Singapore executed 11 people last year for drug crimes. One case that caused international concern involved a Malaysian man whose lawyers said he was mentally disabled.

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network condemned Tangaraju’s execution.

The group said in a statement that Singapore’s use of the death penalty goes against international human rights standards. It added that the death penalty calls into question “the legitimacy of Singapore’s criminal justice system.”

Relatives and activists had sent letters to Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob asking for clemency. In a video posted by the Transformative Justice Collective, Tangaraju’s relatives appealed to the public to raise concerns to the government over his execution.

An application filed by Tangaraju on Monday to cancel the execution was dismissed without a hearing Tuesday.

Maya Foa is director of the non-profit human rights organization Reprieve. She said in a statement that Singapore’s government does not give people sentenced to death fair treatment. She said lawyers who work on the cases are threatened.

Critics say Singapore’s death penalty has mostly been used on low-level criminals. They say the death penalty has done little to stop drug traffickers and organized crime.

But Singapore’s government says all those executed have been treated fairly under the law. The government says the death penalty is necessary to protect its citizens.

I’m Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

coordinate v. to organize an activity so it is carried out as planned

clemency — n. asking for better treatment than what is expected under the conditions or law; asking for mercy

traffic — v. to be directly involved in the trade of something illegal

incompatible — adj. in conflict with

norm — adj. an acceptable level of behavior among people

standards –n. (pl.) ideas about what is right morally

legitimacy — n. the condition of being real, accepted and undisputed