Singaporeans hold vigil for Malaysian in high-profile death row case

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About 300 people held a candlelight vigil at a Singapore park today to protest against the planned hanging of a Malaysian convicted of drug smuggling whom activists say should be spared because he has an intellectual disability.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, 34, has been on death row for more than a decade for trafficking 43 grams (1.5 oz) of heroin into Singapore. He lost his final appeal against the execution last month.

The Supreme Court will tomorrow hear another motion filed by Dharmalingam and his mother. The details of the motion were unclear.

“I don’t want to give up hope until the day,” his cousin, Thenmoli Sunniah said, referring to the date the family say the execution is scheduled for, April 27. Dharmalingam’s family stood at the perimeter of the park as foreigners are not allowed to enter under Singaporean laws on protests.

His lawyers and activists have said Nagaenthran’s IQ was found to be at 69, a level recognised as an intellectual disability.

The vigil was accompanied by speeches, prayers and musical performances. Participants wore T-shirts with slogans calling for the death penalty to be abolished.


The vigil was also for another Malaysian on death row in Singapore, Datchinamurthy Kataiah, who was convicted of trafficking 45g of diamorphine.

Dharmalingam’s case has attracted international attention with a group of United Nations experts and British billionaire Richard Branson joining Malaysia’s prime minister and human rights activists to urge Singapore to commute his death sentence.

“It’s unnecessary and outdated and doesn’t make us more safe, targets people in poverty and the minority,” said a 26-year-old participant in the vigil, Jess Koh, referring to the death penalty.

The Singapore government says the death penalty is a deterrent against drug trafficking and most of its citizens support capital punishment.