Despite claiming he was an unknowing driver and condemnation of the case by rights groups, the defendant is scheduled to be killed this week
Singapore will execute Malaysian national Prabagaran Srivijayan on Friday for attempting to smuggle 22.24g of diamorphine into the city-state, the latest high-profile incident spotlighting the country’s draconian drug laws.
The 29-year-old was sentenced to the death penalty in 2012 for trying to bring drugs, a medical version of heroin, into the country hidden in the armrest of a borrowed car.
Srivijayan has consistently maintained that he was unaware the drugs were there – a claim he says could be supported by two witnesses that authorities have refused to call upon.
However, under Singaporean law, unlawful substances found in a vehicle are automatically presumed to be in the possession of the driver at that time. Consequently, the burden of proof is on the defendant, which rights group Amnesty International says violates the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.
“The death penalty is always a violation of the human right to life, and the circumstances around this case make the Singaporean authorities’ eagerness to go ahead with the execution even more disturbing,” Amnesty’s director for South East Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, said in a press statement.
“Not only has Prabagaran Srivijayan’s legal team highlighted serious flaws in his trial, there is also an appeal on his case pending in Malaysia. Singapore would be flaunting [sic] international law if this execution is carried out.”
In July 2014, Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, were hanged for trafficking heroin in the first two executions carried out in the city-state since 2012. Their deaths marked the end of a moratorium on the death sentence that had been established in July 2012 to give parliament time to review the country’s death penalty laws.
Despite enacting an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act in November 2012 that allows Singaporean judges to spare someone of the death sentence if they offer “substantive cooperation to the authorities” and are proven to have only acted as a courier, the country has executed at least ten others since the moratorium ended, with a further 38 still on death row as of 2016.