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Hundreds of people stage protests in Singapore fearing a wave of state hangings

State officials say the punishment is effective against drug trafficking

Sravasti Dasgupta
Monday 04 April 2022 13:02 BST
Attendees hold signs during a protest against the death penalty at Speakers' Corner in Singapore on 3 April
Attendees hold signs during a protest against the death penalty at Speakers' Corner in Singapore on 3 April (AFP via Getty)

Hundreds of people gathered in Singapore on Sunday to protest against the resumption of capital punishment in the city state.

Around 400 protesters gathered with placards such as “execution is not the solution” or “help, not hang” to urge the government to end death penalty.

Singapore had halted executions due to the coronavirus pandemic and had not meted out the capital punishment since November 2019.

But last week, a man on death row for drug trafficking was hanged in the first execution in the city-state in over two years.

Abdul Kahar Othman, 68, was hanged despite pleas from rights activists, including the UN Human Rights Office, to commute his death penalty to life sentence.

A Malaysian man, Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who has a mental disability, may be next in line after he lost a final appeal on Tuesday against his death sentence. Mr Dharmalingam has been on the death row since 2010.

The appeals of three other men sentenced to death for drug offences were also rejected in March.

Singapore has faced increasing calls from rights groups to abolish death penalty. However, authorities allege the punishment remains effective against drug trafficking and has helped to keep the city state one of the safest places in Asia.

Jolovan Wham, an activist who organised Sunday’s protest, said recent cases in Singapore involving the death penalty have helped gather both local and international momentum around the cause to do away with executions, reported The Strait Times.

The protest was held in Speakers’ Corner, the only place in Singapore where protests can be legally held. The park was closed during the pandemic, since April 2020.

“Capital punishment is a brutal system that makes brutes of us all,” Kirsten Han, a prominent local activist, was quoted as addressing the crowd by AFP.

“Instead of pushing us to address inequalities and exploitative and oppressive systems that leave people marginalised and unsupported, it makes us the worst version of ourselves,” she added.

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