Singapore hangs drug trafficker as executions resume

A Singaporean man on death row for drug trafficking has been hanged in the city-state’s first execution in more than two years

SINGAPORE – A Singaporean man on death row for drug trafficking was hanged Wednesday in the city-state’s first execution in more than two years, human rights activists said.

Singapore, which has strict anti-drug laws, had halted executions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and last imposed the death penalty in November 2019.

Abdul Kahar Othman, 68, was hanged early Wednesday, anti-death penalty activist Kirsten Han said. The execution took place despite pleas from human rights activists, including the UN Human Rights Agency, for Kahar’s sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment. Han and several others held a small vigil outside the jail for Kahar late Tuesday.

Kahar, who came from a poor family and struggled with drug addiction since his teenage years, spent more time behind bars than as a free man, Han said. He was released from prison in 2005 after ten years in protective custody. In 2013, Kahar was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death two years later.

Kahar’s incarceration without proper rehabilitation had made it difficult for him to break new ground, Han said.

Han, along with the UN and other human rights groups, has expressed concern that executions in the city-state could be accelerated after a two-year halt.

Transformative Justice Collective, a group working to reform Singapore’s criminal justice system, said the families of seven other death row inmates had recently received execution orders. Their cases were postponed due to legal appeals.

A Malaysian man with intellectual disabilities may be next in line after losing a final appeal against his death sentence on Tuesday.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam has been on death row since 2010 for attempting to smuggle less than 43 grams of heroin into Singapore. In an earlier court hearing, his IQ was found to be 69 – a level internationally recognized as an intellectual disability, but the court ruled that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing by violating Singapore’s strict anti-drug laws.

Rights groups have urged Singaporean President Halimah Yacob to pardon Nagaenthran or commute his sentence. Malaysia’s leader, European Union representatives and global figures such as British business magnate Richard Branson have also joined calls to spare Nagaenthran’s life.

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