Singapore sentences drug suspect to death on Zoom

Man sentenced to death via Zoom call in Singapore

A man in Singapore was recently sentenced to death by hanging via Zoom call, marking the second time the death penalty has been issued virtually.

Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old from Malaysia, was handed the most severe punishment for his involvement in trafficking 28.5g of heroin in 2011.

In Singapore, which has recorded more than 29,000 coronavirus cases and at least 22 deaths, the death penalty is a possible sentence in a range of offenses including drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping, waging war against the government and use of firearms.

According to the spokesperson, it was the first criminal case where a death sentence has been pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore.

Genasan's lawyer, Peter Fernando, said his client received the judge's verdict on a Zoom call and is considering an appeal. "We have no complaints", Fernando said yesterday.

Due to the high number of cases of Covid-19 in Singapore, the country has been under tight "circuit breaker restrictions" since early April with restrictions scheduled to begin easing on June 1.

Singapore's weird case is the first death sentence handed down by video chat in the city-state, but it's at least the second time a death penalty sentence has been handed down to a prisoner via Zoom.

He remained in the country until 2016, when he was extradited back to Singapore. The country has awarded capital punishment to dozens of people convicted in narcotics-related offences.

"Whether via Zoom or in person, a death sentence is always cruel and inhumane", Sangiorgio said.

Speaking on the Genasan case, Chiara Sangiorgio, the death penalty adviser for Amnesty, issued a statement blasting Singapore for defying global standards and calling for the city-state to end its use of the death penalty.

Amnesty International said in a statement that the ruling was a "reminder that Singapore continues to defy international law and standards by imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking".

Human Rights Watch mentioned the dying penalty is already merciless and inhumane, and using Zoom to announce it made it worse.

"At a time when the worldwide consideration is targeted on saving and defending lives in a pandemic, the pursuit of the dying penalty is all of the extra abhorrent", Sangiorgio mentioned.

A similar case was reported in Nigeria where Lagos judge Mojisola Dada awarded death sentence to Olalekan Hameed in the case of killing his employer's mother.

Phil Robertson, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch Asia, said, "It's shocking the prosecutors and the court are so callous that they fail to see that a man facing capital punishment should have the right to be present in court to confront his accusers".

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