The mother of a death row inmate who was to be hanged for importing three tablespoons of heroin learned the worst news in the most heartless way.
A 33-year-old man with an IQ of just 69 is hanged on Wednesday for transporting three tablespoons of the drug heroin in Singapore in 2009.
Campaigns for Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam fight to the last minute to save the intellectually disabled death row inmate while his family travels to the city-state to spend their last precious moments together.
Nagaenthran’s mother, who “just keeps crying”, got the news that the execution would be carried out via a letter that included Covid-19 protocols for visitors.
“Please inform that the death sentence on your son, Nagaenthran A / LK Dharmalingam, will be executed on November 10, 2021 (Wednesday),” read the official Singapore Prison Service letter.
The letter, addressed to Madam Panchalai Supermaniam, who lives in Malaysia, went on to detail how the family should comply with specific travel requirements that apply during the pandemic.
Nagaenthran’s older sister, Sarmila, said the family was “very shocked” when they heard the execution was planned.
“We really can not accept that,” the 35-year-old told AFP. She said her mother “just keeps crying” and that all she can do is offer reassurance.
“Do not worry and do not give up, just keep asking that something will happen,” says Sarmila, she tells her mother.
“We hope for the best.”
A local activist told VICE that the letter was “just awful”.
“A letter informing a family that their loved one will be hanged and asking them to arrange his funeral, followed by pages of Covid travel rules and measures, is just awful,” Kirsten Han said.
Nagaenthran was arrested in 2009 for transporting 43 grams – equivalent to about three tablespoons – of heroin to Singapore. He was sentenced to death by hanging the following year and has been sitting on the death row ever since.
Proponents say Nagaenthran has an IQ of 69, a level recognized as an intellectual disability, and struggled with an alcohol problem at the time of the crime.
“Hanging a person convicted of simply carrying drugs, in the midst of a shocking testimony that he may not even fully understand what’s happening to him, is disgusting,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard of Amnesty International.
“We urge the authorities to halt immediately the plans to execute Nagaenthran.”
Human Rights Watch said it was a violation of international law to execute a person with an intellectual disability, and to continue with the hanging would be “disproportionate and cruel”.
Sarmila joined her mother and another relative on a flight on Friday from Malaysia to Singapore for what will be the first execution in the city-state since 2019.
Nagaenthran’s legal team will launch a final challenge on Monday, claiming the execution would be in breach of Singapore’s constitution.
After a recent visit to Nagaenthran, his lawyer M. Ravi said the inmate could have “a mental age under 18”, criticizing the planned execution as “irrational and a whimsical act on the part of the state”.
Singapore’s interior minister defended the decision to continue the hanging, saying legal rulings had found he did not suffer from an “abnormality of mind” at the time of the offense.
“Nagaenthran clearly proved to have understood the nature of his actions,” it said in a statement.
The 33-year-old’s story is making headlines around the world this week as his execution date approaches.
Sarmila told Washington Post that Singapore “punished our whole family”.
“This hanging sentence is not just a punishment for the person who made the mistake, it is a punishment for all of us,” she said.
– With AFP
Originally released as a mentally debilitated man to be executed in 48 hours for trading three tablespoons of heroin