Singapore defends drug crime execution amid outcry over man’s IQ

Singapore defends drug crime execution amid outcry over man’s IQ

Flowers are placed at a wake for Malaysian national Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, who was executed for trafficking heroin into Singapore, during a memorial service in Singapore on April 27, 2022. (AFP photo)
Flowers are placed at a wake for Malaysian national Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, who was executed for trafficking heroin into Singapore, during a memorial service in Singapore on April 27, 2022. (AFP photo)

Singapore’s government has defended a decision to execute a Malaysian man convicted for drug trafficking after the penalty attracted international criticism due to concerns about his mental capacity.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was hanged Wednesday after being found guilty more than a decade ago for trafficking at least 43 grams of heroin into Singapore in 2009. Multiple appeals over the sentence had been dismissed in the city-state’s courts. 

Lawyers for the 34-year-old, along with the United Nations Human Rights Office and businessman Richard Branson, had urged Singapore’s government to halt the execution, arguing the Malaysian was intellectually disabled after being assessed by a court-appointed psychologist in 2013 to have an IQ of 69.

Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau said in a statement that the city-state’s courts had found that “Nagaenthran knew what he was doing; and that he did not suffer from intellectual disability.” 

“There has been much misinformation that has been put out in relation to Nagaenthran, in particular on his mental state,” the agency said, pointing to two cases in the US in 2021 in which those executed had IQs in a similar range.

While the Southeast Asian nation has moved away from imposing capital punishment for some crimes, it maintains its tough stance on drug trafficking and manufacturing-related crimes. 

Neighbouring Malaysia, where a moratorium on drug-related executions has been in place since 2018, also appealed to Singapore’s authorities to halt the execution.

In a media release on April 25, the United Nations Human Rights Office expressed concern about “a rapid rise in the number of execution notices issued since the beginning of the year in Singapore.” 

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