Singapore drug trafficker hanged despite protests in first execution since 2019

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A Singaporean drug trafficker was hanged on Wednesday in the city-state’s first execution since 2019, campaigners said, despite appeals for clemency from the United Nations and rights groups.

It was the first in what activists fear is a looming wave of executions and came just a day after a mentally disabled Malaysian man lost his final death sentence appeal.

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Abdul Kahar Othman, sentenced to death in 2015, was executed early Wednesday, according to a leading Singaporean campaigner against capital punishment.

“Rest in peace,” tweeted the activist Kirsten Han.

“We should all be ashamed of what the state did in our names today.”

A member of a support group for people with relatives on death row in Singapore, speaking anonymously, confirmed to AFP the execution had taken place.

She said she was waiting for the body to arrive at a Muslim cemetery. Abdul Kahar was a member of the city-state’s Muslim minority.

Singaporean authorities did not respond to requests for confirmation.

In 2019, the last year that Singapore carried out executions, four people were hanged, according to the city-state’s prison service.

The prosperous but socially conservative country has some of the world’s toughest drugs laws but has faced mounting calls from rights groups to abandon the death penalty.

Authorities insist however that capital punishment remains an effective deterrent against drug trafficking and has helped to keep Singapore one of the safest places in Asia.

According to the Transformative Justice Collective, a Singaporean group that campaigns against the death penalty, 68-year-old Abdul Kahar was convicted of trafficking heroin in 2013 and sentenced to death two years later.

He was first jailed at the age of 18 and spent the rest of his life shuttling in and out of prison on drug-related offences, according to the group.

The United Nations human rights office had on Tuesday urged authorities not to go ahead with the hanging.

“We are concerned at the surge in execution notices this year,” it said in a tweet.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, the mentally disabled Malaysian convicted of heroin trafficking, could be hanged in the coming days after losing his final appeal on Tuesday.

His case has attracted a storm of criticism, including from the European Union and British billionaire Richard Branson.

In addition, three other men sentenced to death for drugs offences had their appeals rejected earlier in March.

Read more: Singapore judge asked to show ‘mercy’ in high-profile death sentence appeal

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