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Rights groups seek clemency for disabled man on death row

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Rights groups yesterday mounted a fresh eleventh-hour clemency appeal for a Malaysian man facing execution in Singapore for drug offences, saying he suffers from mental and psychological disabilities.

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, now 34, was arrested in 2009 for trafficking a small amount of heroin into Singapore, which has some of the world’s toughest drug laws, and handed a then mandatory death sentence the following year.

He was scheduled to be hanged in November but the verdict sparked criticism due to concerns he has intellectual disabilities, with the European Union (EU) and British billionaire Richard Branson among those condemning the decision.

The appeal was made in separate letters sent by Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) to Singapore President Halimah Yacob through the city-state’s embassy in Malaysia.

Nagaenthran’s lawyer Violet Netto urged Singapore’s Court of Appeal last week to show “mercy” by allowing the prisoner to undergo an independent assessment by psychiatrists. The court has yet to issue a ruling on the appeal.

Amnesty’s letter said Nagaenthran has been found “to have borderline intellectual functioning and cognitive deficits”.

ADPAN said he is also suffering from a “psychological disability” and asked Singapore’s president to “grant clemency or intervene… to commute his death sentence”.

A handful of rights activists held up posters bearing Nagaenthran’s photo outside the embassy as the letters were handed to a representative.

Supporters said Nagaenthran has an IQ of 69 – a level recognised as a disability – and was coerced into committing the crime.

Singapore has previously rejected appeals by Malaysian leaders for clemency, saying that Nagaenthran “has been accorded full due process under the law”.

Authorities said legal rulings also found that he “knew what he was doing” at the time of the offence.

If the hanging is carried out, it would be the first in a series in the coming months, with activists warning that authorities are gearing up to execute three other drug traffickers.

Activists hold posters against the execution of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: AFP

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