Urgent Action Appeal on Singapore Drug Case from Amnesty International 10/10/03

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Amnesty International has issued an urgent action alert asking human rights supporters to contact authorities of the nation of Singapore asking for clemency for Vignes s/o Mourthi, a 23-year old Malaysian national facing possible imminent execution for a heroin conviction following an unfair trial. Amnesty wrote:

Vignes s/o Mourthi may be at risk of imminent execution, following the recent rejection of his appeal for clemency to the President of Singapore. On 12 September, his lawyer lodged a motion for a retrial, on the grounds that there had been a miscarriage of justice and that he had not received a fair trial. However, the motion was rejected. On 19 September, his lawyer [was] due to file another application for a retrial with the High Court. If this application is rejected, Vignes s/o Mourthi could be executed shortly afterwards.

Vignes s/o Mourthi has received very little education and comes from a poor family. He was arrested after being found in possession of a bag containing approximately 443 grams of heroin. At his trial he stated that he had been asked by a family friend to carry the bag from Malaysia to Singapore, where he traveled every day for work. He claimed he was unaware of the bag's contents. In August 2002, he was sentenced to death for drug trafficking and his sentence was confirmed in January 2003.

Amnesty International is concerned about a number of alleged irregularities during the trial proceedings. The trial judge reportedly refused to adjourn the hearing to enable Vignes s/o Mourthi to appoint a new lawyer, which he had requested as he felt he was inadequately represented. His conviction appears to have been based largely on a written record, provided by the prosecution, of an incriminating conversation which allegedly took place between him and a plain-clothed police officer. Vignes s/o Mourthi denied the alleged conversation took place. The court, however, deemed the evidence to be admissible despite the fact that no date had been recorded on it and neither Vignes s/o Mourthi nor his lawyer were aware of its existence before it was produced in court. His current lawyer believes there is a strong possibility that he is innocent.

Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence in Singapore. Anyone over the age of 18 found in possession of more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of morphine or cocaine, or 500 grams of cannabis, is presumed to be trafficking in the drug, unless the contrary can be proved, and faces a mandatory death sentence. Amnesty International is concerned that this presumption conflicts with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Prisoners under sentence of death may lodge an appeal for clemency with the President. Decisions are made on the advice of members of the Cabinet, with input from the Attorney General. It is extremely rare for clemency to be granted.

Singapore, with a population of just over four million, is believed to have one of the highest rates of executions per capita in the world. Government figures show that out of 340 people executed between 1991 and 2000, 247 had been convicted of drug trafficking. Executions are by hanging and take place on Friday mornings at dawn. Families of convicts are normally only informed of the impending execution one week beforehand. There is virtually no public debate about the use of the death penalty in the country.

Amnesty asks human rights supporters to immediately send appeals to the following officials, urging authorities to commute Mourthi's death sentence, noting the serious concerns raised about the fairness of his trial, and asking he be allowed adequate time and resources to prepare and present a motion for retrial:
Minister of Law Prof. S. Jayakumar
Ministry of Law
100 High Street
The Treasury #08-02
Singapore 179434
Telegram: Minister of Law, Singapore
Fax: +65 6332 8842 (dial 011 65 from the US)
Salutation: Dear Minister

Attorney General Chan Sek Keong
Attorney General's Chambers
1 Coleman Street #10-00
Singapore 179803
Telegram: Attorney General, Singapore
Fax: +65 63325984
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Chief Justice Yong Pung How, Supreme Court
Supreme Court Building
St. Andrew's Road
Singapore 178957
Telegram: Chief Justice, Singapore
Salutation: Dear Chief Justice

Copies to:
Ambassador Heng Chee Chan
Embassy of the Republic of Singapore
3501 International Place, NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: +1 202 537-0876
Visit http://www.aiusa.org for further information.

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Issue #306, 10/10/03 Editorial: Summer's Over -- Long Live Summer | Curtain Closes on Ontario's Summer of Legalization: Court Ruling Reinstates Possession Law, Loosens Medical Marijuana Rules | Change the Climate Ad Campaign Riles DC Pundits, Politicos | California in the Era of Arnold | New England "Governors' Summit" on Drugs: Drug War Horse and Pony Show Inside, Protestors Outside | This Week in History | Urgent Action Appeal on Singapore Drug Case from Amnesty International | Newsbrief: In Fall Term, Supreme Court Rejects South Carolina Crack Mom Appeal, Accepts Case on Ex-Drug User's Rights Under Americans With Disabilities Act | Newsbrief: Georgia Supreme Court Throws Out Driver Drug Test Law | Newsbrief: Walters Lies Pile Up in Canada Diatribe | Canadian Prime Minister Talks About Toking Up | Newsbrief: Sarasota Police Lure Would-Be Drug Dealers for Profit | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Pentagon Adds Drugs to List of Foes in Afghanistan | Newsbrief: Vacation in Bermuda? Anti-Marijuana Campaign Underway | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

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