Judge satisfied that Yong Vui Kong was only a drug courier, not trafficker; spares his life.
Yong Vui Kong cheated death once, twice and now thrice.
When high court judge Justice Choo Han Teck announced his verdict on Thursday, 14 November, 2013, the 25-year-old Malaysian citizen, who was previously sentenced to death for drug trafficking, knelt down to express his gratitute for giving him a second chance at life.
Justice Choo told the court that he was satisfied that Yong has met the requirements of being only a courier, not trafficker, and would be sentenced to life imprisonment and given 15 strokes of the cane.
Yong became the first drug trafficker on death row to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane under amendments made to the Misuse of Drugs Act in November last year.
Under the revised act, judges will have the discretion to sentence a drug trafficker to life imprisonment with a minimim of, at least, 15 strokes of the cane instead of the gallows, provided that the accused only played the role of a courier, and either suffers from a mental disability or has co-operated with the Central Narcortics Bureau (CNB) in a “substantive” way.
In order to escape the dealth penalty, Yong and his lawyer, M. Ravi, had to prove to the court “on [a] balance of probabilities” that Yong only played the role of a courier. Which they did.
In addition, Yong assisted the CNB in disrupting drug trafficking activities within and outside Singapore this year.
M. Ravi told The Independent that he was happy with the outcome of the case – but would appeal to the Prisons Department for a medical officer to examine whether Yong is medically fit for caning.
Over the last four years in prison, Yong had developed depression. This in turn caused him to lose weight. And fast. Yong now weighs 48 kilograms.
“[Certainly] this is the happiest day of my client’s life,” Says M. Ravi. “Yong has seen the error of his ways and has repented. He’s happy to have his life back again.”
In a media statement released by The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty campaign and We Believe In Second Chances, the activist groups said that they welcomed Justice Choo’s decision to spare Yong from the gallows.
Revisions to the Mandatory Death Penalty & Subsequent Cases
While Yong’s life may have been spared, another drug trafficker’s fate lies hanging in the balance.
Malaysian Cheong Chun Yin, who was recently sentenced to the gallows, claimed that he was asked to bring gold bars into Singapore, and that he genuinely believed that that was so.
According to the Death Penalty News blog, Cheong maintained his version of the story throughout investigations and criminal proceedings. He even provided police investigators all information pertaining to the person who had convinced him to do the work.
Cheong was sentenced to death during his trial.
Meanwhile, The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe In Second Chances groups are campaigning for Cheong’s death sentence to be commuted to a life imprisonment.