Singapore— The Court of Appeal set aside the conviction of a Malaysian national on Monday (Oct 19), allowing him to escape a death sentence for the second time.
Gobi Avedian had been originally given a death sentence for bringing drugs into the country in 2014, but the charge had been reduced to attempted drug importation. Mr Gobi’s new sentence is 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the cane, backdated to the beginning of his detention.
“Great news,” his lawyer, Ravi M Ravi wrote. “The Court of Appeal has set aside the death sentence of Govi Avedian on account of miscarriage of justice.”
The Apex court ruled the prosecution had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Gobi had been “wilfully blind.”
The now 32-year-old security guard from Johor Bahru had been commuting to Singapore when he was arrested nearly six years ago. He claimed that he was unaware that the packages he brought into the country, given to him by a man named ‘Vinod’ contained heroin.
Vinod had told him of an opportunity to earn money through bringing chocolate laced with drugs into Singapore, adding that these were “ordinary” drugs that “not serious,” and that if he got caught he wound only receive “just a fine or small punishment,” reported Channel NewsAsia.
Mr Gobi, who had said no to Vinod’s initial offers, said yes to him later on as his daughter was in the hospital and needed an operation, and he had no money for it. He eventually travelled in and out of the country eight or nine times and was paid 500 ringgit (S$163) each time he delivered the drugs.
The Police arrested Mr Gobi at Woodlands Checkpoint on Dec 11, 2014. He was initially given a capital charge of importing 40.22g of heroin.
In 2017, he was acquitted of the charge by a High Court judge, who reduced it to one of attempted drug importation.
However, in the following year, this acquittal was reversed by the Court of Appeal, on the grounds of an error on the part of the High Court judge, based on an appeal from the prosecution.
But Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon together with Appeal Judges Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong reviewed and overturned the Court of Appeal’s 2018 decision on Oct 19.
Mr Ravi filed an application to have his case reopened in January of this year.
The Apex court reversed the last decision in the light of new findings of law handed down in the case of Adili Chibuike Ejike v Public Prosecutor in 2019.
Mr Adili, a Nigerian national, recently had his capital punishment sentence overturned after an appeal was made based on the claim that he had been unaware of the presence of the drugs found on him. In the charge of drug importation, evidence is necessary that the accused knew of the nature of the drugs they carried and that they were bringing the drugs into the country on purpose.
According to the court, there was a seeming inconsistency between prosecution’s case at trial and its case on appeal concerning what exactly Mr Gobi knew about the drugs he was caught with, as the prosecution had claimed wilful blindness in Mr Gobi’s trial, but its case on appeal was one of actual knowledge, a difference the Apex court ruled to be prejudicial to the accused.
Chief Justice Menon said, “The doctrine of wilful blindness is justified by the need to deal with accused persons who attempt to escape liability by deliberately avoiding actual knowledge.”
According to his lawyer, Mr Gobi should be released in four years’ time. —/TISG