Singapore — While convicted drug trafficker Syed Suhail Syed Zin has received a reprieve on his scheduled execution, questions from his lawyer and activists have been raised about his case.
Syed Suhail, 44, had been scheduled to be executed last Friday (Sept 18) but the High Court ordered an interim stay of execution the day before. His lawyer, Mr M Ravi, had filed a Judicial Review application in the High Court on Sept 16, which was dismissed the following day. However, Suhail’s execution had been stayed, pending the appeal.
On Tuesday (Sept 22), Mr Ravi wrote in a Facebook post that the Court of Appeal had heard Suhail’s appeal in what he called an “intense” hearing. He added that the stay of execution had been extended “as the court wanted further submissions/arguments for parties to address the court”. The next hearing will be after Oct 7.
Update : The Court of Appeal heard Syed Suhail's appeal and I must say the hearing was very intense. The court extended…
Suhail was arrested on Aug 3, 2011, and later found guilty of possession for the purpose of trafficking of 38.84 grams of diamorphine. The ruling in his case said that he had been unable to prove that the drugs in his possession were for consumption, as he had been in financial straits at that time. According to court documents, he had also sold a S$5,700 packet of heroin to someone else. He was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death.
Had the death penalty been carried out, Suhail would have been the first person to be executed in Singapore since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
His case sparked interest online when Mr Ravi posted a letter from Suhail on his Facebook page, appealing for the lawyer’s help especially because his relatives in Malaysia would not be able to see him for the last time, since travel restrictions are still in place due to the pandemic.
The human rights group Amnesty International, in a statement on its website, also called for a stop to Suhail’s execution. Shortly afterwards, a mercy petition was put together by concerned citizens on change.org appealing for President Halimah Yacob to spare Suhail’s life. It has since garnered more than 30,000 signatures.
Aside from Mr Ravi’s argument that the direction to execute Suhail “violates his right to equality guaranteed under Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore because the Singapore Prison Service has effected a differential treatment between foreigners and Singaporeans in carrying out the death sentence as the execution of foreigners has been halted due to the Covid-19 situation”, a separate issue has been raised by the Community Action Network (CAN).
According to CAN, copies of some of Suhail’s personal letters had been sent by the Singapore Prison Service to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, an action it claimed put into question the AGC’s respect for his privacy.
“This is deeply alarming and raises numerous troubling questions,” CAN said in a statement on Sept 21.
CAN also called for an independent inquiry into the matter. “It is of public interest to know whether similar actions have occurred in the past, with what frequency, and whether any of those disclosed correspondence could have prejudiced cases against defendants. Were inmates who have already been executed affected by similar breaches?”
During the hearing at the Court of Appeal, Mr Ravi said that what the prison service did in sending Suhail’s letters may have affected his case. He also argued for the replacement team of prosecutors for this reason.
Deputy chief prosecutor Francis Ng answered that he had not read the letters from Suhail.
In a statement on Tuesday (Sept 22), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied “all allegations of discrimination or impropriety in the scheduling of judicial executions”. Moreover, “all prisoners sentenced to capital punishment are accorded due process according to the law”.
In the statement from the MHA, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) also clarified the circumstances surrounding the letter. In 2018, Suhail had said that he wanted to call his uncle as a witness in for his appeal. The AGC asked the SPS if Suhail had expressed a prior intention to call his uncle, which is why the SPS sent copies of the letters from Suhail’s uncle and his previous lawyer to the AGC. The MHA stated that during this time, there was no legal prohibition against doing so. /TISG