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Lawyers seek to compel M’sian Gov’t to act against S’pore in death row case

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Lawyers in Malaysia have filed an application in the country’s High Court for a mandamus to compel the government there to act to save one of its citizens who is serving a death sentence in Singapore’s death row.

In what would be a last-ditch attempt to preserve the life of 30-year old Prabagaran a/l Srivajayan, the Malaysian government is urged to file a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the grounds that Prabagaran had not been given a fair hearing in Singapore.

Prabagaran was arrested in April 2012 for having couriered 22.24g of diamorphine into Singapore via the Woodlands Checkpoint.

He was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA).

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Prabagaran, however, has maintained that he was unaware of the two bundles of drugs which were stashed in a compartment in the car he had driven into Singapore.

He said that he he did not own the car he was driving. He had also identified, to the authorities here, certain individuals who he said were the owners of the car. However, he said, Singapore authorities did not follow-up on this information.

Prabagaran has since exhausted all legal appeals, including an appeal for presidential clemency.

Activists expect that his execution will be carried out in the next few weeks.

Among the complaints filed by the Malaysian lawyers in their application is a provision in the MDA which potentially allows convicted traffickers a chance to have their sentences commuted.

Under Singapore MDA provisions, a convicted trafficker can be spared the mandatory death sentence if he is deemed to have “substantively assisted” the authorities during investigation.

However, such a determination is to be made by the Public Prosecutor.

This has been a point of contention for anti-death penalty activists in Singapore, who say that this effectively gives the Public Prosecutor the power to decide whether a person lives or die, a prerogative which was previously under the sole discretion of the courts.

Prabagaran has been denied this certificate of assistance which would have given him a chance to have his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

The Malaysian lawyers’ court submission took issue with the denial of this certification by the Public Prosecutor here in Singapore.

“Apart from a bare assertion that [Prabagaran] has not provided substantive assistance, [he] receives absolutely no notice of the factual allegations on which the decision on his purported non-assistance is based,” the Malaysian lawyers say.

This crucial denial effectively condemns Prabagaran to his death.

If the lawyers are successful in their application for a mandamus, it would be the first time that the Malaysian government is compelled to act against the Singapore government in the interest of its citizens who are on death row in the city state.

If the hearing goes to the ICJ, Singapore may have to hold off the execution of Prabagaran. This could last as long as a year or more.

“The hope is that Singapore will push back the execution while the matter is still pending in Malaysian courts,” N Surendran, the lawyer involved in the application, told Malaysian media.

So far, despite representations being made to the Malaysian government, it has kept silent on the matter.

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