In 2009, at the age of 21, the young man from the Malaysian city of Ipoh was caught by Singapore immigration police trying to smuggle 43 grams of heroin into the city-state through a land border. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death a year later under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Assessments by psychiatrists stating that he has “intellectual disabilities” and a lower than average IQ of 69—something his family and defence team say was exploited by drug traffickers when convincing him to carry the narcotics—have done little to spare his life.
“When I heard about Nagaen’s case, it had every single reason for this person not to be executed.”
“It’s also worth remembering the main countries that still have the death penalty: China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran,” Branson said. “They’re not the best bedfellows for Singapore, a sophisticated country, to be in the same bed with.”
Branson revealed that he received a letter from Singapore’s home affairs ministry in response to his November public statement about Nagaen’s execution. While not revealing the letter’s full contents, he said that he “believed the government to be mistaken” with regards to its pro-execution arguments. “I had a long letter from the Singapore government putting [forth] their arguments about this particular issue,” Branson said. “The Singapore government would do very well just to get rid of the death penalty altogether.”
Branson appealed to the humanity of politicians in Singapore, urging them to consider what they would want for their sons if placed in a similar situation. But even in the unlikely event that Nagaen receives a reprieve, Branson says it’s Singapore’s underlying approach to crime and punishment that’s in need of overhauling.“Governments just should not be in the business of killing people,” he said. “It's an inhumane practice that has no place in modern society.” Additional reporting by Sally Lee. Follow Heather Chen on Twitter.
“The Singapore government would do very well just to get rid of the death penalty altogether.”