Drug trafficking is punishable by death in Singapore. Photo: MmeEmil via Getty
Singapore’s highest court on Tuesday dismissed a man’s appeal against his conviction and death sentence for allegedly bringing cannabis weighing at least 2.2 pounds from neighboring Malaysia into the city-state, Channel News Asia reported.Omar Yacob Bamadhaj, 41, was arrested in 2018 during a routine stop by police at a border checkpoint when officers said three bundles of the drug were found in his car. He was convicted and in February sentenced to hanging. His father, who was also in the car, did not know about the drugs, a court heard, and was not charged with any crime.
Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illicit drugs and has hanged hundreds of people – including dozens of foreign nationals – for drug offenses over recent decades. Human rights groups have long criticized the death penalty for its cruelty and the risk of wrongful execution and questioned its supposed public safety benefits. However, public opinion in Singapore remains largely indifferent to the practice, with many in favor of it believing that it deters drug traffickers and keeps crime rates low.Amnesty International has condemned the “callous decision.”“By dismissing Omar Yacob Bamadhaj’s appeal, the Singapore authorities have violated international safeguards and sentenced yet another person convicted of drug trafficking to death by hanging,” said Chiara Sangiorgio, the group’s death penalty advisor.“Singapore’s heavy reliance on draconian laws and policies have not only failed to tackle the use and availability of drugs, they also give zero effective protection from drug-related harm and instead facilitate a raft of human rights violations,” she said.In May, authorities sentenced a 37-year-old Malaysian man to death over a Zoom call after he was found guilty of trafficking heroin in 2011. They defended the unconventional remote procedure as being “necessary for the safety of all involved in the proceedings” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In court on Tuesday, prosecutors said that Omar had pre-ordered and collected the parcels of cannabis near a mosque in Malaysia.But his lawyers said that there was reasonable doubt as to whether he had deliberately imported the drugs. Omar also claimed that he did not know the nature of the parcels and said that his acquaintances back in Malaysia had planted the drugs into his bag without his knowledge. Police, however, said that Omar had admitted in his earlier statements that he knew that the “green” was marijuana and accepted the deal as he was “desperate for money”.Omar also claimed that he was threatened and coerced by narcotics officers into admitting to drug trafficking and was allegedly told: “If you refuse to admit to this, I will throw both you and your father to be hanged.”When questioned about the differences in his accounts, Omar told the court that he “was not [in] the right state of mind”.His appeals were dismissed on Tuesday by the Supreme Court of Singapore, which found no fault in his trial in a lower court. A date for the scheduled hanging was not immediately announced.Follow Heather Chen on Twitter.