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Singapore executes man for coordinating cannabis delivery

HONG KONG (AP) — Singapore on Wednesday executed a man accused of coordinating a cannabis delivery, despite pleas for clemency from his family and protests from activists that he was convicted on weak evidence.

Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, was sentenced to death in 2018 for abetting the trafficking of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cannabis. Under Singapore laws, trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis may result in the death penalty.

Activist Kirsten Han of the Transformative Justice Collective, which advocates for the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore, said in a tweet that Tangaraju was hanged Wednesday morning and that his family had been given the death certificate.

Although Tangaraju was not caught with the cannabis, prosecutors said phone numbers traced him as the person responsible for coordinating the delivery of the drugs. Tangaraju had maintained that he was not the one communicating with the others connected to the case.

Relatives and activists had sent letters to Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob to plead for clemency. In a video posted by the Transformative Justice Collective, Tangaraju’s niece and nephew appealed to the public to raise concerns to the government over Tangaraju’s impending execution.

An application filed by Tangaraju on Monday for a stay of execution was dismissed without a hearing Tuesday.

Critics say Singapore’s death penalty has mostly snared low-level mules and done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates. But Singapore’s government says that all those executed have been accorded full due process under the law and that the death penalty is necessary to protect its citizens.

British billionaire Richard Branson, who is outspoken against the death penalty, had also called for a halt of the execution in a blog post, saying that “Singapore may be about to kill an innocent man.”

Singapore authorities criticized Branson’s allegations, stating that he had shown disrespect for the Singaporean judicial system as evidence had shown that Tangaraju was guilty.

At a United Nations Human Rights briefing Tuesday, spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani called on the Singapore government to adopt a “formal moratorium” on executions for drug-related offenses.

“Imposing the death penalty for drug offences is incompatible with international norms and standards,” said Shamdasani, who added that increasing evidence shows the death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent.

Singapore authorities say there is a deterrent effect in the city-state, where traffickers carry amounts to not exceed the threshold that would result in a death penalty.

The island-state’s harsh stance on the death penalty for drugs is in contrast with its neighbors. In Thailand, cannabis has essentially been legalized, and Malaysia has ended the mandatory death penalty for serious crimes.

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