By Biodun Busari
Singapore has executed a man for conspiring to traffic cannabis despite pleas for clemency from his family, activists and the United Nations.
Tangaraju Suppiah, a 46-year-old was hanged at dawn on Wednesday over a plot to smuggle 1kg (35oz) of cannabis, BBC said.
Activists argued Suppiah had been convicted on weak evidence and received limited legal access during his prosecution.
But Singapore authorities said he had been given a fair trial and criticised those who questioned the courts.
Singapore has some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws. It argued that his execution was a necessary deterrent to drug crime which has been a major issue elsewhere across South-East Asia.
On Wednesday, Suppiah’s family gathered at Changi Prison near the city’s airport in the east to receive his body.
“The family said they weren’t going to give up on him until right until to the end,” anti-death penalty activist Kirsten Han told the BBC.
“They still have a lot of unresolved questions about his case, and the evidence against him. It has been such a harrowing experience for them.”
Last year Singapore hanged 11 people, all on drugs charges – including an intellectually impaired man convicted of trafficking three tablespoons of heroin.
The nation’s stringent drug laws and use of capital punishment put it increasingly at odds with advanced nations and others in the region, activists say.
Singapore’s neighbour Malaysia abolished mandatory death penalties earlier this month, saying it was not an effective deterrent to crime.
Meanwhile cannabis has been decriminalised in many parts of the world – including in neighbouring Thailand, where its trade is encouraged.
“It is just illogical to know that countries nearby are enjoying cannabis in food and beverages, and using it for its medical benefits, while our country is executing people for the very same substance,” local activist group the Transformative Justice Collective said.
Singapore’s courts on Tuesday had rejected a last-minute appeal from Tangaraju Suppiah’s family against his conviction.
Supporters had also petitioned Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob for a reprieve, while British activist billionaire Sir Richard Branson added his voice to those calling for a case review.
The UN’s Human Rights Office had on Tuesday also called on Singapore to “urgently reconsider” the execution, saying the death penalty violated international norms.
Suppiah had been convicted of “abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic” about 1kg (35oz) of cannabis from Malaysia to Singapore in 2013.
While he was not found with the drugs or during the delivery, prosecutors said he had been responsible for co-ordinating it, and they traced two phone numbers used by a deliveryman back to him.