Drug trafficker hanged after exhausting avenues of appeal

Singaporean drug trafficker Muhammad Ridzuan Md Ali, 31, was executed at Changi Prison yesterday, having exhausted all avenues of appeal.

Ridzuan, and accomplice Abdul Haleem Abdul Karim, were found guilty in the High Court of trafficking in 72.5g of pure heroin. The former was sentenced to death by the court on April 10, 2013. His accomplice, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane.

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of heroin trafficked is more than 15g. But in 2012, changes were made to the law to give judges the discretion to not impose the death penalty on drug couriers who receive a certificate from the prosecution stating that he had substantively assisted in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

Abdul Haleem, who was 30 then, was the first to receive such a certificate. Before being spared the noose, he had asked to be hanged if his friend was sentenced to that fate. But the judge told him: "You have certification from the Attorney-General's Chambers, he does not."

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Ridzuan's appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on Feb 27, 2014, in another landmark case.

Because of its impact on revised drug laws, which give judges the discretion to not impose the death penalty in specific cases, the case was heard before five judges - the first time this happened in the Court of Appeal in nearly two decades. Ridzuan was also assigned three lawyers to argue his appeal.

In April that year, Ridzuan sought leave from the High Court to start judicial review proceedings against the public prosecutor's decision not to grant him a certificate of substantive assistance. The High Court dismissed the application on July 17, 2014, and, in October 2015, the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal.

CNB said that 72.5g of diamorphine, or pure heroin, is equivalent to about 6,004 straws, which is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 864 abusers for a week.

On Jan 8 last year, Ridzuan took his case to the Court of Appeal for the third time by way of a criminal motion for the court to review its decisions on his appeals, on the grounds that the Misuse of Drugs Act provisions under which he was sentenced to death were unconstitutional.

The apex court dismissed the criminal motion on Dec 2 last year.

He submitted a petition for clemency to the President, which was unsuccessful.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said yesterday: "Muhammad Ridzuan was accorded full due process under the law, and he was represented by legal counsel throughout the process."

CNB said that 72.5g of diamorphine, or pure heroin, is equivalent to about 6,004 straws, which is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 864 abusers for a week.

K.C. Vijayan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'Drug trafficker hanged after exhausting avenues of appeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe