Two death-row inmates seek court order to stay executions

Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty, which made allegations about executions at Changi Prison, was given a correction order under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act that required it to post the facts next to the falseho
Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty, which made allegations about executions at Changi Prison, was given a correction order under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act that required it to post the facts next to the falsehoods in its Jan 22 statement on its website.PHOTO: GOV.SG

Two men on death row are seeking a court order to stay their executions pending a probe into recent allegations about unlawful methods being used, saying they are at risk of facing a process that is against the Singapore Constitution.

Gobi Avedian, 31, and Datchinamurthy Kataiah, 34, also want the court to direct the Attorney-General and the Minister for Home Affairs to provide protection to a former Singapore prison officer from any liabilities, so that he can shed light on the allegations that would support their application.

The Malaysian duo are sentenced to death for capital offences involving drug trafficking.

Their lawyer M. Ravi, who filed the judicial review application on Tuesday on their behalf, is seeking the court's leave to proceed with the case. A High Court pre-trial conference is due next month.

The allegations flagged by both inmates had been made by Lawyers for Liberty (LFL). The Malaysian rights group, in a Jan 16 statement, claimed executions at Changi Prison were carried out by kicking the back of the prisoner's neck in the event of the rope breaking.

Citing the statement, the two men said if the rope breaks, they would be made to suffer an execution that breaches relevant articles of the Constitution on the rule of equal treatment before the law. Such a move, they said, would not be "in accordance with the law".

The duo claimed, in court papers filed, that a former prison officer was willing to attest his experience in relation to the allegations in a sworn statement, provided he is guaranteed immunity by the State from any civil or criminal liabilities.

It is understood the junior prison officer, who worked for three years from 1991 before he left, was deployed for duties at the death row block in Changi Prison.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers said yesterday it has been served the papers and "we are now studying them".

The duo's application marks the latest bid to surface the allegations about executions - claims which the Home Affairs Ministry refuted last week. It said LFL's statement is "untrue, baseless and preposterous".

The ministry also said the rope used for executions had never broken before and prison officers do not receive any training to carry out the alleged execution method.

 
 
 
 

"Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with," the ministry said.

LFL was given a correction order under Singapore's Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), requiring it to post the facts next to the falsehoods in its Jan 22 statement on its website.

LFL did not comply, prompting the Infocomm Media Development Authority to take steps to get Internet service providers here to block the website.

Last week, LFL filed a lawsuit in the Kuala Lumpur High Court suing Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam for issuing the order.

It is seeking, among other things, a court declaration that the minister cannot take any action against it in Malaysia under Pofma.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2020, with the headline 'Two death-row inmates seek court order to stay executions'. Print Edition | Subscribe