Contempt of court

Lawyer says sorry for statements

Critic of death penalty had cast aspersions on officials after drug-trafficker client was hanged

Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam apologised to the court and the public yesterday for making statements about the execution of a drug trafficker that were in contempt of court.

The 41-year-old had represented Singaporean Muhammad Ridzuan Md Ali, 31, who was found guilty of trafficking in heroin and was hanged at Changi Prison on May 19 after exhausting all avenues of appeal.

On the same day, Mr Thuraisingam criticised the death penalty and Singapore's legal system in a post on his Facebook page that has since been taken down.

In the post, he implied that ministers, judges and lawyers have, because of financial gain, turned a blind eye to what he deemed as "cruel and unjust" death penalty laws.

On Monday, he wrote on Facebook that he unconditionally apologised for making the statements and unequivocally withdrew them.

Said Mr Thuraisingam: "There is no basis for me to have insinuated that judges have subordinated their judicial duty to financial greed or that they are more concerned, or preoccupied, with acquiring financial wealth and material goods which causes them to turn a blind eye to the injustice of the law they apply."

Mr Thuraisingam, who is an outspoken critic of the death penalty, told The Straits Times that he was told by the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Law Society that his original post was in contempt of court.

He said: "I agree. I have made a mistake. I have therefore apologised and withdrawn my statements."

He added that he was not asked to apologise or to take down his post.

Over the years, he has represented accused people facing the gallows on a pro bono basis under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (Lasco).

He received the Lasco Award last year for his commitment and service to the scheme.

His client, Ridzuan, had been found guilty of trafficking 72.5g of pure heroin in 2013.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, those convicted of trafficking more than 15g of diamorphine can be sentenced to death.

Ridzuan had filed an appeal and also sought a court review in 2014 of the decision by the Public Prosecutor not to grant him a certificate of substantive assistance, which would have made him eligible for a life sentence. He also took his case to the Court of Appeal for the third time by way of a criminal motion.

He was unsuccessful on all three attempts. He was also unsuccessful in his bid for clemency from the President.

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Lawyer says sorry for statements'. Print Edition | Subscribe