Bid to challenge clemency rejection dismissed

A bid by a Malaysian drug mule on death row to start a court challenge against the rejection of his clemency plea was dismissed by the High Court yesterday.

Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, 33, was granted a stay of execution in May last year, a day before he was due to hang for importing heroin.

The Court of Appeal had granted him the temporary reprieve to give him an opportunity to take legal advice on whether he can mount a successful challenge against the rejection of his clemency petition to President Halimah Yacob.

Pannir, represented by lawyer Too Xing Ji, then applied for leave, or permission, to start judicial review proceedings.

The application was heard in chambers by Justice See Kee Oon on Tuesday and he gave his decision yesterday.

Mr Too told The Straits Times that his client will be appealing against the decision.

Pannir was convicted in 2017 of importing 51.84g of heroin into Singapore and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty.

After his appeal was dismissed in February 2018, he and his family submitted various clemency petitions.

Letters from the President's office, dated May 17 last year, were couriered on May 16, informing the various parties that their petitions had been rejected.

In separate letters from the Singapore Prisons Service, also dated May 17 last year, Pannir's family members were told that he would be hanged on May 24.

In an affidavit, the President's principal private secretary said he had signed the letters on May 7 but post-dated them by 10 days to May 17.

 

He also said before May 7, the Cabinet had advised Madam Halimah that the law should be allowed to take its course.

Mr Too, in his written submissions, said the "continued failure to sufficiently explain why the letters giving notice of rejection of clemency had been post-dated by up to 10 days... gives rise to a reasonable suspicion that the entire clemency process had been infected with procedural impropriety".

Pannir is also challenging the Attorney-General's refusal to issue him a certificate of substantive assistance, which may have spared him the death penalty.

He contended that he had substantively helped the Central Narcotics Bureau by giving information that led to the arrest of a drug trafficker named Zamri Mohd Tahir.

Mr Too argued that there was also a reasonable suspicion the Cabinet failed to take this into account in advising the President to allow Pannir to be executed.

Senior State Counsel Francis Ng, representing the Attorney-General, argued that Pannir did not satisfy the threshold to be given leave to start judicial review proceedings.

He said Pannir was "grasping at straws" by relying on the post-dated clemency notification letters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2020, with the headline 'Bid to challenge clemency rejection dismissed'. Print Edition | Subscribe