Singapore courts found that drug trafficker facing execution knew what he was doing: MHA

The High Court had assessed the evidence of psychiatrists that the drug trafficker was not intellectually disabled. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The courts have held that Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, the Malaysian scheduled to be hanged for drug trafficking, knew what he was doing when he committed the crime, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Friday (Nov 5).

The issue of whether Nagaenthran's mental responsibility for his actions was substantially impaired, at the time he had committed the offence, was considered by the High Court, the ministry added.

It made these points in a statement responding to further media queries on the case, which has gained international attention as human rights groups and others call for a halt to Nagaenthran's upcoming execution, citing intellectual disability.

The statement added that the High Court had assessed the evidence of psychiatrists that he was not intellectually disabled. This included the evidence of a psychiatrist called by the defence, "who agreed in court, that Nagaenthran was not intellectually disabled".

Citing findings from the High Court and the Court of Appeal in its statement, MHA said: "The High Court considered the facts, expert evidence from four different psychiatric/psychological experts, and further submissions by the prosecution and the defence. The High Court held that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing, and upheld the sentence of death."

Nagaenthran was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2010 for importing 42.72g of heroin in 2009, when he was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint while entering Singapore from Malaysia, with the bundle of drugs strapped to his thigh. The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death sentence where the amount of heroin imported is more than 15g.

He appealed to the Court of Appeal against his conviction and sentence, and his appeal was dismissed in July 2011.

In 2015, he filed a resentencing application to set aside the sentence of death imposed on him, and to substitute it with life imprisonment. The High Court dismissed this application in 2017, and the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal in 2019. His petition to the President for clemency was also unsuccessful.

The case came under the spotlight late last month when the letter that the Singapore Prison Service wrote to Nagaenthran's mother in Ipoh on Oct 26 was circulated on social media. The letter said the death sentence would be carried out on Nov 10 and extended daily visits would be facilitated till then.

A petition calling for Nagaenthran, who is 33 now, to be pardoned from the death sentence has since garnered more than 55,000 signatures. The petition, which was started on Oct 29, argued that he should be spared from death because he had committed the offence under duress, and had been assessed to have a low IQ of 69.

On Friday, MHA said the High Court had found that Nagaenthran was able to plan and organise on simpler terms, and "was relatively adept at living independently".

The Court also noted that his actions relating to the offence revealed that he was "capable of manipulation and evasion".

For example, when he was stopped at the checkpoint, he tried to forestall a search by telling the Central Narcotics Bureau officers that he was "working in security", and thus appealing to the social perception of the trustworthiness of security officers.

He was also noted to be "continuously altering his account of his education qualifications, ostensibly to reflect lower educational qualifications each time he was interviewed", said MHA.

Further, the Court of Appeal noted that Nagaenthran knew it was unlawful for him to be transporting drugs, and attempted to conceal the bundle by strapping it to his left thigh and then wearing a large pair of trousers over it.

These actions, along with his motive to commit the crime - paying off his debts - showed a "deliberate, purposeful and calculated decision", and "the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question".

MHA said: "Nagaenthran considered the risks, balanced it against the reward he had hoped he would get, and decided to take the risk."

It added that Nagaenthran was accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process.

The ministry said the penalties, including the death penalty, for the illegal trafficking, importation or exportation of drugs are made clear at Singapore's borders, to warn traffickers and syndicates of the harsh penalties they potentially face.

"The approach Singapore has taken has resulted in it being one of the safest places in the world to live, relatively free of serious crime, and without the scourge of drug-related crimes and homicides - which take thousands of lives, and destroys countless young people and families, in some countries."

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