Drug mule on death row gets stay of execution

A Malaysian drug mule on death row got a temporary reprieve after the Court of Appeal granted him a stay of execution yesterday, a day before he was due to be hanged.

Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, 31, applied for his death sentence to be stayed on the basis that he intends to mount a legal challenge against the rejection of his clemency petition to President Halimah Yacob.

A three-judge Court of Appeal granted his request, noting that he was told of the rejection and execution date just a week ago.

"In our judgment, the applicant ought to have a reasonable opportunity to take advice on whether he can mount a successful challenge," Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said. He added that Pannir Selvam's lawyers, Mr Too Xing Ji and Mr Lee Ji En, being instructed only yesterday, could not be expected to mount a fully developed argument.

Mr Too raised questions about the clemency process in relation to his client, who was convicted of importing 51.84g of heroin in 2017.

Two letters sent to his family - one from the Istana rejecting the petition and the other from the Singapore Prison Service stating his execution date - were dated May 17.

Pannir Selvam, who said his family had evidence that the letters were posted out on May 16, took issue with the sequence of events.


In response, the prosecution, represented by Senior Counsel Francis Ng, submitted affidavits to set out the sequence of events.

Mr Benny Lee, principal private secretary to the President, said that prior to May 7, Madam Halimah had been advised by the Cabinet that the law should be allowed to take its course.

On May 7, Mr Lee signed letters stating that the death sentence would stand. These were sent to the prisons on May 14, to be forwarded to the prisoner and his family.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in a statement addressing Malaysian media reports about the case, said the petitions were carefully considered.

MHA also clarified reports claiming that Pannir Selvam was unreasonably denied a certificate of substantive assistance, which might have spared him the mandatory death penalty. It said the Public Prosecutor determined that he had not given substantive assistance to disrupt drug activities in Singapore.

The court directed Pannir Selvam to file his application in two weeks. The prosecution will have two weeks to respond. Both sides will then have another week to file written submissions before a hearing date is fixed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Drug mule on death row gets stay of execution'. Print Edition | Subscribe