Malaysian executed in Singapore for drug trafficking

  Agence France Presse
September 26, 2003

TWO Malaysian men convicted of drug-trafficking were executed here on Friday, Sept 26, the government said, bringing to 12 the number of people to have died under Singapore's capital punishment laws this year.

Vignes Mourthi, a Malaysian factory worker, and Moorthy Angappan, a lorry driver were sentenced to death last year after being found guilty of trafficking 27.65 grams (0.97 ounces) of heroin.

"The death sentence was carried out on two convicted drug traffickers this morning at Changi Prison," a Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) statement e-mailed to AFP said, in which it outlined the case against Mourthi and Angappan.

The CNB said Mourthi, 21 at the time of his arrest, had tried to sell a packet of heroin to an undercover officer from the bureau outside the An-Nur mosque in Singapore in September, 2001.

It said Angappan, 27 at the time, asked Mourthi to be the courier for the drugs.

The CNB statement said Mourthi was charged with trafficking not less than 27.65 grams of diamorphine, more commonly known as heroin, while Angappan was charged for abetting in the offence.

They were found guilty in August last year and had appeals rejected in January this year.

But Mourthi launched a series of subsequent appeals to have his death sentence overturned, the last of which a three-member judicial panel that included Chief Justice Yong Pung How rejected on Thursday.

Mourthi's lawyer in his final appeal, M. Ravi, told the court on Thursday that his client had been the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, the Straits Times reported.

Mourthi and his family had previously maintained his innocence.

Capital punishment is rarely discussed by Singapore authorities or in the local media, with the government generally ensuring the issue remains low-key.

But in a rare statement about the issue, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told BBC television this week he thought "about 70 or 80" people had been executed this year.

His spokesman released a statement on Thursday, two days after the BBC interview went to air, saying only 10 people had been put to death in 2003.

Friday's executions bring to 12 the number of people to have died under Singapore's capital punishment laws this year.

According to government figures, 28 people were executed in 2002, 27 in 2001 and 21 in 2000.

Amnesty said in its annual report for 2003 that the city-state had one of the highest execution rates in the world, relative to its population of about 4.2 million people.

Goh, who reviews every death sentence along with his Cabinet colleagues, brushed off criticism about the government's use of the death penalty.

"If you don't punish them and they manage to get their drugs through to Singapore, more people would be punished by their acts," he said in the BBC interview.

Singapore carries out the death penalty by hanging