Tuesday, 02 June, 2020

Man sentenced to death via Zoom call

Death Sentence Handed in Singapore Via Zoom Call Representative image HaıMinhDuong iStock
Deanna Wagner | 22 May, 2020, 17:09

Singapore's Supreme Court sentenced a man to death via Zoom video chat on Friday, according to a report from the Strait Times.

Singaporean courts have handed out a death sentence to a Malaysian man for his role in a heroin trafficking case from 2011.

While courts have deferred most hearings as Singapore battles the coronavirus, cases that are "deemed essential" such as Genasan's have continued-albeit remotely.

"In line with measures to minimise the further spread of the COVID-19, the courts have been conducting hearings, including hearings on criminal matters remotely", the spokesperson said.

"For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video conferencing", the spokesman said. It is believed to be the first instance in which remote communications technology was used to deliver a death sentence in Singapore.

Genasan's lawyer, Peter Fernando, said his client received the judge's verdict on a Zoom call and was considering an appeal.

In Singapore, which has recorded more than 29,000 coronavirus cases and at least 22 deaths, the death penalty is a possible sentence in a range of offenses including drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping, waging war against the government and use of firearms. A nine-year-old drug case that ends in a death penalty certainly shouldn't make the cut. The country has defended capital punishment as a deterrent for the most serious crimes. Numerous instances are drug-related.

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The city-state managed to keep its outbreak in check in the early stages but was hit by a second wave of infections, mainly affecting low-paid migrant workers in crowded dormitories.

Amnesty International's Chiara Sangiorgio added: "This case is another reminder that Singapore continues to defy global law and standards by imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking, and as a mandatory punishment". A man in Nigeria was sentenced to death by hanging earlier this month in Lagos for allegedly killing a 76-year-old woman.

According to the human rights activist group, Amnesty International, Singapore is one of only four other countries that still issue the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

Human Rights Watch had also condemned the Mr Hameed's sentence, saying "The irreversible punishment is archaic, inherently cruel and inhuman".

Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson told the BBC: "It's shocking the prosecutors and the court are so callous that they fail to see that a man facing capital punishment should have the right to be present in court to confront his accusers".

Genasan's sentencing via Zoom comes just weeks after a Nigerian judge used the same software to hand down a death sentence against Olalekan Hameed, who was found guilty of the murder of his employer's mother.