Man sentenced to death in Singapore via Zoom call

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The first of its kind of criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore, a spokesperson for the country’s top court said.

A man who was a part in a drug deal, has been sentenced to death in Singapore via a Zoom call.  It is the city-state’s first case where capital punishment has been delivered vaguely.

Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction on Friday, court documents showed, with the country under lockdown to try and curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.

“For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing,” a spokesperson for Singapore’s Supreme Court said in reply to Reuters’ questions, mentioning restrictions imposed to decrease virus spread.

It was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore, the spokesperson added.

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

Fernando said he did not oppose to the use of video-conferencing for Friday’s call since it was only to receive the judge’s verdict, which was audible, and no other legal arguments were presented. Whereas the rights groups have criticised the use of Zoom in capital cases

Many court hearings in Singapore have been adjourned during a lockdown period that started in early April and is due to run until June 1, while cases which are supposed to be essential have been held remotely.

Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and has hanged hundreds of people – including dozens of foreigners – for narcotics offences over past decades, rights groups say.

“Singapore’s use of the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and the use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

 

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