Singapore Executes Man Over 2.2 Lbs. of Pot

Tangaraju Suppiah had maintained his innocence
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2023 12:08 AM CDT
Singapore Hangs Man Over 2.2 Pounds of Cannabis
The Merlion statue spouts water at a park with the background of a business district in Singapore on Sept, 21, 2019.   (AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)

Despite protests that spread far beyond its borders, Singapore on Wednesday executed a man who was convicted in 2018 of aiding an attempt to smuggle 2.2 pounds of cannabis into the country. British billionaire Richard Branson was among those urging Singapore to give Tangaraju Suppiah clemency, warning, "Singapore may be about to kill an innocent man." But the 46-year-old's family confirms to CNN they have received his death certificate after he was hanged in Changi Prison. Singapore, which has some of the harshest drug laws in the world, allows the death penalty for trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis, the AP reports.

Activists and Tangaraju's family pointed out that he never touched the cannabis in question and was convicted on weak, circumstantial evidence as well as a police interrogation carried out with no lawyer or interpreter present. Rather, a phone number found on the cellphones of two men who were arrested in the trafficking case was linked to him; authorities said that he was responsible for coordinating the delivery of the drugs. But Tangaraju insisted he was not communicating with those men. "Even from inside prison, he wanted to fight for his innocence," his sister says. "He believed that there would be a fair trial and wanted to prove his innocence—every step of the way.”

His execution cuts particularly deep considering cannabis is increasingly being legalized around the world. “Putting him to death also shows just how far Singapore has fallen behind Malaysia—its leaders like to claim that their country is more modern and developed but in the case of criminal justice and the death penalty, Singapore is clearly the laggard," the Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch says. Malaysia recently cut down on the number of drug crimes and other offenses punishable by death, and also removed the mandatory death penalty. Adds a UN Human Rights spokesperson, "Imposing the death penalty for drug offenses is incompatible with international norms and standards." (More Singapore stories.)

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