Singapore rejects plea to spare death sentence of disabled prisoner

A court hearing will set Tuesday as the final time the Malaysian’s last appeal to be spared execution can be heard

Singapore will not give an additional 24 hours for a disabled Malaysian man who is on death row to bring a fresh appeal to be spared execution, according to the attorney general.

On Monday, lawyers for Azman Hashim told the three-judge court that they had filed a new plea with Malaysia’s supreme court, claiming Azman’s case was different from that of several other mentally-handicapped inmates, including fellow offender Mohamed Awang Faizal Azlan.

Awang Faizal claims he suffers from a rare form of Huntington’s disease, which is hereditary. The rare brain-unrelated illness can cause mood swings, epileptic seizures and seizures.

But Azman’s defence attorney Azmi Ariffin told the Guardian he was not prepared to follow his client’s lead and file a new appeal for an individual with the same condition.

Azman, 31, who was working as a security guard in Singapore when sentenced to death in 2012, has poor vision, a learning disability and dyslexia, among other disabilities.

Most Singaporean offenders sentenced to death are senile, mentally-challenged or are convicted of a minor offense.

Azman’s lawyer said he would argue that his client, though mentally-disabled, was not paralysed or disabled because of Huntington’s. He is also appealing Azman’s “appropriate sentence”.

“I must admit I was surprised to hear from the attorney general today,” Azmi said. “No further information has been forthcoming from the attorney general. We have not seen any notice of appeal from him.”

He added: “The attorney general is unable to assist us to know exactly what court he is likely to approach [in Malaysia].”

Azman, who has been on death row for seven years, would be the first inmate executed in Singapore since 16 September, when seven people were hanged after being found guilty of drug trafficking. A court will set Tuesday as the final time he can file an appeal.

“If there is another application, there will be nothing else to be heard,” attorney general Liew Vui Keong said outside court.

“The parole board has taken a decision and as a result, there is no merit of the application.”

On Monday, the court remanded Azman into custody until the hearing, with a regional court deciding he must remain incarcerated for at least four weeks.

Azman’s lawyers asked for the 24-hour extension to delay his execution while they prepared an appeal.

Azman has been on death row since October 2009, when he was convicted of drug trafficking. A court sentenced him to death in 2011 for trafficking more than six kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.

Though torture and sexual violence are not in fact widespread in Singaporean prisons, the strict code of conduct prevents inmates from signing personal letters or personal statements without prior approval from the executive team.

In most cases, inmates receive a blood test every month. When a prisoner is found to be using drugs they are confined to the hospital for treatment.

Activists claim the silencing and intimidation tactics taken by the Singapore prison authorities are part of a wider effort to stifle activism.

“We have no problems with executions – if the law is fulfilled,” said Mr Wan, general secretary of the rights advocacy group SAF, “but [it should be done] in a way that does not cause any further harm to a prisoner or to society.”

Azman’s sentence, a death penalty handed down by Singaporean judges without the passage of formal legal notice, are the most transparent executions in the world.

However, the decision to prosecute an inmate not in possession of a legally-binding legal bill of indictment would not normally precede a confirmation of death.

Since 2005, Azman has reportedly received treatment at the Priory of Sionmas, one of Singapore’s most recognized rehabilitation programs, but is not allowed to leave prison.

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