Convicted Malaysian-Indian drug trafficker not specifically targeted, says Singapore AGC

Singapore, Jun 3 (PTI) Singapore's Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has said there was no suggestion or argument by Indian-origin Malaysian death row inmate -- whose execution was stayed a day before he was set to be hanged for drug trafficking -- that he was being specifically targeted in the scheduling process.

A spokesperson of the AGC noted that a Court of Appeal judgment on May 30 had stated that it appeared at the present stage that Datchinamurthy Kataiah, 36, had been "singled out" by the decision to schedule him for execution on April 29, reported The Straits Times.

The spokesperson said the AGC understands that "singled out" refers only to the point that Kataiah alone would be affected by the decision to schedule him for execution on April 29, and not that he was singled out by the government in the process of the scheduling.

Kataiah, convicted in April 2015 of trafficking not less than 44.96 grams of heroin and given the death penalty, is one of 13 prisoners on death row who have a pending civil claim against the Attorney-General over the unauthorised disclosure of their private letters.

After his execution was scheduled on April 29, he sought judicial review of the decision, arguing that this resulted in his being treated differently from the other 12 inmates.

On April 28, the High Court ordered a stay of execution pending the resolution of his judicial review application. This was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

On Thursday, the AGC spokesperson said, "Prisoners awaiting capital punishment will only have their sentence of death carried out after they have exhausted all legal channels for appeal against their conviction, and their appeal for clemency has been rejected by the President."

In general, offenders who are sentenced to death earlier would have their sentence carried out earlier, all else being equal, she said.

"In Datchinamurthy's case, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and AGC had been of the view that the outstanding civil claim involving Datchinamurthy and other offenders was not an impediment to the carrying out of their sentence," she said.

"The civil claim did not relate to their sentences of death and, on the face of the claim, could proceed in Datchinamurthy's absence.

"As such, MHA proceeded to schedule him to have his sentence of death carried out since he had exhausted all legal channels for appeals against his conviction, and his clemency had been rejected by the President, the Singapore daily quoted the AGC spokesperson as saying.

However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and was of the view that Kataiah should not be scheduled given the civil claim, she said.

The spokesperson said the AGC was not able to comment further as the matter is before the courts.