Singapore executes death sentence – first execution since 2019 due to strict drug laws

Singapore on Wednesday hanged its first prisoner in more than two years as the city-state looks to resume executions after a pause during the pandemic.

The execution came a day after the country’s Supreme Court rejected the appeal of another death row inmate, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, whose case had sparked controversy because of his “borderline intellectual capacity.”

Abdul Kahar bin Othman, a 68-year-old Malaysian convicted in 2013 of trafficking a total of 66.77 grams of diamorphine, was hanged at dawn. Kahar grew up in poor circumstances, struggled with his drug addiction as a teenager, and spent much of his life in prison as a result.

When Kahar arrived at the gallows, a group of anti-death penalty activists held a candlelight vigil outside the prison grounds in solidarity. Kahar’s execution is the latest example of Singapore’s alarming persistence in carrying out death sentences, activists say, and many fear it signals a resumption of executions after a more than two-year hiatus.

It is still unclear when Nagaenthran’s execution will take place, although activists say it could be as soon as seven days from now. The families of inmates are usually notified about a week before the scheduled execution, leaving them little time to make travel arrangements and deal with the impending death of their loved ones.

The last known execution in Singapore took place in November 2019, when Abd Helmi Ab Halim, another drug trafficker, was executed for transporting 16.56 grams of heroin from Malaysia to Singapore.