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AGC flags possible contempt of court action over 'false claims' in failed bid to halt drug trafficker's execution

SINGAPORE — The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has flagged possible contempt of court proceedings against some of the people involved in a failed last-ditch plea for the life of convicted drug trafficker Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who was hanged on Wednesday (April 27).

People taking part in a vigil ahead of the execution of Malaysian drug trafficker, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, outside Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 26, 2022.

People taking part in a vigil ahead of the execution of Malaysian drug trafficker, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, outside Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 26, 2022.

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  • The Attorney-General’s Chambers said it will not hesitate to take appropriate action against people who may have committed contempt over a death row case
  • Some people within and outside Singapore may have repeated false allegations made by a drug trafficker’s mother
  • The convicted trafficker, Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, was executed on April 27 morning
  • His mother argued the day before that Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon should not have presided over the case as he was Attorney-General when Nagaenthran was prosecuted
  • The apex court dismissed the argument and repeated its warning against the drip-feeding of such applications

SINGAPORE — The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has flagged possible contempt of court proceedings against some of the people involved in a failed last-ditch plea for the life of convicted drug trafficker Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who was hanged on Wednesday (April 27).

In a statement on Wednesday, AGC said that individuals and groups both here and abroad have “repeated false allegations” that Nagaenthran's mother had put forward about Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

These false statements could amount to contempt of court and if so, AGC would “take appropriate action to protect the administration of justice”, the public prosecutor’s office added.

For example, the correspondence email address provided by Nagaenthran’s mother, Madam Panchalai Supermaniam, did not appear to be her own, and ostensibly belonged to freelance journalist and death-penalty activist Kirsten Han.

In an affidavit filed on Monday, Mdm Panchalai made the allegations in question: That Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon should not have presided over the case, because he was Attorney-General when Nagaenthran was prosecuted.

She had attempted a failed eleventh-hour bid to stop her 33-year-old son’s execution, which was carried out on Wednesday morning.

The Court of Appeal dismissed her application on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on March 29, the court already rejected Nagaenthran’s bid to be examined by psychiatrists, calling his last-ditch appeals a “blatant and egregious” abuse of court processes.

His defence counsel contended that Nagaenthran, a Malaysian, is intellectually disabled and so, should not be executed in accordance with international human rights law. 

Nagaenthran was sentenced to the death penalty in 2010 for importing 42.72g of pure heroin into Singapore. He was caught in April 2009 while entering Singapore from Malaysia at Woodlands Checkpoint with a bundle of drugs strapped to his thigh.

The apex court previously issued an eleventh-hour stay of execution in November last year after he tested positive for Covid-19. His earlier appeals were dismissed in 2011 and 2017, and his petition to the President of Singapore for clemency was rejected.

NOT MADE IN GOOD FAITH

In its statement, AGC noted that Mdm Panchalai’s application was the seventh one, not including appeals, brought by Nagaenthran after his appeal against his conviction was dismissed in 2011.

“It is the latest attempt to abuse the court’s processes and unjustifiably delay the carrying into effect of the lawful sentence imposed on Nagaenthran,” AGC said.

The Court of Appeal said on Wednesday that while Mdm Panchalai may be interested in the outcome of the application, she had no legal standing to be involved in the proceedings.

The court also noted that in 2016, Nagaenthran confirmed under legal advice that he did not object to Chief Justice Menon hearing his matters.

Mdm Panchalai and her son wanted to delay his execution because Chief Justice Menon’s tenure as Attorney-General from 2010 to 2012 overlapped with Nagaenthran’s prosecution.

The judge was not involved in any decisions pertaining to Nagaethran then, and no fair-minded and reasonable person would suspect a fair trial was not possible under these circumstances, the apex court ruled on Wednesday.

AGC noted: “It was also telling that he never raised any concerns from December 2016 to just two days before his rescheduled execution, which suggests this allegation is an afterthought and not made in good faith.”

Panchalai Supermaniam (front row, second from left), mother of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, arriving with her relatives at the Supreme Court on April 26, 2022.

DOCUMENTS PREPARED WITH LEGAL ADVICE

Mdm Panchalai also claimed that “friends and social activists” had helped her to file and prepare her application and affidavit.

She alleged that lawyers had declined to represent her due to purported adverse consequences. Nagaenthran was previously defended by human rights lawyer M Ravi, who then went on medical leave, and Ms Violet Netto.

However, AGC said that the legal documents she filed with her application were “clearly prepared under legal advice”.

The correspondence email address, kirstenhan@hey.com, provided by Mdm Panchalai did not appear to be hers, and someone else had signed legal papers for her.

AGC added: “It appeared that those advising Mdm Panchalai had deliberately failed to inform her that Nagaenthran had expressly stated that he had no objections to (Chief Justice Menon) hearing his matters, and that there was, therefore, no basis for her application.”

The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Woon Kwong, said on Wednesday that Mdm Panchalai should be ordered to reveal the identities of those who helped her prepare the legal papers.

The apex court then questioned her on who had helped her to do so, but she maintained that no lawyers had helped her, and her non-legally trained relatives and family friends had assisted.

The court then said that this was a clear continuation of drip-feeding of applications, that Nagaenthran had been given due process in accordance with the law, and that he had exhausted his rights to appeal and almost every other recourse under the law over more than a decade.

AGC added in its statement that it had observed various individuals and groups, both within and outside Singapore, repeat Mdm Panchalai’s allegations and seek to “cast aspersions” on Chief Justice Menon’s involvement in the proceedings before and after Mdm Panchalai’s application was filed.

"AGC takes a serious view of any act that may constitute contempt, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action to protect the administration of justice,” it said.

Related topics

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam death penalty AGC Sundaresh Menon contempt of court Kirsten Han

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