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AGC rejects claim it sent ‘threatening’ letter to lawyer of Malaysian death-row convicts

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has dismissed claims by a rights group that it sent a harshly worded letter to a Malaysian lawyer acting for several Malaysian death-row convicts here.

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has dismissed claims by a rights group that it sent a harshly worded letter to a Malaysian lawyer acting for several Malaysian death-row convicts here. 

The Malay Mail reported on Tuesday (July 16) that according to Lawyers for Liberty, which is based in Malaysia, the AGC sent Mr N Surendran a letter last Friday that was critical of the lawyer’s public comments on the case involving drug trafficker Pannir Selvam Pranthaman and those of other Malaysian death-row inmates he was representing here.

Responding to TODAY’s queries on whether the AGC had sent any letter to Mr Surendran last Friday, its spokesperson said it did not do so. 

“On that date, the AGC wrote to the court with reasons for objecting to requests made by Mr Pannir Selvam’s Singapore lawyers to the court on July 8 and 10,” the spokesperson said.

Among their requests was to allow a Malaysian lawyer to attend the hearing of an application filed by Pannir, the spokesperson added.

The AGC was acting on the court’s directions to state its reasons in writing by 5pm that day, the spokesperson noted. “AGC’s letter to the court was copied to Mr Pannir Selvam’s Singapore lawyers. We are unable to comment further on this matter, as the matter is now before the courts.”

Mr Surendran is an instructing solicitor to the Singapore lawyers representing Pannir in court, Lawyers for Liberty said.

In 2017, Pannir — who is now 32 — was convicted of trafficking 51.84g of diamorphine, also known as heroin, into Singapore through the Woodlands Checkpoint. He committed the offence in September 2014.

On May 23 this year, a day before he was due to hang, the Court of Appeal granted Pannir’s appeal for a stay of his execution.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heard the case with Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Steven Chong, noted that Pannir was told of his date of execution and President Halimah Yacob’s rejection of his clemency petition only a week in advance. This left him with little time to get legal advice on his options, and he should be given the chance to do so, the judges said.

Pannir’s challenge against the clemency process is due to be heard by the High Court on Friday. 

In a statement published on its website on Tuesday, Lawyers for Liberty claimed that the AGC accused Mr Surendran of making “scandalous allegations against Singapore and its legal system, including accusing Singapore of acting in total disregard of international legal norms and decent world opinion”.

The group claimed that the “unacceptable threat” was “a calculated attempt to sabotage Pannir’s legal team, as well as hinder legal assistance from Malaysia for the other Malaysian prisoners”.

Lawyers for Liberty’s allegation also prompted a response from Malaysian foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

He called on the group to approach him and Mr Liew Vui Keong, Malaysia’s minister in the prime minister’s department who oversees legal affairs. 

“Dear LFL (Lawyers for Liberty). Pls write to Minister of Law and cc to Minister of Foreign Affairs,” Mr Saifuddin said on Twitter in response to Mr Eric Paulsen, the rights group’s co-founder and adviser.

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