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Two hanged after forsaking chance to escape gallows

SINGAPORE — Two convicted drug traffickers who chose to forsake their legal avenues to escape death row were hanged yesterday, becoming the Republic’s first executions since all capital sentences were put on hold three years ago as death penalty laws underwent review.

Two hanged after forsaking chance to escape gallows

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — Two convicted drug traffickers who chose to forsake their legal avenues to escape death row were hanged yesterday, becoming the Republic’s first executions since all capital sentences were put on hold three years ago as death penalty laws underwent review.

Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, could have gone through a re-sentencing process and possibly be handed a life imprisonment term and caning.

But both Singaporeans opted out of the process, telling an Assistant Registrar in the High Court they understood the consequences of their respective decisions” the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said, in a statement yesterday. They also elected not to petition the President for clemency, it added.

Why they did not want the chance to be considered for re-sentencing was not stated. But the CNB said both of them had been accorded full due process, adding that they were represented by counsel throughout the process.

All nine death-row inmates who have undergone re-sentencing since new laws allowing judges the discretion not to pass the death sentence came into force last January have escaped the gallows, said a separate statement yesterday from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). These included convicted murderers and drug offenders, including Yong Vui Kong, the first drug trafficker to be handed a reprieve last November.

Tang and Foong had, in separate cases, been sentenced to death for trafficking diamorphine — the pure form of heroin — in November 2010 and April 2011, respectively, the CNB said.

At that time, those convicted of trafficking 15g or more diamorphine are automatically handed the death penalty under the Misuse of Drugs Act — Tang was found with 89.55g, while Foong had 40.23g.

But in July 2011, the Government placed a moratorium on all executions as it reviewed mandatory death penalty laws here. When the changes were passed and kicked in last year, it was announced that all drug offenders on death row then would be given the opportunity to elect to be considered for re-sentencing. Tang and Foong gave up the chance, however — although both had appealed against their convictions previously.

When Tang learnt that his family had submitted an unsigned petition for clemency without his knowledge, he indicated that he did not wish to make the appeal, the CNB said. The petition was turned down and his family was informed, it added.

Tang’s and Foong’s death sentences were carried out at Changi Prison Complex yesterday. The last hanging was carried out in July 2011.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Working Group for the Death Penalty issued a statement last night saying they were “gravely disappointed” at the executions.

They argued that an ongoing constitutional challenge filed by another drug offender at the Supreme Court — which will be heard on Aug 18 — could have a bearing on the lawfulness of Foong’s and Tang’s executions and thus it was “deeply unjust” to have executed them before the hearing.

The group, which is made up of We Believe in Second Chances, Think Center and Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, also claimed that it had written to the President and the Minister of Home Affairs on Thursday to highlight the situation and ask for an urgent stay of execution.

The MHA did not respond to queries by press time. In its statement, the ministry said: “Capital punishment applies only to the most serious offences that cause grave harm to others and to society.

“All persons who are sentenced to capital punishment are accorded full due process under the law, including the opportunity to appeal to the Court of Appeal. They can also submit a petition for clemency.”

It also gave an update on the 35 cases — seven for murder and 28 for drug offences, including Tang and Foong — awaiting capital punishment as of Jan 1 last year.

Since then, one more person has been sentenced to death. One inmate has had his conviction overturned, while another passed away from natural causes, MHA said.

As for the nine persons who have escaped the death penalty after re-sentencing, the Attorney-General’s Chambers has filed appeals in two of the cases, it added.

The remaining 22 cases are at various stages of the appeal, re-sentencing or clemency processes, or have filed other legal challenges, said MHA.

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