Man sentenced to death in Singapore on Zoom call

Clay Curtis
May 21, 2020

While rights groups criticized Zoom's use in capital cases, Genasan's attorney did not object to the use of video conferencing for Friday's call to receive the judge's verdict. Genasan was in jail, while Fernando and prosecutors participated in the hearing from different locations.

The spokesman also said it was the first criminal case where a death sentence was announced remotely in Singapore.

Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction on Friday, court documents showed, with the country under lockdown to try and curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.

Singapore kicked in its stricter circuit breaker measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on April 7, and it is scheduled to end on June 1.

As for Genasan, his lawyer told Reuters that his client is considering appealing the verdict. Court docket paperwork mentioned the decide discovered he recruited two drug couriers and directed them to move and ship 28.5 grams of heroin. HRW has also criticised a similar case in Nigeria where a death sentence was delivered via Zoom.

"This case is another reminder that Singapore continues to defy worldwide law and standards by imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking, and as a mandatory punishment", reads the statement. Numerous instances are drug-related.

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Using technology like Zoom app to award death sentence makes it even worse, said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division speaking to Reuters.

The city-state managed to keep its outbreak in check in the early stages but was hit by a second wave of infections, mainly affecting low-paid migrant workers in crowded dormitories.

They allege that most of the drug cases hearings in Singapore remain opaque and big shots in the business are never brought to justice, only small drug peddlers are targetted. It plans to gradually ease restrictions starting next month.

According to Amnesty International, a total of 657 executions were recorded in 20 countries in 2019, and of those cases, four occurred in Singapore - a sharp drop when compared to the 13 executions ordered there the year prior. Its death penalty adviser, Chiara Sangiorgio, said Singapore is only one of four countries that now execute people for drug offenses.

"At a time when the worldwide consideration is targeted on saving and defending lives in a pandemic, the pursuit of the dying penalty is all of the extra abhorrent", Sangiorgio mentioned.

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