Friday, September 26, 2003

UH, MAKE THAT 12....

Dateline: Singapore

Singapore Hangs Two Convicted Drug Dealers

SINGAPORE - Singapore executed two convicted Malaysian drug traffickers Friday, despite appeals for clemency from lawyers and a human rights group.

Vasu Mourthi, the father of one of the men, confirmed at the gates of Changi Prison that both men were hanged Friday morning.

His son, Vignes Mourthi, 23, was found guilty of drug trafficking last year after his arrest in September 2001 for smuggling 27 grams (0.98 ounces) of heroin. The other man, Moorthi Angappan, was convicted of helping him.

Anyone caught in possession of more than 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of heroin in Singapore faces the death penalty.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International has slammed Singapore, a country of 4 million people, for having one of the world's highest per capita execution rates. It launched a letter writing campaign last week to request a retrial for Mourthi.

Mourthi's lawyers spent late Thursday and early Friday poring over Singapore's constitution and drafting letters to President S.R. Nathan, who has the final authority to overturn a death sentence.

In a last-ditch effort, they presented their case before the Court of Appeals. But Chief Judge Yong Pung How said he had no jurisdiction to overturn Mourthi's conviction.

"You have to say goodbye to him, that's all you can do," Yong said. "He's going to be hanged anyhow."

Friday's executions bring the number of people hanged in Singapore so far this year to 12. Over the past four years, 88 people have been hanged, mostly for drug offenses. The government says the death penalty effectively deters drug addiction.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. aired Tuesday, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong defended the tough anti-drugs stance, saying "if you don't punish them and they manage to get their drugs through to Singapore, more people would be punished by their acts."

Vasu Mourthi went to the prison late Thursday hoping to say a last goodbye to his only son, but was turned away. Hangings usually take place before dawn on Fridays.