Hundreds of Singaporeans gathered for a candlelight vigil on Monday to protest the looming execution of two Malaysians convicted of drug offenses, as the United Nations urged the city-state to spare them.
Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, a mentally disabled man, arrested in 2009 for heroin trafficking, is to be hanged on Wednesday despite an international outcry. According to campaigners, another Malaysian, Datchinamurthy Kataiah, is scheduled to be executed two days later.
More than 400 Singaporeans gathered late Monday at “Speakers’ Corner” in a downtown park, the only place in the tightly controlled city-state where protests are allowed without prior police approval.
The demonstrators held electric candles, torches, and signs reading “Abolish the death penalty” and “End oppression, not life.”
“No more blood on our hands,” the crowd chanted, as well as “justice” and “freedom.”
It was the second sizeable demonstration in Singapore – where protests are rare – in a few weeks against the death penalty.
Dharmalingamn, who was 21 at that time, was arrested after he was found with a small bundle of heroin and lost a last-ditch appeal against the death sentence last month. Supporters say he has an IQ of 69, a level recognized as a disability, and was coerced into committing the crime.
His case has sparked widespread criticism, including from the European Union and British billionaire Richard Branson. Kataiah was arrested in 2011 and convicted on drug trafficking charges.
Speaking on the sidelines of the protest, his sister Sathirani told Agence France-Presse (AFP) she was “shocked” her brother would be hanged as he was a small-time courier.
“He feels that the punishment is not fair,” she said. U.N. rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani urged Singapore “to immediately halt its execution plans, to consider granting Dharmalingham and Kataiah clemency, and to commute their sentences to prison terms.”
Singapore last month carried out its first execution since 2019. Alongside the two cases this week, activists fear there could be more hangings in the coming months.
The city-state maintains the death penalty for several offenses and insists it has helped keep Singapore one of Asia’s safest places.
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