Singapore to execute Tangaraju Suppiah over cannabis charge

In the city-state's latest controversial execution, a man for cannabis trafficking will be executed by hanging.  According to activists, Tangaraju Suppiah's conviction was based on insufficient evidence. Authorities claim he was afforded due process, and his execution is scheduled for Wednesday. It follows last year's high-profile execution of a mentally disabled man for narcotics possession.

Singapore has some of the most stringent anti-drug laws in the world, which it claims are necessary for society's protection. In recent days, his family members and advocates have delivered letters pleading for clemency to Singapore's president Halimah Yacob, while Sir Richard Branson has called for a halt to the execution and a review of the case. 

Leela Suppiah, sister of Tangaraju, said that she is aware that her sibling has not committed any crime. She told sources that she wants the court to examine his case from the beginning.

The delivery of 1 kilogramme (35 ounces) of cannabis from Malaysia to Singapore in 2013 led to the conviction of 46-year-old Tangaraju for "conspiracy to traffic" Although he was not apprehended during the delivery, prosecutors asserted he was responsible for its coordination and linked two phone numbers used by the deliveryman to him.

Tangaraju asserted he was not the individual communicating with case-related parties. He claimed to have misplaced one of the phones and denied ownership of the other.

The death penalty is mandated by Singaporean law for drug trafficking, while couriers face lesser penalties. In Tangaraju's last appeal, the judge concurred with the prosecution that Tangaraju was responsible for coordinating the delivery, thereby disqualifying him for a lighter sentence. 

Activists also worry that Tangaraju wasn't provided with adequate access to an interpreter and that he had to defend himself in his final appeal because his family could not afford an attorney. According to Singaporean authorities, Tangaraju did not request an interpreter prior to the trial. Throughout the process, he had access to legal counsel, they added.

Sir Richard, who had previously criticized the execution of the mentally handicapped Nagaenthran Dharmalingam in 2022, stated that Tangaraju's case was shocking on multiple levels. On social media, he wrote that Singapore may be about to execute an innocent man under more than dubious circumstances.

The death penalty already tarnishes the nation's reputation. An execution following such a questionable conviction would only exacerbate the situation, he mentioned. The Singaporean Ministry of Home Affairs refuted his allegations and accused him of "disrespect for Singapore's judges and our criminal justice system"

According to the report, the death penalty is "an essential component" of a multifaceted strategy that has been "effective in keeping Singapore safe and secure."

Kirsten Han, a spokesperson for the Singaporean anti-death penalty advocacy group Transformative Justice Collective (TJC), stated that the government did not wish to give the impression of caving in to pressure.

After last week's publication of his execution notice, Tangaraju's family members told sources on Sunday that they were able to meet him from behind a glass partition at Changi Prison. Even if Tangaraju is executed, his family said they will continue to advocate for reforms in Singapore's legal system. Leela, his sister, stated that if such an injustice occurred to her brother, she would not want it to occur to anyone else and will continue to fight.