Singaporean man hanged for drug trafficking, activists raise alarm over more executions after 2-year halt

A 68-year-old man from Singapore charged for drug trafficking was hanged after the city-state resumed executions after a hiatus of two years during the pandemic.

Singapore, which has one of the most draconian rules against drug trafficking, had last executed in November 2019.

Abdul Kahar bin Othman was hanged on Wednesday. The court had convicted him on two charges of trafficking 66.77 grams of diamorphine in 2013. He was sentenced to death in 2015.

According to reports, the execution occurred despite pleas from rights activists, including the UN Human Rights office, to commute Kahar’s sentence to life imprisonment.

A group of anti-death penalty activists even held a candlelight vigil outside the prison compound in solidarity.

Kirsten Han, a member of the Transformative Justice Collective, a local activist group that campaigns for the abolishment of the death penalty in Singapore, was at the vigil.

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“The Singapore government regularly claims that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to drug trafficking. They talk about the harms that drugs can inflict upon people with addictions, and insist that the use of capital punishment will help protect people and save lives. But there is no clear evidence that the death penalty is more effective than any other punishment in deterring drug offences,” Han told The Guardian.

Abdul Kahar’s story showed the situation was far more complicated than the “bad” drug trafficker and “victim” drug user narrative, she added.

According to Han, Kahar came from a poor family and had struggled with drug addiction since he was a teenager.

He spent more time behind bars than as a free man. Kahar was released from prison in 2005 after a decade of preventive detention.

Han has expressed concerns that executions might be accelerated in the city-state after a two-year halt.

(With inputs from agencies)

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