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A-G: No exemption from prosecution for 'ex-prison officer'

A-G: No exemption from prosecution for 'ex-prison officer'

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 04 Feb 2020
Author: K.C. Vijayan

Death row inmates had sought immunity for him to reveal 'unlawful execution practices'.

There will be no immunity from prosecution for a supposed former prison officer willing to shed light on "unlawful execution practices", raised by two inmates on death row, the Attorney-General's Chambers said in court documents filed last week.

In a related document about the alleged unlawful method used, the prison authorities also said there was no known instance of the rope used for executions snapping, which allegedly would have required prison officers to kick the back of the prisoner's neck to complete the execution.

The Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer for the two inmates' families, Mr Zaid Malek, told The Straits Times of the AGC's response, having received copies last week.

The two death row inmates, Gobi Avedian, 31, and Datchinamurthy Kataiah, 34, are seeking a High Court order to stay their executions pending a probe into the allegations about the unlawful methods being used, claiming they are at risk of a process that breaches the Singapore Constitution.

They had also sought a court order last month, through their Singapore lawyer M. Ravi, to protect the former prison officer from any liabilities so he may shed light on the allegations.

The Malaysian duo were sentenced to death for capital offences that involve drug trafficking.

They flagged allegations made on Jan 16 by Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), a Malaysian rights group, which claimed executions at Changi Prison were carried out by kicking the back of the prisoner's neck in the event of the rope breaking.

Citing the LFL statement, the two men said that if the rope broke, they would be made to suffer an execution that breaches relevant articles of the Constitution on the rule of equal treatment before the law, since such a practice would not be "in accordance with the law".

Mr Zaid said the court document filed made clear the Attorney-General did not accept or admit to anything else said in the affidavit filed by the two inmates, other than rejecting the demand for immunity they had raised there.

Mr Zaid further noted judicial executions are conducted in the presence, among others, of the prison superintendent and the medical officer who examines the body of the inmate immediately after execution as required by law.

A coroner also has to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours to check that the execution was conducted properly as required by the law.

A High Court pre-trial conference is due in two weeks.

The allegations by LFL had been previously addressed and rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs as "untrue, baseless and preposterous", in a detailed response last month.

LFL was also ordered to make a correction under Singapore's Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, requiring it to post the facts next to the falsehoods in its Jan 22 statement on its website.

It did not comply, prompting the Infocomm Media Development Authority to take steps to get Internet service providers here to block the website.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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