SINGAPORE. MAN EXECUTED FOR TRAFFICKING MARIJUANA DESPITE HIGH-PROFILE CAMPAIGN
May 13, 2005: Shanmugam Murugesu, a man convicted of drug trafficking at the centre of a high-profile campaign to end the death penalty in Singapore, was executed despite the appeals of his teenage twin sons and his lawyer's pleas that it was a denial of "natural justice".
Murugesu, 38, who was convicted of trying to import 1,029.8 grams (36 ounces) of cannabis through a road check point from Malaysia, was hanged at 6:00 am (2200 GMT Thursday), his lawyer, M. Ravi said.
"Friday the 13th is a black day for Singapore... it only shows revenge, it's a cold blooded murder," Ravi said.
Ravi, civic rights group the Think Centre, a small group of opposition politicians and Murugesu's family waged a sustained campaign to save him, arguing "defects" in the law and many other mitigating factors should have prevented him from being executed.
They cited six other cases of people arrested with similar amounts of marijuana avoiding the gallows, Murugesu's offers to help track the "Mr Big" behind the operation and his financial desperation that led him to the crime.
Murugesu's 14-year-old sons, Gopalan and Krishnan, went public with their appeal to save their father, distributing pamphlets in Singapore's busy Orchard Road shopping district to help raise awareness about his plight.
The campaign, which also involved an on-line petition, two appeals to President S.R. Nathan and prayer vigils outside Murugesu's home, was a rare show of public dissent against any government policy in this tightly controlled city-state.
The People's Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965 and holds all but two elected seats in parliament, instructs the press to report in the "national interests" and rarely allows public rallies.
Despite Murugesu's death, Ravi said the campaign to save him had not been a waste of time because it had raised public awareness about capital punishment among Singaporeans.
Ravi said the campaign to abolish the death penalty would continue, with the focus turning to other people sentenced to hang in a bid to further heighten community awareness.
"We will continue to highlight the defects in the legal system," he said.
Ravi said Murugesu had told him he knew of eight other people on death row. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 13/05/2005)