Singapore death penalty: Tamil man to be executed on April 26 over marijuana trafficking

Singapore News: In the first such instance in 2023, the authorities in Singapore will execute a Singaporean Tamil man named Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, on April 26. The Singapore Prison Service said that Tangaraju’s execution will be at Changi prison; he had been convicted and sentenced to death in December 2018. Last year, the Singapore authorities had carried out 11 executions.

Tangaraju Suppiah was arrested in March 2014 and had a prior record of drug use. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@Kokilaparvathi

Tangaraju’s family, who were informed on Wednesday of the execution date, earlier claimed that he never touched the 1kg-plus of marijuana (also called cannabis) that he was accused of trafficking. Facts of the case suggest that Tangaraju was meant to receive a parcel of marijuana (which is now legal in some countries, but classed as banned narcotics in many others), but the authorities got to him before the drugs did.

Representative photo of the narcotic substance called ‘weed’, made from the marijuana plant, aka cannabis plant. Photo courtesy: Stay Regular/Pixabay

He had been arrested in March 2014 by Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau, after two other arrests in the same case. In 2017, he had faced the specific charge of abetment in a drug trafficking conspiracy.

The Independent reported that Tangaraju had a prior arrest record in another drug use case, and that he was required to submit himself to regular urine tests. He had missed a test and was on his way to report to the police when he arrested.

During the trial, the prosecution said that Tangaraju Suppiah owned two phone numbers used to contact the person who would deliver the marijuana, and that he was to receive a part of the drugs. The accused said that he had lost his phone several months ago, and that his number could have been misused by anyone else to call or text one of the other two accused.

It was not clear from the facts reported in the media why Tangaraju never reported the phone (and the SIM card in it) as being lost. Despite his claims that he knew nothing, Tangaraju was convicted and given the death penalty.

As news of the execution date was made public, Kokila Annamalai, a justice activist in Singapore, tweeted (as @Kokilaparvathi) on April 19: “I received the devastating call this afternoon from Tangaraju’s sister Leela who has rushed down to prison with her family to visit him after the prison delivered the execution notice to her.”

The execution notice sent to Tangaraju Suppiah's family. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@Kokilaparvathi

This post was accompanied by a photo of the execution notice. The execution notice read that the prison authorities would allow visits to Tangaraju from 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm until April 25 at the Prison Link Centre (Changi).

In another tweet, Kokila said: “For many years now, Leela has hoped each morning that it will not be the day she receives this news, but today it was. She has spent the last few years begging lawyers to help her brother, but no one was able to.”

Amnesty International sent a letter, dated April 21, 2023 and marked ‘Urgent action’, to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, calling for a stop to the execution.