Internet rallies to save Singaporean drug trafficker from execution



a group of people posing for the camera: Syed Suhail. Photos: Change.org


Syed Suhail. Photos: Change.org

From online petitions to a plea from rights group Human Rights Watch, the internet is rallying to save the life of convicted drug trafficker Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, who is due to hang tomorrow. 

More than 2,000 people have so far signed a Change.org petition asking Singapore’s president to grant Syed clemency, a letter template is being distributed for people to send to other leaders including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the American nonprofit advocating for human rights worldwide has published an online plea for the authorities to halt the execution. 

All of them voiced a similar message, which is that drug abusers should be rehabilitated and that the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent that cannot be reversed in the case justice is miscarried. 

“Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and irreversibility. The use of the death penalty is diminishing globally, particularly in many countries in Asia,” the organization wrote yesterday. It cited a 2007 resolution by the United Nations General Assembly stating that there is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty’s deterrent value.

“Governments around the world should call on Singapore to impose a moratorium on capital punishment, and join the other 106 countries that have abolished the death penalty,” it added. 

Syed was found guilty of trafficking under 40 grams of heroin and was a user himself, according to court documents. The judgment said that he was not able to prove that he possessed the drugs for personal use, citing their cost and Syed’s financial difficulties. Court documents also showed that Syed was admitted to the Sembawang Drug Rehabilitation Center twice, in 1999 and 2000.

The 44-year-old Singaporean citizen, who said that he is unable to meet relatives in Malaysia due to the ongoing border lockdown, had written to human rights lawyer M Ravi for help. The lawyer announced yesterday that he had applied for a judicial review in the high court and that an emergency hearing would be held this morning where he would request a stay of execution pending the outcome of the review. 

The lawyer also plans to argue in court that the Singapore Prison Service “has effected a differential treatment between Foreigners and Singaporeans in carrying out the death sentence as the execution of Foreigners has been halted due to the COVID-19 situation.”

There has been no official response from the authorities, nor have any political leaders taken a position.

Others are amplifying the cause in the online petition An Open Letter to President Halimah Yacob: Save Syed Suhail, which was set up by local rapper Subhas Nair. It also requested that Syed be allowed visits by his family residing in Malaysia. 

“We must resist the temptation to dehumanise those on death row,” he wrote, later adding: “We must remember what is at stake here – Syed Suhail is a son, a brother, a friend. Giving him the chance to see his loved ones before his execution is a basic act of compassion, from one human being to another.”

The letter template being distributed online for people to send to other leaders or MPs reads: “As a Singapore citizen, I truly cannot accept that this execution is being carried out in my name, in the abstract, to protect me, and to safeguard my way of life. I wish to register this with you, my head of state and elected representative. I wish to ask that if you feel in any way moved by this that you may consider extending clemency to Syed Suhail.”

This article, Internet rallies to save Singaporean drug trafficker from execution, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.