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Syed Suhail: Ministry denies bias of death row inmates; no legal prohibition over prison letters

The Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday denied allegations of discrimination between foreigners and locals due for executions and also said that copying of letters from an inmate to the prosecution was not against the law.

The ministry addressed these in a statement yesterday after the court agreed to put the execution of convicted drug trafficker Syed Suhail on hold as it relooks into the case, days after human rights lawyer M Ravi filed an appeal. Syed, who was originally due to be hanged on Sept. 18, had written to Ravi three days prior accusing the Singapore prison of “discrimination,” as he said that executions for Singaporeans were brought forward due to border closures caused by COVID-19.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs denies all allegations of discrimination or impropriety in the scheduling of judicial executions. All prisoners sentenced to capital punishment are accorded due process according to the law,” the ministry, or MHA, wrote in yesterday’s statement.

“Such allegations are baseless and will be comprehensively addressed in MHA’s response which will be filed before the next hearing date. As the matter is presently before the Courts, we are unable to comment further on this,” it added. According to the ministry, executions are scheduled “after an inmate has exhausted all legal channels for appeal and clemency, regardless of whether the prisoner is a Singaporean or a foreigner.”

Lawyer Ravi also revealed that the Attorney-General’s Chambers, or AGC, had their hands on Syed’s “confidential materials,” potentially breaching attorney-client privilege. The materials turned out to be a letter written to Syed’s former lawyer and four letters for his uncle. The ministry explained yesterday that it was not against the law to do so.
The ministry said that the AGC had their hands on those copies after checking with the local prison about Syed’s intention to call his uncle as a witness during a 2018 appeal, during which the court of appeal had allowed the AGC to “file a response if it thought that Syed Suhail was abusing the process of the Court.”

The ministry said there was no legal prohibition against obtaining those letters at the time.
“In this context, [Singapore Prison Service] extended a copy of these letters, and one letter to his then-counsel (i.e. the Letter) to the AGC on 10 May 2018 and 7 June 2018. At that time, there was no legal prohibition in the Prisons Act or Regulations against doing so,” it added.

Syed was convicted of trafficking under 40 grams of heroin. In a Sept. 15 letter to M Ravi, he said that the “border closure has caused discrimination based on nationality and there is a very apparent deferment for the execution of foreigners.”
Syed later told Ravi that some 50 people were due for executions this year, but the ministry did not address this in yesterday’s statement. It said that only four judicial executions were carried out in 2019, of which two were Singaporeans and two were foreigners.
The next hearing for Syed will take place after Oct. 7.
Update : The Court of Appeal heard Syed Suhail’s appeal and I must say
the hearing was very intense. The court extended the stay of execution of Suhail
as the Court wanted further submissions/arguments for parties to
address the court. The next
hearing will be fixed after 7th October and we will be notified of a hearing
I just just finished attending a Pre Trial Conference for the urgent
application filed to reopen Moad Fadzil’s criminal case
his execution i…s scheduled on Thurday morning.
#campaigntosaveSyedSuhailandFadzir. #EndCrimeNotLife

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