Apex court dismisses appeal by Malaysian drug mule whose death sentence was stayed in 2019

SINGAPORE – Malaysian drug mule Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, 34, who was granted a stay of execution two years ago, failed in his appeal on Friday (Nov 26) to start a court challenge against his death sentence.

After his application for permission to start judicial review proceedings was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, Pannir spoke to his lawyers, Mr Too Xing Ji and Mr Lee Ji En, through the glass panel of the dock.

The trio then bowed their heads in a quiet prayer.

Mr Too, who was in tears, told reporters that his client has not given instructions to file any further application.

The apex court decision hinged on whether information provided by Pannir to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) had substantively assisted the agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, drug couriers who are issued a certificate of substantive assistance by the prosecution can be sentenced to life imprisonment and caning instead of the death penalty.

Pannir contended that he had provided information that led to the arrest of a drug trafficker named Zamri Mohd Tahir and argued that he should be issued a certificate of substantive assistance.

On Friday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the statute contemplates that the information must have been used by CNB in some way.

He said “used” in this context may mean arrest, apprehension or conviction, or the making of wider strategic decisions such as when to launch enforcement.

The court, which also comprised Justices Judith Prakash and Steven Chong, will issue fuller written grounds at a later date.

Pannir was convicted in 2017 of importing 51.84g of heroin into Singapore and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty.

After his appeal was dismissed in February 2018, he and his family submitted clemency petitions to President Halimah Yacob, which were rejected.

Pannir then sought to mount a challenge against the rejection, questioning the transparency of the clemency process.

This arose from the fact that two sets of letters sent to his family – one from the Istana rejecting the clemency petition and the other from the Singapore Prison Service stating his execution date – were both dated May 17, 2019.

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In an affidavit, the President’s principal private secretary said he had signed the letters on May 7 but post-dated them by 10 days.

On May 23, 2019, a day before Pannir was scheduled to hang, the apex court granted him temporary reprieve to seek legal advice on whether he could mount a successful challenge.

In February last year, the High Court dismissed Pannir’s application to start judicial review proceedings.

Besides challenging the clemency process, Pannir also sought to challenge the Public Prosecutor’s decision not to issue him a certificate of substantive assistance.

Senior State Counsel Francis Ng said in written submissions that the CNB confirmed that information provided by Pannir, who failed to identify Zamri when shown a series of photographs by the CNB, did not assist in Zamri’s arrest.

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