Boys campaign to save father’s life

12 April 2005

Two 14-year-old Singapore brothers have begun a rare campaign in the city state to free their jailed father from death row, where he faces execution for trafficking about 1 kg (2.2 lb) of marijuana.

Twins Gopalan and Krishnan Murugesu, on the advice of their father’s lawyer, handed out about 500 flyers in a busy shopping district seeking support for a petition against the execution, saying their father’s death would make them orphans.

“My parents are divorced and my father has been looking after us. My mother remarried, lives somewhere else and doesn’t see us anymore. If he is hanged…we will become orphans,” 14-year-old Krishnan Murugesu was quoted by local Today newspaper as saying.

The twins, under care of their unemployed grandmother since their father was arrested in August 2003, rely on handouts from a welfare agency for daily expenses, said his lawyer, M. Ravi.

Shanmugam Murugesu, 38, arrested at the Malaysian border, lost an appeal against a conviction of trafficking about a kg (2.2 lb) of cannabis. His lawyer is seeking clemency from Singapore President S.R. Nathan.

Singapore enforces some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Anyone aged 18 or over convicted of carrying more than 500 grammes (17.6 ounces) of cannabis faces mandatory execution by hanging.

In its 2004 report, rights group Amnesty International said about 400 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking, giving the wealthy city-state of 4.2 million people possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population.

Amnesty said only 6 people sentenced to death in Singapore has been spared execution.

Singapore has staunchly defended its use of the death penalty and maintained that capital punishment has deterred major drug syndicates from establishing themselves in Singapore.

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