S’pore to hang Nigerian drug trafficker after rejecting clemency appeal

January 20, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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The Associated Press
19 Jan 07

Singapore was set to hang a 21-year-old Nigerian convicted of heroin trafficking a week from Friday, a human rights group said, urging Nigeria’s government to intervene.

Amara Tochi Iwuchukwu is to be executed Jan. 26 at Singapore’s Changi Prison after the Southeast Asian country’s president rejected his clemency appeal, according to a statement from Nigeria’s nongovernment Civil Liberties Organization, or CLO.

A letter from Singapore’s Prisons Department informed Iwuchukwu’s family of the execution and said the department would allow him extra visits in the three days before he is executed.

His family lives in Nigeria.

Iwuchukwu was caught after arriving from Dubai at Singapore’s Changi Airport in November 2004 with 100 capsules containing 727 grams (26 ounces) of heroin, estimated by authorities to be worth 1.5 million Singapore dollars (US$970,000; €795,930).

The rights group said that Iwuchukwu’s trial was marked by “irregularities,” and that it has made several unsuccessful appeals to the Nigerian government to intervene in the matter.

“While the CLO recognizes the right of the Singaporean government to punish any person within its territorial jurisdiction for any act which constitutes an offense in Singapore, we insist that international standards of justice and due process of law must be observed,” the statement said.

Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry could not be reached for comment Friday, and did not immediately respond to e-mailed questions.

Also convicted and on death row in the same case is Okeke Nelson Malachy, 35, a stateless African. Malachy was arrested after his picture was shown to Iwuchukwu, who identified him as the person to whom he was supposed to deliver the drugs.

It was not immediately clear whether Malachy’s clemency appeal had also been rejected.

Singapore’s Prisons Department did not confirm the execution date when contacted Friday. It had earlier said in an e-mailed response to questions that “as a policy, Prisons Department does not release information on when executions would be carried out prior to an execution.”

At the time of his arrest, Iwuchukwu told narcotics officers the pills were African herbs that he was supposed to give to a sick friend. He also told officers that he came to try out for soccer teams playing in the country’s Singapore League.

Singapore has some of the world’s harshest drug laws, including a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of trafficking more than 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of heroin.

The city-state caused an outcry in Australia in December 2005, when it executed a 25-year-old heroin trafficker from that country despite numerous appeals from Australia’s government.

Human rights group Amnesty International has said Singapore has the world’s highest per capita execution rate. The country’s leaders say the tough laws and penalties are an effective deterrent against a crimes that ruin lives.

The Nigerian High Commission in Singapore helped Iwuchukwu file the appeal for presidential clemency, and is in regular contact with his family in Nigeria, a consular officer said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.