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In a first, Singapore awards death sentence via Zoom call
A Malaysian man of Tamil origin has been sentenced to death in Singapore via a Zoom video-call for his role in a drug deal, the city-state’s first case where capital punishment has been delivered remotely.
Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction, court documents showed, with the country under lockdown to try and curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.
“For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor vs Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing,” a spokesperson for Singapore’s Supreme Court said, citing restrictions imposed to minimise virus spread. It was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore, the spokesperson added. Genasan’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, said his client received the judge’s verdict on a Zoom call and is considering an appeal.
While rights groups have criticised the use of Zoom in capital cases, Fernando said he did not object to the use of video-conferencing since it was only to receive the judge’s verdict, which could be heard clearly, and no other legal arguments were presented.
Many court hearings in Singapore have been adjourned during a lockdown period that started in early April and is due to run until June 1, while cases deemed essential have been held remotely.