Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction on Friday. It was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore.
The country has been under Lockdown to curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia. The proceedings were conducted by video-conferencing for the safety of all involved amid the restrictions.
The convict’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.
Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and has hanged hundreds of people – including dozens of foreigners – for narcotics offences over past decades.
Human Rights Watch’s Asia division has criticised the death sentence delivered via Zoom. “Singapore’s use of the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and the use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so,” said deputy director Phil Robertson.