SINGAPORE: In what is possibly the first case of its kind, the High Court has granted a Malaysian drug runner’s application for a stay of his execution.
Yong Vui Kong, 21, was found guilty in November 2008 of trafficking 47g of heroin by Justice Choo Han Teck, who imposed the mandatory death sentence for offences involving more than 15g of heroin.
He was scheduled to be hanged on Friday.
Yong had previously made an application to appeal the sentence, but that was withdrawn before he appeared before the Court of Appeals. It is not known why he had decided to withdraw.
The ruling on Wednesday means Yong’s lawyer, Mr M Ravi, will now be given a chance to have the case heard before the Court of Appeals — the highest court in the Singapore justice system — on December 8.
On Tuesday, the lawyer made the application before Justice Woo Bih Li, arguing that until the appellant process had been exhausted, a person cannot be deprived of his life.
According to Mr Ravi, it is also now clear that the mandatory death penalty, particularly for cases not involving murder, is "contrary to international law because it is both arbitrary and cruel".
In his opinion, it is also necessary to "preserve the status quo and protect his client from execution until the full Court of Appeal has heard his application for an extension of time and full appeal on the merits".
Mr Ravi also called on Justice Woo to order "a stay of execution until the matter is heard by the full three Court of Appeal judges, as required by Section 30 of the Supreme Court Judicature Act".
Despite protests from Deputy Public Prosecutor Jaswant Singh, Justice Woo agreed that Yong should be given the fullest opportunity to have his appeal heard as he was about to be executed.
During the two—week trial in 2008, Yong, then 19 years old, had told the court that he was unaware of the contents of the packages as he drove into Singapore, and that he was merely following the instructions of his boss in Johor Bahru to deliver items to people here.
The identity of Yong’s employer, who is said to be driving a Singapore—registered car at the time of the offence, is unknown.
After the hearing, Mr Ravi told MediaCorp that he felt that the outcome was "fair" and "encouraging".
"It is important that the court carefully considers the death sentence ... the accused was at that time young and na, so this is an opportunity for people like him to be rehabilitated," the lawyer added.