Friday, 27 October 2006

Singapore: Took Leng How facing gallows

A Malaysian man convicted of murdering an eight year-old girl may be hanged within two weeks, following the rejection of his final appeal for clemency by the Singapore President.

Took Leng How, 24, was convicted of murdering Chinese national Huang Na at the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre in October 2004. He was sentenced to death in August 2005.

The Court of Appeal upheld his death sentence in January this year, in a split two-one decision.

S.R.Nathan's Principal Secretary wrote to defence lawyer Subhas Anandan earlier this week, informing him the President had considered the application and consulted with the Cabinet, but the death sentence would stand.

Singapore is thought to have the highest execution rate in the world, per head of its population.

In a report in Singapore newspaper TodayOnline, Mr Subhas described the news as "crushing".

He said defence lawyers had hoped the split decision of the court of appeal, and a psychiatrist's opinion that Took was mentally disturbed, would be taken into account.

"I thought we had a chance," said Mr Subhas, who said Took would not be surprised by the news. "The last time I saw him, he said it doesn't really matter [if clemency was refused]."

According to Channel NewsAsia, Subhas Anandan said: "We thought he had hope because there was a dissenting judgement and at least one senior psychiatrist has said that he was suffering from diminished responsibility."

TodayOnline reported that Took's parents in Penang were distraught when another defence lawyer, Chung Ping Shen, told them the news.

His sobbing mother Loo Swee Heow spoke to the newspaper on the phone.

"We thought he had a chance and we have been telling him everything is going to be okay," she said. "Why couldn't he be pardoned?"

His father was too upset to speak to reporters.

Grounds for clemency
The clemency application had asked the President to take into account the views of the dissenting judge in the Court of Appeal, who had questioned if Took had killed the girl by smothering her.

Justice Kan Ting Chiu found that Took should instead be convicted of the less serious charge of voluntarily causing hurt, which carried a maximum sentence of one year's jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

Following the rejection of his appeal, Took Leng How was the subject of an extraordinary campaign on the streets of Singapore. Members of his family collected more than 34,000 signatures from Singaporeans on a petition appealing for clemency.

Earlier stories - Singapore:
Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore -- 01 September 2006
Singapore forum against death penalty -- 21 August 2006
Trade undisturbed by Singapore execution -- 04 July 2006
Victoria criticises Singapore death penalty -- 17 April 2006

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