A man in Singapore has been sentenced to death over Zoom.
Gizmodo reported that Punithan Genasan, a Malaysian national, was sentenced to death by hanging over the video conference platform for “allegedly introducing two drug dealers to each other in 2011.” He was extradited to Singapore in 2016 on charges of being “complicit in trafficking,” The Straits Times reported.
Genasan, a 37-year-old debt collector was implicated by the two drug couriers of masterminding a one-ounce (about 28.5 grams) sale of heroin. He allegedly told one courier to drive to Singapore to meet the other, the Times reported. More from the Times:
Punithan denied any connection to the pair and disputed their testimonies that he had recruited them to transport drugs, linked them up and arranged the transaction.
He called a friend and his wife as witnesses to support his claim.
But his alibi defence was rejected by High Court judge Chan Seng Onn, who pronounced the mandatory death penalty in a hearing on video-conferencing platform Zoom.
Justice Chan said the couriers had given detailed and cogent accounts of their relationships with Punithan. In contrast, Punithan was unable to explain how the couriers knew personal details about him.
The couriers were also convicted. One was sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 lashings while the other was sentenced to death.
Gizmodo reported that Singapore has a “zero tolerance policy for drugs.” Due to the coronavirus lockdowns and social distancing rules, Genasan’s sentence was handed out over Zoom.
“It’s not clear if sentencing someone to death is against Zoom’s terms of service. Texas is currently experimenting with its first jury trial by Zoom, as Gizmodo reported on Monday. Zoom did not respond to an email sent early Wednesday, but human rights groups are understandably upset about the case in Singapore,” Gizmodo reported.”
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, told Gizmodo in an email that a man facing capital punishment should be able to confront his accusers in court, not over Zoom.
“The death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and Singapore’s use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so,” Robertson told the outlet.
“It’s shocking the prosecutors and the court are so callous that they fail to see that a man facing capital punishment should have the right to be present in court to confront his accusers. The absolute finality of the sentence, and the reality that wrongful convictions do occur around the world in death sentence cases, raise serious concerns about why Singapore is rushing to conclude this case via Zoom,” he added. “Singapore tries to hide from the world that it executes scores of people every year but by remotely sentencing a man to die in this case, they have brought back welcome attention to their inherently rights violating practices.”
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