People pay tribute at a wake for Malaysian national Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam
Reprieve Calls for Release of British Citizen on Ethiopia's Death Row Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images

A Malaysian man, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, was executed in Singapore on Wednesday, despite appeals for clemency due to being intellectually impaired.

Dharmalingam's case has drawn international attention; it was controversial as a medical expert assessed him to have an IQ of 69, indicating a learning disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Dharmalingam was a Malaysian national arrested in 2009 for trying to carry 43 grams or about three tablespoons of heroin into Singapore. He was sentenced to death in 2010, spending more than a decade as a death row inmate before his execution.

International rights groups made the world aware of Dharmalingam's situation; EU representatives, UN experts, billionaire Richard Branson and actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry all expressed their support against the Singaporean sentence. Singapore has also been questioned about its approach to drug-related crimes.

Dharmalingam was reportedly coerced into carrying the package without knowing what was inside. Despite his supporters pointing to his IQ of 69, neither the investigation nor trial made any specific disability-related accommodations.

Singapore's chief justice, Sundaresh Menon, previously stated that Dharmalingam had been "afforded due process." Singapore's government stated that its strict drugs laws, including the death penalty, are the most effective defense against crime. The government stated it "clearly understood the nature of his acts."

Also, in an earlier statement, the government claimed they found Dharmalingam "did not lose his sense of judgment of the rightness or wrongness of what he was doing." The execution was finalized after the last appeal by his mother was dismissed on Tuesday. The court said Dharmalingam had been given "due process in accordance with the law" and had "exhausted his rights of appeal and almost every other recourse under the law over some 11 years".

According to a Reuters, by the end of Tuesday's hearing, Dharmalingam and his family reached through a gap in a glass screen to hold each other's hands tightly as they cried. Dharmalingam's "ma" could be heard in the courtroom. He was permitted to spend two hours with relatives in the supreme court building.

Dharmalingam worked as a welder in Johor Bahru in Malaysia, desperately trying to find and save enough money to support his father, who was due to have a heart operation. According to the campaigners, he reportedly approached a man to ask for a loan of roughly £100 ($125) and was subsequently coerced into smuggling the package.

His funeral would be held in the town of Ipoh in Malaysia, as confirmed by Dharmalingam's brother, Navin Kumar.

Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, campaigning against the death penalty, said Dharmalingam's name would go down in history as "the victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice."

Panchalai Supermaniam (C), mother of the Malaysian national Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam
Panchalai Supermaniam (C), mother of the Malaysian national Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam sentenced to death for trafficking heroin into Singapore, arrives at the Supreme Court for the final appeal in Singapore on April 26, 2022. Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images

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