May 21, 2020 08:25
The Singapore Supreme Court has sentenced a man to death via a video chat service due to the coronavirus lockdown in the city-state.
A 37-year-old Malaysian man was sentenced to death by hanging last Friday for a 2011 heroin deal, court documents showed.
Defense lawyer Peter Fernando said his client, Punithan Genasan, was sentenced in a hearing on the video chat app Zoom while he was in jail and Fernando and prosecutors took part in the hearing from various locations.
Human Rights Watch condemned the use of the app to enforce the death penalty, maintaining it exacerbates a punishment it already considers cruel and inhumane.
"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," said Human Rights official Phil Robertson.
A Supreme Court spokesman told Reuters the virtual hearing was held "for the safety of all involved in the proceedings."
The spokesman also said it was the first criminal case where a death sentence was announced remotely in Singapore. The U.S.-based Zoom did not comment on the case nor did the public prosecutor. Fernando said he and Genasan will meet on Friday to discuss an appeal.
Rights groups have also denounced the use of other video-calls for capital punishment verdicts, including a case in Nigeria earlier this month.
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