‘Extradite Sirul once death penalty abolished’

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KUALA LUMPUR — The government must initiate the extradition of former police commando Sirul Azhar Umar from Australia once Malaysia abolishes the death penalty, said Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh.

The federal lawmaker and lawyer said the move would remove any legal obstacle to Australia’s repatriation of Sirul, who was convicted here for the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Australian law prohibits its government from sending any detainee to a destination where he may be put to death.

“Sirul’s sentence also ought to be reviewed and the harshest penalty ought to be imposed on him given the heinous nature of his crime.

“The government must make a formal request to Australia for the return of Sirul as soon as possible after Parliament abolishes the death penalty so that Sirul serves his sentence,” he said in a statement.

Yesterday, de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong revealed that the Cabinet had agreed to abolish the death penalty and said this would be tabled as soon as the parliamentary session starts on Monday.

However, Liew said Sirul’s extradition was not discussed at the Cabinet meeting.

Ramkarpal also proposed for a provision to be introduced in the new legislation to allow the judiciary to review existing death sentences individually with an eye on commutation.

He said it was necessary for the courts to have the leeway to substitute the death penalty previously passed with appropriate sentences.

“For instance, a person convicted for trafficking in a small amount of dangerous drugs ought not be given a lengthy prison sentence compared to a person convicted of murder,” he said.

Ramkarpal said the abolition of the death penalty was a welcome development, saying the sentence was proven ineffectual as a deterrent to crime.

Civil group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) urged yesterday the federal government to rescue Malaysians on death row abroad after announcing its plan to abolish capital punishment.

LFL adviser N. Surendran praised the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government for its move to table an abolition of laws providing for the death penalty in the next Dewan Rakyat sitting, but said many citizens are awaiting execution in other countries, including just across the Causeway in Singapore, mainly for drug offences.

“At this moment, let us also not forget the many hundreds of Malaysians who are languishing on death row in foreign countries, particularly for being drug mules,” the lawyer said in a statement.

In July last year, S. Prabagaran was hanged in Singapore after he was convicted of drug trafficking, despite calls from the United Nations and others to suspend his execution. “Having rejected the death penalty in this country, we now have the moral authority to fight for the lives of our citizens abroad,” Surendran said, adding that this must be a priority for the Foreign Ministry and Putrajaya.

The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) said yesterday that the decision to abolish the death penalty infuses Malaysia’s criminal justice system with values that “upholds life and proves its love for its citizenry — no matter how and where and when they have gone wrong”.