Judge Sentences Man to Death by Hanging Via Zoom Call

A man in Singapore was recently sentenced to death by hanging via Zoom call, marking the second time the death penalty has been issued virtually.

On Friday, a judge in Singapore sentenced Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian man for heroin trafficking offenses. According to The Straits Times, Genasan introduced two drug dealers to each other in 2011, and was found to be associated with trafficking at least 28.5 grams of heroin.

The Straits Times also reported that Genasan departed from Singapore a day after he introduced the duo, who were identified as V. Shanmugam Veloo from Malaysia and Mohd Suief Ismail of Singapore. Genasan was arrested in Malaysia in 2016 and extradited to Singapore five days later on January 21. He was put on trial in 2018 and sentenced on May 15.

As Singapore remains under lockdown, in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak, judges in the country felt that issuing the sentence via Zoom call, a popular video chatting service, was the safest way.

"For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing," a spokesperson for Singapore's Supreme Court told Reuters.

According to the human rights activist group, Amnesty International, Singapore is one of only four other countries that still issue the death penalty for drug-related offenses. In a recent statement, Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty International's death penalty advisor, said that the decision in Genasan's case, specifically during the current pandemic, is "abhorrent."

"Whether via Zoom or in person, a death sentence is always cruel and inhumane," Sangiorgio said. "This case is another reminder that Singapore continues to defy international law and standards by imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking, and as a mandatory punishment."

In this photo illustration a Zoom App logo is displayed on a smartphone on March 30, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier Douliery/Getty

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, recently made similar remarks while speaking to Reuters, saying, "Singapore's use of the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and the use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so."

The spokesperson for Singapore's Supreme Court told Reuters that this was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced virtually in the country, but this is the second time this has happened on a global scale.

On May 4, a man in Nigeria, Olalekan Hameed, was found guilty of murdering his mother's employer in 2018 and was sentenced to death by hanging via a Zoom call.

According to CNN, Hameed heard his ruling while appearing on the call from prison, along with his lawyer and prosecutors, who also joined the call remotely.

"The sentence of this court upon you, Olalekan Hameed, is that you be hanged by the neck until you be pronounced dead and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. This is the virtual judgment of the court," Lagos judge Mojisola Dada said during the call, according to BBC.

Newsweek reached out to Zoom for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.