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Singapore executes 1st woman in almost 20 years over 31 grams of heroin

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A woman caught with narcotics in Singapore in 2018 was executed on Friday, making her the first woman the city-state has punished with the death penalty since 2004.

Capital punishment: Saridewi Binte Djamani, 45, was executed by hanging on Friday, Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau announced in a news release.

The bureau noted that the woman was “accorded full due process under the law and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process” as the government faced an outcry from human rights activists against the decision.

What happened: Saridewi was convicted after being caught with 30.72 grams (approximately 1.08 ounces) of diamorphine, or pure heroin, in 2018. The bureau noted that under the Misuse of Drugs Act, anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin will be subjected to the death penalty.

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The amount Saridewi had at the time of her arrest was “more than twice that amount, and is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 370 abusers for a week,” the bureau added.

Arrested and charged: The woman was arrested at her HDB flat in Singapore on June 17, 2016, during an operation launched by the bureau.

At her hearing on Sept. 20, 2018, during which she was sentenced to death, Saridewi reportedly did not deny selling drugs from her apartment and told the court that she was suffering from persistent depressive disorder and severe substance use disorder.

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The outcry from activists: The execution was carried out despite several activist groups, including the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the International Federation for Human Rights and Amnesty International, urging the Singaporean government to halt its decision.

Activists argued that Singapore’s drug-related crime prevention — the death penalty — only affects the vulnerable and marginalized in the community, adding that some prisoners allegedly end up representing themselves because they cannot access lawyers.

Michel Kazatchkine, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, called the recent execution “distressing and shocking,” adding, “This is fundamentally a violation of international human rights law because it is a disproportionate punishment.”

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Other executions: Saridewi, the first woman executed in Singapore since 2004’s Yen May Woen, a 36-year-old hairdresser, was the second person executed this week and the 15th since Singapore resumed executions in March 2022.

Some of the other recently reported executions carried out by Singapore include those of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam and Tangaraju Suppiah.

 

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