PUTRAJAYA, Oct 12 – An Iranian on death row has filed an application to stay his death by hanging pending an amendment to a law that gives judges discretion on sentencing.
Hamidreza Farahmand Hassan, in his application filed in the Federal Court today, said the Malaysian government was scheduled to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to do away with the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers.
The former professional kick-boxing coach said judges would then be given the discretion to impose the capital punishment or a jail term under Section 39B of the law.
However, Hamidreza said the government had been unclear on whether its decision to amend the law had retrospective effect or otherwise.
Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh, who filed the application, said the Iranian would be prejudiced if the sentence were to be carried out before any changes in the legislation, as the penalty was irreversible.
“Hamidreza wants the court to allow the application as he will lose an opportunity to substitute the death sentence if Parliament approves amendments to the law,” the lawyer said.
Ramkarpal, who is also Bukit Gelugor MP, said there were special circumstances as to why his client’s application should be allowed.
Hamidreza, 36, and two others were found guilty of trafficking 1.4kg of methamphetamine at KLIA in Sepang on Feb 2, 2010.
The Shah Alam High Court sentenced them on May 15, 2014, and the conviction was affirmed by the Federal Court last year.
Last week, Hamidreza filed an application for clemency to the Selangor Pardons Board.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said said in a written parliamentary response on Aug 1 that the cabinet had unanimously agreed to do away with the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers, but that the decision still had to be approved by Parliament.
She said the cabinet had agreed to amend the colonial-era law to give the courts a choice in sentencing.
Capital punishment is mandatory in Malaysia for murder and drug trafficking, among other crimes.
Azalina said a total of 651 Malaysians had been sentenced to death since 1992, most of them for drug-related offences.
In March, human rights group Amnesty International ranked Malaysia tenth in the use of the death penalty among the 23 countries that carried out capital punishment last year.
Two days ago, in conjunction with World Day Against the Death Penalty, Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said the Bar would remain steadfast in wanting to abolish the death penalty for all forms of crime.
“There is no empirical evidence that confirms that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes,” he had said.
He added that the Bar’s primary opposition to the death penalty was because life was sacred, and every person had an inherent right to life as guaranteed under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution.