Malaysia to Repeal Death Penalty and Sedition Law


BANGKOK — The case of Muhammad Lukman Mohamad ignited outrage in August, when he obtained a dying sentence in Malaysia for promoting medicinal hashish oil to most cancers sufferers.

Even the nation’s new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, referred to as for a assessment of the sentence the 29-year-old father obtained.

Now, Mr. Mahathir’s authorities goes one step additional, eliminating the dying penalty fully.

“All dying penalty might be abolished. Full cease,” the nation’s minister of legislation, Liew Vui Keong, informed reporters this week.

The federal government can be making ready to rescind the colonial-era Sedition Act, which was utilized by earlier governments to silence critics and opposition politicians. Gobind Singh, the communications and multimedia minister, mentioned on Thursday that use of the legislation needs to be suspended instantly, pending its repeal.

“The choice was made by the cupboard yesterday that since we’re going to abolish the Sedition Act, motion underneath that act needs to be suspended briefly,” he informed reporters.

Parliament is predicted to contemplate measures rescinding each legal guidelines within the coming weeks.

About 1,200 individuals, a lot of them sentenced for drug offenses, are on dying row in Malaysia. The federal government imposed a moratorium on executions in July.

Amnesty Worldwide referred to as the choice to finish capital punishment “a serious step ahead for all those that have campaigned for an finish to the dying penalty in Malaysia.”

Abolishing capital punishment and repealing the Sedition Act have been within the marketing campaign platform of Mr. Mahathir’s coalition, Pakatan Harapan, however the measures obtained little consideration in the course of the latest election marketing campaign.

The coalition won a surprising victory in May over the political machine of the prime minister at the time, Najib Razak, who now faces dozens of charges of corruption. Mr. Mahathir, 92, previously served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

Ending the death penalty could aid in the investigation of Mr. Najib’s possible role in the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, by his bodyguards. While the bodyguards were convicted, the authorities hope to discover who gave the orders.

Ms. Altantuya helped negotiate Malaysia’s purchase of French submarines, a transaction that remains under investigation for possible kickbacks. She claimed that she was owed $500,000 for helping to broker the deal.

One person convicted of her murder, Sirul Azhar Umar, fled to Australia, where he is now in immigration detention. He has offered to help Malaysia’s new government in its investigation, but Australia had been unwilling to return him because he could have faced the death penalty in Malaysia.

Securing Mr. Sirul’s return was not the purpose of abolishing the death penalty but is “a good side benefit,” said Ramkarpal Singh, a member of Parliament and the brother of Mr. Gobind.

“Now the Australian government must send him back,” he said. “They have no reason to keep him once it is abolished.”

Malaysia’s move to end capital punishment goes against the grain in Southeast Asia, where some countries execute people convicted of trafficking even relatively small amounts of narcotics.

Only two countries in the region, Cambodia and the Philippines, have banned the death penalty. And President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has encouraged extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug users and sellers, is leading an effort to reinstate legal executions.

In Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for murder, drug trafficking, treason and waging war against the king.

The case of Mr. Mohamad, the cannabis oil seller, helped focus attention on the unfairness of imposing a mandatory death sentence in drug trafficking cases even when they involved the sale of relatively small amounts, said Mr. Ramkarpal, who has long opposed the death penalty.

During his trial, Mr. Mohamad testified that he had sold cannabis oil to patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

“Cases like that made the point very clearly that the mandatory death penalty ought to go,” Mr. Ramkarpal said.

Follow Richard C. Paddock on Twitter: @RCPaddock.

Sharon Tan contributed reporting from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


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