Singapore sentences man to death via Zoom call

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A man has been sentenced to death in Singapore via a Zoom video-call for his role in a drug deal, the city-state’s first case where capital punishment has been delivered remotely.

Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction on Friday, court documents showed, with the country under lockdown to try and curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.

“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 said in response to Reuters’ questions, citing restrictions imposed to minimize virus spread.

It was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore, the spokesperson added. Genasan’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, said his client received the judge’s verdict on a Zoom call and is considering an appeal.

While rights groups have criticized the use of Zoom in capital cases, Fernando said he did not object to the use of video-conferencing for Friday’s call since it was only to receive the judge’s verdict, which could be heard clearly, and no other legal arguments were presented.

California-based tech firm Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment made via its representatives in Singapore. The Attorney General’s Chambers, the public prosecutor, referred Reuters’ questions to the Supreme Court.

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