SINGAPORE: Human rights group Amnesty International has urged its members to push Singapore's government to grant clemency to a 21-year-old Nigerian scheduled to be executed next week for drug trafficking.
Amnesty International issued an "urgent action appeal" on Friday to its members around the world to ask the Singapore government to spare the life of Amara Tochi Iwuchukwu and for a moratorium on all executions in Singapore.
Iwuchukwu is to be executed Jan. 26 at Singapore's Changi Prison after the Southeast Asian country's president rejected his clemency appeal, according to a statement from Nigeria's non-governmental Civil Liberties Organization, or CLO.
Iwuchukwu was arrested at Singapore's airport in November 2004 after arriving from Dubai with 100 capsules containing 727 grams (26 ounces) of heroin, estimated by authorities to be worth 1.5 million Singapore dollars (US$970,000; €795,930).
Singapore has some of the world's harshest drug laws, including a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of trafficking more than 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of heroin.
At the time of his arrest, Iwuchukwu told narcotics officers the pills were African herbs that he was supposed to give to a sick friend. He also told officers that he came to try out for soccer teams playing in the country's Singapore League.
Amnesty International's appeal suggested that the judge who convicted Iwuchukwu "appears to have accepted that he might not have realized the substance he was carrying was heroin."
The verdict said that a "Mr. Smith" gave Tochi the pills to transport, according to Amnesty International.
Amnesty quoted the verdict as saying: "There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine (heroin). There was nothing to suggest that (Mr.) Smith (who gave Tochi the pills to transport) had told him they contained diamorphine, or that (Tochi) had found that out of his own."
Court officials were not available for comment on Saturday.
The group asked its members to immediately send letters, e-mails and faxes to Singapore's prime minister, deputy prime minister and attorney general in an effort to stop the execution.
CLO, the Nigerian human rights group, has urged Nigeria's government to intervene.
The Nigerian High Commission in Singapore helped Iwuchukwu file the appeal for presidential clemency, and is in regular contact with his family in Nigeria, a consular officer said Friday on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
Also convicted and on death row in the same case is Okele Nelson Malachy, 35, a stateless African who Amnesty said is reportedly from South Africa.
Singapore's strict drug laws made international headlines — and caused an outcry in Australia — in December 2005 when the city-state executed a 25-year-old Australian heroin trafficker despite numerous appeals from the Canberra government.
Amnesty International says Singapore is believed to have the world's highest per capita execution rate. The country's leaders say the tough laws and penalties are an effective deterrent against crimes that ruin lives.
20 Jan 2007