18 Jan 2007
Pending Hanging of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in Singapore
Press Message on the Pending Hanging of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in Singapore
It is with great sadness that we compose this press message regarding the death sentence on Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, to be hanged at dawn on 26th January after a lengthy, lonely and soul-destroying imprisonment.
Tochi was arrested for allegedly carrying heroin into Changi airport in November 2004. He was 19 years old when he was arrested.
The court in Singapore delivered the death sentence after a 13-day trial.
Tochi has been waiting in maximum security section of Changi prison from 2004 until today. His family in Nigeria believed until July last year that he was playing football for a Singapore football team.
Tochi was indeed a champion footballer who played in Nigerian state league championships. He claims he was tricked into trafficking drugs to Singapore on the promise of being able to play for a club here.
It is particularly disturbing to note that trial judge himself raised reasonable doubts in Tochi's case, mentioning that it was entirely possible that Tochi did not know he was bringing in drugs to Singapore--before proceeding to convict him and pass the mandatory death penalty. *
At a time when the Singapore prison system has a renewed emphasis upon rehabilitation, and when the Yellow Ribbon campaign asks us to give even seasoned criminals a second chance, can we not find it in our hearts to extend this to a person who--if he indeed is guilty--made a desperate mistake at the age of 19?
The death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore continues to be "mandatory", which means that judges are not able to take into significance and mitigating circumstances (such as the age and general naivity of the accused) when passing their verdict.
And at a time when even the hangings of persons responsible for mass killings and genocide, such as Saddam Hussein and his cronies are being regarded with disgust by the world at large; are seen as reproducing the criminal cruelty of the original perpetrators, is it not time that we in Singapore reconsider our stance on the repeated, mandatory hanging of small-fry drug mules?
Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign
* Tochi was arrested in Changi Airport in November 2004. He claims he was carrying herbal medicine for a third party, at the behest of his "friend", Mr Smith. According to Tochi, Mr Smith befriended him months earlier and advised him to approach football clubs in Singapore.
Against Tochi, the trial judge, Mr Kan Ting Chiu, made the following finding at paragraph 42 of his judgment  SGHC 233: "There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out of his own."
The Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) comprises a concerned group of Singaporeans from diverse backgrounds who have come together over the issue of the Death Penalty. Through a series of debates and events we hope to foster a public debate on the practice of capital punishment in Singapore and throughout the world.