Kerala

Death penalty on 4 Keralites suspended by Malaysian King, fresh probe ordered

Pathanapuram: The families of four Keralites, who are facing capital punishment in Malaysia on drug-related charges, have received information that King Muhammad V has suspended the verdict and ordered a fresh probe.

Ranith from Pathanapuram in Kollam, Sadanandan from Chittar in Pathanamthitta, Aby Alex from Chathanthara and Sumesh Sudhakaran from Varkala had been sentenced to death under Malaysia’s strict laws designed to prevent drug trafficking.

The four cleaning staff were arrested in 2013 during their duty hours, as narcotics were found at the office of the Mercury Plastic Company where they work, besides in their residence.

The Malaysian Supreme Court sentenced them on January 17 this year. Their families had petitioned legislators and state and central governments seeking intervention, but such attempts proved futile.

Finally the Gandhi Bhavan at Pathanapuram took up the case with the Satyasai Seva Sangham in Malaysia, whose leaders initiated legal proceedings to save the lives of the accused.

The four Keralites had arrived in Malaysia on May 3, 2013. The company used to transport them from their accommodation to the factory and back.

On July 26, 2013, a police raid at their accommodation yielded narcotics from a Malaysian of Tamil descent, Nagarajan.

Narcotics were also seized from their office.

Malaysian A Sargunan, 42, and Keralites Sumesh Sudhakaran, Alex Aby Jacob Alexander, Renjith Raveendran and Sajith Sadanandan had faced two charges under Section 39B (1)(a) Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

They were found guilty of trafficking 4,252.7 grams of methamphetamine on July 26, 2013 in a house in Sungai Lalang, Semenyih.

The five men were also found guilty of trafficking 1,506.9 grams of ketamine on the same day and at the same time.

The five Indian nationals had been employed as cleaners and Sargunan, who was a taxi driver, was engaged on a part-time basis to transport them from their accommodation to their workplace daily.

In their defence, Sargunan said his duty was just to transport the workers and the four Indians said they were merely cleaners who worked on two three-hour shifts at the premises.

In delivering the sentence, Justice Datuk Ghazali Cha said the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt, that the men were aware the premises were used to process drugs.

Other incriminating circumstantial evidence was the discovery of Sargunan’s shirt and towel as well as some of the accused’s toothbrushes in the premises, which indicated that they had spent long hours there.

Initially, there were seven arrests but two of them – Malaysian R Nagarajan and Indian national Shajahan Thasthagir – were acquitted at the early stages of the trial which started on March 1, 2016.

Datuk N Sivananthan and Low Huey Theng defended Sargunan while Jayarubbiny Jayaraj defended the other four men. DPP Deepa Nair Thevaharan prosecuted.

In the meanwhile, the fresh probe that the King has ordered will prove to be crucial to the accused, though the verdict has been stayed.

The panel appointed by the King will gather evidence and record statements from them. The court will reach a final verdict after examining these also.

The inquiry will be swift as dictated by Malaysian law.

The families of the accused are worried that the accused do not know the Malaysian language. They also point out that the company trapped their youth with a false promise of help.

Some of the relatives are planning to fly to Malaysia for coordinating legal procedures.

(With inputs from manorama)

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