Our Silence Makes Us Accomplices Wednesday, Jan 24 2007 

Action for Tochi, Chee Siok Chin, 23 Jan 07

As some of you may have known, 21 year-old Iwuchkwu Amara Tochi, a Nigerian national will be hanged by the Singapore authorities this Friday 26 January 2007.

Our president, Mr. SR Nathan, has refused to grant clemency to this young man. This is perhaps not surprising as Mr. Nathan has never granted clemency to any prisoner on the death row since his presidency in 1999.

However, the greater tragedy in this case lies in the fact that the president will not spare the life of an innocent man. After a 13-day trial, High Court Judge Kan Ting Chui pronounced that “there was no evidence he (Tochi) knew the capsule contained diamorphine”. In addition to that the judge had said, “there is nothing to suggest that Smith had told him (Tochi) they contained diamorphine, or that (Tochi) had found that out of his own.”

And yet, despite this lack of evidence that Tochi knew that he had drugs on him, the Supreme Court has sentenced him to death. When Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong took over office last year, he had said, “Let me emphasise that the strict, but fair and efficient administration of criminal justice, will remain a key priority…I intend to set up a panel to review how current sentencing and bail guidelines can be further rationalized and improved.” Where lies the rationale for a man to be sentenced to death when the CJ’s own colleague in the High Court even doubted Tochi knew he had drugs on him?

This cold-blooded and mindless act by the Singapore Government must at least rouse the conscience of the people. If we remain silent, are we not accomplices of this horrible execution? Some of us are moved to act when we witness injustice at its gravest. This is why we have decided to demonstrate our outrage publicly to bring attention to this tragic matter.

Human rights lawyer Mr M Ravi, who has been campaigning tirelessly for Tochi, and I will join a 24-hour hunger strike launched by European Member of Parliament Marco Panella to support the campaign currently taking place in Italy, calling for a worldwide Moratorium on Death Penalty. To sign the Moratorium, please go here.

Mr. Ravi and I will be at Speakers’ Corner from 7am on Thursday 25 January and will go on a fast to register our outrage and to keep vigil with Tochi. We will then proceed to the grounds outside Changi Prison after 7pm to continue with this until his execution at 6am on 26 January.

As a mark of support and solidarity for an innocent man whose life will be taken from him in a few days from now, please join us at the Speakers’ Corner (Thu 25 Jan, 7 am–7 pm) and Changi Prison (7 pm onwards).


Nigerian President Urges Singapore Not to Hang Tochi Wednesday, Jan 24 2007 

Obasanjo urges Singapore not to hang Nigerian man

ABUJA, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo asked Singapore’s government on Tuesday to grant repreive to a 21-year-old Nigerian man due to be executed for drug smuggling.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi was arrested at Singapore’s Changi airport in November 2004 with 727 grammes of heroin. He is due to be executed on Friday after his appeal to Singapore’s president for clemency failed last year.

“It is for the reason of obtaining your kind pardon and clemency for the convicted Nigerian that I write this letter to you … to earnestly urge you to reconsider the conviction of the Singaporean Court of Appeal and to commute the death sentence to imprisonment,” Obasanjo said in a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Obasanjo’s appeal came after Saudi Arabia executed a Nigerian man in December for smuggling cocaine into the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Human rights group Amnesty International has also called for clemency for Tochi, saying the judge who convicted the Nigerian “appears to have accepted that he (Tochi) might not have realised that the substance he was carrying was heroin.”

The drugs were estimated by the authorities to have a street value of $970,000.

The drug laws of the island nation of 4.4 million people are among the harshest in the world. The death penalty is mandatory for anyone caught with more than 15 grammes of heroin.

Government officials say the location of the city-state close to drug-producing countries forces it to take a tough stance on smuggling.