We Believe In Second Chances would like to express our relief that the Court of Appeal has decided to overturn the death sentence handed down to 36-year-old Malaysian, Khor Soon Lee.
Khor was arrested at the Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint on 9 August 2008. He was found with four bundles of drugs. One of them contained heroin.
When the case came before the Court of Appeal, Judges Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang and V K Rajah ruled that the evidence showed that Khor did not know heroin was among the drugs he had tried to smuggle into Singapore.
Khor’s lawyer said he believed he was smuggling Erimin, Ketamine, Ecstasy and Ice. He did not know that the bundle that was meant to carry Ice, contained in actual fact, 27.86g of heroin.
Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin is presumed to be trafficking in the substance and faces the Mandatory Death Penalty.
Khor’s sentence was also overturned because his co-accused Tony (also known as Ong Heng Hor) was not available to testify at the hearing.
According to Khor, he had acted as a runner for Tony five times previously. However, he was careful not to smuggle heroin, as he knew it would attract the death penalty.
Tony was arrested shortly after Khor. He was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal and was subsequently repatriated to Malaysia, due to insufficient evidence. He refused to return to Singapore for Khor’s hearing and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
The Court of Appeal assumed that if Tony had been present to give his testimony, he would have corroborated Khor’s story.
We are glad that Khor Soon Lee will have a second chance at life, instead of being sent to the gallows. We hope that, whatever his sentence may be, he will seize this opportunity to reflect and to change his ways.
In light of this case, we urge the Court of Appeal to take another look at the case of Cheong Chun Yin. Our reasons are as follows:
1. Cheong Chun Yin has always maintained that he did not know he was carrying heroin. He had gone to Myanmar after his friend “Lau De” persuaded him to smuggle gold bars for the purposes of tax evasion.
Chun Yin’s story has been consistent throughout, from interrogation to trial right up till today.
2. Unlike Khor, who was arrested while on his sixth drug run, Chun Yin had never been a drug runner before.
3. When arrested, Chun Yin fully cooperated with the authorities. He not only gave the CNB officers the name of his contact, “Lau De”, but also gave them a verbal description of the person as well as the phone numbers he had used.
However, the CNB officers made no effort to investigate, check the phone numbers or trace “Lau De”. In his written judgement, High Court Judge Choo Han Teck asserted that it was “immaterial” whether the CNB had made “adequate efforts to trace ‘Lau De’ or check on his cell-phones.”
Just like how the Court of Appeal decided that Tony would have been able to support Khor’s story had he been at the hearing, it is likely that had the CNB attempted to trace “Lau De”, he would have been able to corroborate Chun Yin’s story.
We understand the Court of Appeal has emphasised that Khor’s was an “unusual case”. However, since Chun Yin’s execution is imminent, we feel that urgent action should be taken to prevent any possible miscarriage of justice.
We would like to stress again that the death penalty is irreversible. Any mistake or lapse in the process would lead to an innocent person being sent to the gallows in the name of all Singaporeans.
It is thus of extreme importance that every avenue be thoroughly investigated, and every piece of evidence heavily scrutinised before any sentence is passed.
We therefore implore the Singapore government and judiciary to stay Chun Yin’s execution, and reopen the case.