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Singapore Executes Man on Drugs Charge, Rejecting Mental Disability Plea

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Image source, Sarmila Dharmalingam

A Malaysian drug smuggler has been executed in Singapore, despite pleas for clemency because he was intellectually impaired.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam was caught with about three tablespoons of heroin and had been on death row since 2010.

His case was highly controversial as he was assessed by a medical expert to have an IQ of 69 – a level that indicates an intellectual disability.

But the government said he “clearly understood the nature of his acts”.

In an earlier statement, the government said they found he “did not lose his sense of judgment of the rightness or wrongness of what he was doing”.

The execution came after a last-ditch appeal by his mother was dismissed on Tuesday. The court said Nagaenthran had been given “due process in accordance with the law”, and had “exhausted his rights of appeal and almost every other recourse under the law over some 11 years”.

At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Nagaenthran and his family reached through a gap in a glass screen to grasp each other’s hands tightly as they wept, according to a Reuters report. His cries of “ma” could be heard in the courtroom.

Singapore’s government reacted angrily to his mother’s appeal.

A statement from the attorney general’s office said it was an unjustifiable attempt to delay the execution. Officials said they might even take action against those involved in preparing the application.

In 2009, Nagaenthran was caught crossing into Singapore from Malaysia with 43g (1.5oz) heroin strapped to his left thigh.

Under Singapore’s drug laws – which are among the toughest in the world – those caught carrying more than 15g of heroin are subject to the death penalty.

During his trial, the 34-year-old initially said he was coerced into carrying the drugs, but later said he had committed the offence because he needed money.

The court said his initial defence was “fabricated”. He was eventually sentenced to death by hanging.

In 2015, he appealed to have his sentence commuted to life in prison on the basis that he suffered from an intellectual disability.

His lawyers had argued that the execution of a mentally ill person is prohibited under international human rights law.

But a court found that he was not intellectually disabled. A push for presidential clemency was also rejected last year.

“The Court of Appeal found that this was the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question,” said Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs in an earlier statement.

The movement has gained traction on social media, where there has been an unusual outpouring of anger and sympathy, including from the British billionaire Richard Branson and actor Stephen Fry, who oppose capital punishment and called on Singapore to spare Nagaenthran.

President Halimah Yacob: please spare the life of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam
@reprieve @stephenfry #SaveNagaenthran #Singapore pic.twitter.com/ElpMHzsECV

— Richard Branson (@richardbranson)

April 22, 2022

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Thousands had also signed a petition, arguing that the execution of a mentally ill person is prohibited under international human rights law.

On Tuesday rights group Reprieve called him the “victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice”.

“Nagen’s last days were spent, like much of the last decade, in the torturous isolation of solitary confinement,” said Reprieve’s Director Maya Foa.

“Our thoughts are with Nagen’s family, who never stopped fighting for him; their pain is unimaginable.”

Singaporean anti-death penalty activist Kirsten Han also released a photo of Nagaenthran on Wednesday, which pictured him reportedly wearing his favourite outfit.

Rest In Peace, Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam.

Before an execution, family members are allowed to buy clothes for the prisoner to wear at a photo shoot. The photos are given to the family shortly before, or after execution.

Navin says this was Nagen’s favourite outfit and photo. pic.twitter.com/wYXfqinIIn

— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes)

April 27, 2022

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The Singapore government has argued that international law does not prohibit the death penalty and that there is no international consensus on the use of it.

They have also argued that under Singapore law, he would not have been given the death penalty if the court had found him to be “suffering from an abnormality of mind which substantially impaired his mental responsibility”.

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Original Source: bbc.co.uk

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Pennsylvania Primary: Trump-backed ‘Dr Oz’ in Cliffhanger Vote Count

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Image source, Reuters

A Trump-backed celebrity doctor’s campaign to run as the next Republican senator for Pennsylvania has come down to a nail-biting conclusion.

Mehmet Oz, a surgeon best known for his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, is facing a cliffhanger vote count after the party primary.

He was neck and neck with former hedge fund executive David McCormick.

The race is being closely watched as a test of former President Donald Trump’s hold over the Republican party.

The contest in this key presidential swing state is one of a number taking place across the country to determine who will stand for office in the midterm elections in November.

The midterms fall halfway through a president’s term in office. They decide who controls the two chambers which make up Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

At present, the Democratic Party controls both chambers, but by very slim majorities. And historically, the party that holds the White House has tended to suffer losses in the midterms.

The primaries decide which party’s candidates will run against each other in the midterms, and their election will play an important part in determining the rest of US President Joe Biden’s presidency.

Five states held primary elections on Tuesday, making it the busiest date on the 2022 midterms calendar so far. Here are some of the projected results:

Pennsylvania: Pro-Trump Republican state legislator Doug Mastriano won the race to become the Republicans’ nominated candidate for governor of the state. He has been a vocal supporter of Mr Trump’s baseless claim that he won the 2020 presidential electionNorth Carolina: Trump-backed US Congressman Madison Cawthorn lost a Republican nomination contest to defend his seat amid a number of controversies. In the last few months, the 26-year-old has been charged with carrying a weapon to an airport, claimed he had been invited to orgies by Republican colleagues, faced criticism for appearing in a leaked naked tape and called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug”North Carolina: Congressman Ted Budd – endorsed by Mr Trump – defeated former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to become the Republicans’ nominee. He will face Democrat Cheri Beasley, the first black woman to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. The race is expected to be competitive Idaho: Republican governor Brad Little defeated a challenge by his own Lt Gov Janice McGeachin. The two have been locked in a power struggle as Trump-backed Ms McGeachin issued orders while Mr Little was out of state last year, including barring mask mandates.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump’s pick for the Ohio Senate primary cruised to victory against his opponents. But Pennsylvania’s primary has gone down to the wire.

Despite Mr Trump’s endorsement of Mehmet Oz, the race stayed in a three-way dead heat until polls closed.

The Republican contest was shaken up by a late surge from right-wing commentator Kathy Barnette.

But Mr McCormick came from behind, with the race narrow enough to be in recount territory.

Pennsylvania primary marks test of Trump’s strength

By Nomia Iqbal, BBC News

Dr Oz arrived at the venue and did a thumbs up to us and said he was feeling good. Taking to the stage he thanked everyone who supported him and made it clear he wasn’t conceding.

He said victory would be his in the end. But his closest rival Dave McCormick – who wasn’t backed by Mr Trump – said the same thing.

The results are still being counted but at the moment it’s within the margins for a recount. The full count of the actual ballots could take days.

It feels a lot like 2020 when we were here for the presidential race. In the end Pennsylvania projected for Biden taking him over the threshold.

Tonight was a critical test of the former President Trump’s ability to back winners… He wants to use the Primaries to prove his dominance over the Republican Party.

Mr Trump really got behind Dr Oz – whether his base did is yet to be decided.

The eventual Republican winner will take on Lt Gov John Fetterman, who easily won the Democratic Senate nomination on Tuesday night – two days after announcing he had suffered a stroke.

On Monday, the left-wing Democrat’s team said he had undergone surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator.

Mr Fetterman, a Harvard-educated former mayor who sported hoodie sweatshirts instead of suits on the campaign trail, remained in hospital on the night of his election victory, with his wife speaking at a campaign event in his place.

Image source, Twitter/@JohnFetterman

In a White House statement on Tuesday night, Mr Biden congratulated Mr Fetterman and argued that the Republican candidates were “too extreme”.

But a controversy that dogged Mr Fetterman in his primary campaign is certain to be raised by Republicans during the general election.

In 2013, during Mr Fetterman’s second term as mayor of Braddock, a town of around 2,000 outside Pittsburgh, he pursued an innocent black jogger who he wrongly thought had been firing a gun near his home.

Mr Fetterman, who is a hulking 6ft 8in and was armed with a shotgun during the confrontation, has refused to apologise for the incident.

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Original Article: bbc.co.uk

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Ukraine War: Snake Island and Battle for Control in Black Sea

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Image source, PLANET LABS PBC

Right from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Snake Island was given a vital and almost mythical status in the war. This unremarkable, rocky outcrop in the Black Sea was seized by Russia and has become a battleground of strategic value.

Russia claims Ukraine has sustained disastrous losses in a failed bid to recapture the island, including special forces, warplanes, helicopters and drones. Ukraine insists it has limited its campaign to attacking facilities on the island and boats.

The battle is not over and Russia is repeatedly trying to reinforce its exposed garrison, says UK defence ministry intelligence.

Snake or Zmiinyi Island is a fraction of a square kilometre in size and there are no more snakes to speak of. But there can be no doubt of its importance for control of the western Black Sea.

“If Russian troops succeed in occupying Snake Island and set up their long-range air-defence systems, they will control the sea, land and air in the north-west part of the Black Sea and in the south of Ukraine,” Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov told the BBC.

Image source, UKRAINIAN GROUND FORCES

That is why Russia’s flagship Moskva sailed there within hours of the start of the war, telling Ukrainian soldiers on the island to give themselves up: “I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed,” said a Russian officer.

“Russian warship get lost,” came the now legendary response, although in far cruder language. The island was seized but weeks later the Moskva was sunk.

Losing the Moskva means Russia’s supply ships to the island now have minimal protection, says the UK, although, if it can consolidate its position, then it could dominate a large part of the Black Sea.

Threat to Ukraine, its neighbours and Nato

A reinforced Russian presence could be disastrous for Ukraine, strategically as well as economically.

Ukraine has already had to close its port at Odesa, suspending vital grain exports, but Mr Zhdanov fears the island could also be used as a second frontline.

“If the Russians succeed in installing long-range air defence systems then they will be able to defend their squadron, which can reach Ukraine’s coastline.”

It would also give Russian troops the chance to break into Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway territory under Russian control that lies next-door to Ukraine and not far from Odesa.

However, Snake Island is a mere 45km (28 miles) away from the coast of Romania, which is part of the West’s Nato alliance.

UK naval analyst Jonathan Bentham believes a Russian S-400 air missile system on the island would be a “big game-changer”. If Russia were able to deploy a missile system, not only would Odesa come under threat, but Nato’s southern flank would be endangered, too, warns Romanian historian Dorin Dobrincu.

“This is very important for the Romanian government and people but also for the entire alliance. Russia would have the capacity to destroy cities and military capability in the east of our territory.”

Nato reinforced Romania’s borders from the start of the war, sending in Belgian and French forces.

But there are major economic risks, too, for Romania. Snake Island lies close to the mouth of the River Danube, which delineates Romania’s border with Ukraine. Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta is not far south and has been taking in container ships that are no longer able to sail to Odesa.

War in Ukraine: More coverage

Russian military-political analyst Alexander Mikhailov said troops on Snake Island could be in a position to control traffic into the north-western Black Sea and the Danube delta – the gateway to south-eastern Europe. “If there’s a military base or military infrastructure, it would be possible to block ships that enter the river as well as leave,” he told Russian media.

Romania’s Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre believes Russia may decide to annex the island and control as many Black Sea shipping routes as possible towards the Bosphorus in Turkey.

Historically, Snake Island was Romanian territory until it was ceded in 1948 to the Soviet Union, which used it as a radar base. As Romania came under Soviet influence until 1989, Bucharest accepted the arrangement.

Ukraine took control with the fall of the communism and eventually in 2009 the International Court of Justice drew up the island’s territorial limits, giving Romania almost 80% of the Black Sea continental shelf near the island, and Ukraine the rest.

Snake Island is not just of strategic use, because this part of the Black Sea is rich in hydrocarbon resources – so The Hague ruling means both countries possess reserves of petroleum and gas.

It may seem to be a small clump of rock with little obvious value, but its fate is a major element of Russia’s war.

Image source, Ukraine Postal Service

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Original Source: bbc.co.uk

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Disabled Children ‘dumped’ in Ukrainian Institutions

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There are claims that thousands of disabled Ukrainian children have been forgotten and abandoned in institutions that can’t look after them.

The human rights organisation, Disability Rights International, has carried out an investigation and found children with severe disabilities tied to beds in overrun children’s homes unable to cope.

The BBC has been given exclusive access to an institution in western Ukraine, where disabled children from the east have been left by their carers who fled to neighbouring countries.

Reporting by Dan Johnson

Filmed by Jonathan Dunstan

Produced by Ruth Clegg and Natalie Higgins

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Original Post: bbc.co.uk

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