Thursday December 11, 2014
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Amer Lawyer Hamzah Arshad speaking today at the Bar Council forum on death penalty and freedom of expression, December 11, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow FengAmer Lawyer Hamzah Arshad speaking today at the Bar Council forum on death penalty and freedom of expression, December 11, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow FengKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 — The mandatory death penalty encourages corruption as it prompts suspects desperate to escape capital punishment to offer bribes for their charges to be reduced, a criminal lawyer said today.

Amer Hamzah Arshad told a Bar Council forum on the death penalty that from his experience, “certain individuals” would exploit suspects arrested for drug trafficking or murder, both of which carry the mandatory death penalty, or their family members by asking for money to have the offences reduced.

For instance, drug trafficking would be dropped to drug possession, as the latter is only punishable with imprisonment and whipping.

“Those in that situation, they don’t have much of an option,” said Amer Hamzah during a Bar Council forum on the death penalty today.

“You’re dealing with the prospect of being sent to the gallows. Another prospect, you pay a certain amount of money. It may be exorbitant but at least you save a life,” the criminal lawyer added.

He also accused the authorities of using torture to try and extort confessions from suspects in “certain instances”.

“Evidence could be planted, fabricated. It has happened in some instances,” said Amer Hamzah.

The lawyer urged Putrajaya to abolish the death penalty or at the very least, to make the punishment discretionary rather than mandatory.

“Singapore has taken a positive step when it comes to drug trafficking. It’s no longer a mandatory death penalty. There’s discretion for the judge to decide on the case,” he said.

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