Singapore, May 20: Singapore's Supreme Court has given a last-minute reprieve to a Malaysian murder convict hours before he was scheduled to be executed today, the latest twist in what has been a series of legal ups-and-downs.
Kho Jabing was to be hanged early today, according to his family and lawyer, but the Supreme Court granted a stay on his execution after accepting an appeal by an activist lawyer, Jeannette Aruldoss Chong, late yesterday.
The court "granted an interim order staying the execution pending the hearing of the appeal," said a Supreme Court spokesperson, who cannot be identified under court rules.
Kho is accused of using a tree branch to assault and rob a construction worker in 2008. The worker died from multiple skull fractures and Kho was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010.
The appeal, to be heard by the Court of Appeal later Friday, would be the 31-year-old's last hope. Over the course of his legal battles during the last six years he has been sentenced to death, won appeals, resentenced to life imprisonment and caning, and again sentenced to death.
If the latest appeal is rejected the court will set a new date for execution, which in Singapore is by hanging, and is normally carried out before dawn at the Changi prison. Singapore's president has already rejected granting clemency.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal, Singapore's highest, had dismissed a different appeal by another defense attorney Gino Hardial Singh, who had suggested bias on the ground that one of court's judges had ruled against her client on two conflicting occasions.
The European Union and Amnesty International have called on Singapore to grant Kho clemency. According to the prison records, there were four executions carried out in 2015, one for murder and three for drug-related matters.
In 2012, Singapore amended its laws on the death penalty, making it no longer mandatory for those convicted of drug trafficking or murder to face the gallows.