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Withdraw 'unacceptable threat' to Surendran, S'pore told

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Lawyers For Liberty has reacted sharply to what it calls "threats made by the Singapore authorities against lawyer N Surendran."

This comes after the Singapore Attorney-General's Chambers sent a letter to its High Court saying that Surendran had made "scandalous allegations against Singapore and its legal system, including accusing Singapore of acting in total disregard of international legal norms and decent world opinion."

"Coming from the attorney-general's office in a formal note to the High Court, this amounts to a serious threat against Surendran," LFL director Melissa Sasidaran said in a statement.

"Singapore is notorious for bringing contempt of court or criminal defamation charges against its critics. British author Alan Shadrake was similarly prosecuted and jailed in 2011 for making remarks on the death penalty in Singapore." 

Calling it a threat against Surendran, Melissa said the letter was an unlawful interference by Singapore into the right to counsel and legal assistance of the death row prisoners.

Surendran is currently representing a number of Malaysian death row prisoners in Changi Prison, including P Pannir Selvam, who was granted a last-minute reprieve by the Singapore Court of Appeal on May 23.

Pannir Selvam's legal challenge against the denial of clemency by the Singaporean president is to be heard on July 19.

Surendran is his lead counsel, and an instructing solicitor to the Singaporean lawyers representing him in court.

"By virtue of Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution, every person is entitled to a fair trial, which includes the right to legal advice and representation. The threat against Surendran is, hence, in breach of Singapore's own laws and Constitution," Sasidaran (photo) said.

"It is a calculated attempt to sabotage Pannir's legal team, as well as hindering legal assistance from Malaysia for the other Malaysian prisoners.

"In doing so, Singapore is also in flagrant breach of international law and standards. The right to be provided legal assistance is enshrined in Article 14(3(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

"Last week, it was revealed that four Malaysian drug mules in Changi Prison are targeted for execution when their clemency petitions were simultaneously rejected. Singapore must now at least allow them legal advice and assistance without threats or hindrance," she said.

LFL urged Singapore to urgently withdraw the "baseless allegations and unwarranted threat," and called on the government here to ensure that Malaysians facing capital charges in Singapore are not prejudiced against or deprived of legal defence or assistance.

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