In what’s easily one of the stranger and more macabre implications of global social distancing measures, a man in Singapore on trial for his role in a 2011 attempted drug deal has been sentenced to death via a Zoom video call.
37-year-old Malaysian man Punithan Genasan was received his death sentence remotely, in a first for Singapore, for his role in a 2011 heroin deal, according to court documents.
The sentence was delivered via Zoom last Friday, in the middle of a country-wide lockdown enacted in a bid to curb COVID-19 levels in the country, which are among some of the highest in the Asian region.
In a short statement confirming the move, a spokesperson for Singapore’s Supreme Court stated “For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing.”
While the use of Zoom in criminal cases has been heavily criticised by human rights groups, Genasan reportedly consented to the sentence being delivered remotely.
The vast majority of criminal court cases in Singapore have been adjourned throughout the course of the strict lockdown orders, which are due to expire on June 1st at the moment. However cases deemed high priority or essential have been held remotely.
Funnily enough, this isn’t the first death sentence to be handed down via Zoom across the globe this month, with a man in Nigeria sentenced to death via video conference in early May for his role in a 2018 murder.
Singapore currently has a zero tolerance policy regarding drug-related crimes, and has routinely handed death sentences to people caught up in such cases. Hundreds of people, including dozens of foreigners, have been executed as part of those laws over the past few decades.