A Singapore court sentenced a man to death over Zoom, marking the city-state’s first remote capital punishment during the coronavirus pandemic

  • Punithan Genasan, 37, was sentenced to death on Friday by a Singapore court in a hearing conducted over the video-conferencing platform Zoom, his lawyer said. 
  • The Malaysian man was sentenced for his role in a 2011 heroin deal. The city-state has a zero tolerance policy on drugs.  
  • Like many court systems around the world, Singapore has turned to video conferencing to continue processing cases while coronavirus lockdowns make in-person hearings impossible. 
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A Singapore judge sentenced a 37-year-old man to death on Friday during a hearing conducted on the video-conferencing platform Zoom, Reuters and The Straits Times reported.

Punithan Genasan, 37, was sentenced at the Singapore High Court for his role in a 2011 heroin deal. The city-state has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs.

A spokesman for Singapore’s Supreme Court says Genasan’s death sentence is the first capital punishment to be handed down over a video-conferencing court hearing.

Genasan’s lawyer Peter Fernando named Zoom as the site that was used, and said he had no issues hearing the judge, according to Reuters. Fernando added that the judge was only handing down a sentence, and no arguments were being heard.

He said, however, that they may launch an appeal.

Like many other countries, Singapore has turned to Zoom to hold court hearings remotely as coronavirus lockdowns make in-person hearings impossible.

The country has been on lockdown since early April and won’t reopen until June 1 at the earliest. While initially lauded for its handling of the crisis, the city-state has now grown to have one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asian division, issued a statement criticizing the use of Zoom in Genasan’s capital case. 

“Singapore’s use of the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and the use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so,” Robertson said, according to Reuters.

Andrew Stroehlein, the European media director at Human Rights Watch, also tweeted: “The tech may be new, but the inhumanity is archaic…”

Singapore isn’t the first country to issue a death penalty via Zoom during the coronavirus outbreak. In early May, a man in Nigeria was sentenced over Zoom to hang for the murder of his boss’ mother, according to the BBC

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