A man has been sentenced to death in Singapore via a Zoom video call.
Punithan Genasan became the city-state’s first person to have a capital punishment sentence delivered remotely after being convicted for his role in a drug deal.
Court documents show the 37-year-old Malaysian received the sentence on Friday for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction.
The country is currently under lockdown in an effort to curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia.
“For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing,” a spokesperson for Singapore’s Supreme Court said.
The spokesperson said it was the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore.
Genasan’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, said his client received the judge’s verdict on a Zoom call and that he was considering an appeal.
Human rights groups have criticised the use of Zoom in death penalty cases, although Mr Fernando said he did not object to the use of video-conferencing for Friday’s call since it was only to receive the judge’s verdict.
California-based tech firm Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment made via its representatives in Singapore by news agency Reuters.
While cases deemed essential have been held remotely, many court hearings in Singapore have been adjourned during a lockdown period that started in early April and is due to run until 1 June.
Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and rights groups say it has hanged hundreds of people – including dozens of foreigners – for narcotics offences.
“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,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.
The group has also criticised a case in Nigeria where a death sentence was delivered via Zoom.