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(MY) A prisoner on death row for cannabis freed after appeal

PUTRAJAYA, Tues: A death-row prisoner who has spent seven years behind bars for trafficking in 420gm of cannabis was freed by the Federal Court here today after it allowed his appeal.

Lee Kwan Woh, 32, was in tears and was hugged by his family members after the court’s decision. He had been detained in the Taiping prison since 2002.

In allowing the appeal, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, who headed the panel, said the court was satisfied with the defence’s submission.

“The conviction and sentence imposed by the High Court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal are set aside. The appellant (Lee) is to be freed forthwith

and we will give our grounds of written judgment in due course,” said Malanjum who sat with justices Datuk Hashim Yusoff and Datuk Gopal Sri Ram.

Lee, a building painter, was convicted and sentenced to death by the Ipoh High Court on Sept 18, 2002, for trafficking in 420gm of cannabis in Jalan Selasar Rokam 10, Taman Ipoh Jaya, Ipoh, at about 4pm on April 4, 2000.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal and affirmed the conviction and sentence on Jan 7, 2007.

Lee’s counsel, Gobind Singh Deo, submitted that the High Court judge had misdirected himself in his decision to call Lee to enter his defence without having heard submissions from both parties at the close of the prosecution’s case.

He said the serious misdirection by the judge had denied Lee a fair trial and violated his constitutional right under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution.

Deputy public prosecutor Saiful Edris Zainuddin said the court could invoke Section 422 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) for a retrial to correct the decision of a trial judge who had misdirected himself on the standard of evidence at the close of the case, to cure the miscarriage of justice.

However, Sri Ram said it was the trial judge’s duty to scrutinise the evidence before him for the purpose of a fair trial before making a finding on whether or not the accused was guilty and it was the Court of Appeal’s duty to see whether the High Court’s decision was safe or unsafe.” — BERNAMA


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