Lawyer in China to act pro bono for S’porean facing execution on drug charges


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Singapore — A lawyer in China has stepped forward to represent free of charge Siti Aslinda binte Junaidi, a Singaporean woman facing execution there for drug trafficking.
Lawyer M Ravi, who is acting pro bono here at the request of Siti Aslinda’s family, announced the offer from the lawyer in China on Facebook on Thursday (Dec 24). He said a pro bono lawyer had “stepped forward” following a report on the case by CNN.
Siti Aslinda, 35, was arrested in Shenzhen six years ago on suspicion of drug trafficking.  According to court documents, Aslinda and her partner, Singaporean Mohd Yusri bin Mohd Yussof, 44, were stopped by customs officials on Oct 24, 2015.
It was revealed that the 28 women’s handbags in their suitcases had more than 11 kgs of methamphetamine stitched into the lining. If sold by the gram, the meth could be worth more than S$220,000 (S$292,300) in the United States, said the report.
They were offered generous commissions to transport goods from China to Cambodia by a man called Chibuzor Onwuka. Siti Aslinda would pick up goods in Guangzhou once or twice a month and take them to Phnom Penh. The goods mainly consisted of handbags, toner cartridges and women’s lingerie.
Both Siti Aslinda and Mohd Yusri denied any knowledge of the drugs.
Mohd Yusri’s sentence was suspended for two years, with the possibility of a downgrade to life imprisonment. However, Siti Aslinda has been deemed to have played a more active role in the crime. She faces execution should her final appeal prove unsuccessful.
“It has been very difficult to get a pro bono lawyer in China, and the family cannot afford to pay for one,” said Mr Ravi. “I’ve been trying to liaise with some international networks I have to get a pro bono lawyer, but her case is (moving forward), and we don’t know when it might reach the next court.”
“What if China suddenly decides to shoot her in weeks?”
Mr Ravi, on behalf of Carson Law Chambers, had made “frantic efforts” to secure Siti Aslinda with legal representation in China. On Dec 14, the firm submitted a legal notice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for assistance on the case.
Carson Law Chambers had requested information on the date of the first verdict, why the verdict was only given after six years, the purpose of the monthly S$100 provided to Siti Aslinda for the past six years, among other details.
In his update on the case on Dec 24, Mr Ravi said: “I’m really happy to have finally found a pro bono lawyer for Aslinda in China … I’m looking to working closely with this dynamic lawyer and have Aslinda’s case properly reviewed by the Appeal Court in China.”
He added: “This is just the beginning of the fight to save Aslinda. A lot to be done.”
Mr Ravi mentioned that it is expensive to hire a lawyer in China. “Some of them asked ridiculous fees.”
This case highlights how the “death penalty targets the poor and the disadvantaged who can’t afford legal fees”, he said.
The MFA announced on Friday (Dec 25) that the two Singaporeans have been provided regular consular assistance by the Singapore Consulate-General in Guangzhou, according to a straitstimes.com report. The support included regular visits, access to medical attention, legal assistance and communication with their families to provide consular support as recently as last week. /TISG
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