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Malaysia’s top court reduces first death sentences under new law

Malaysia’s highest court reduced seven death sentences to life imprisonment under a new law, eliminating mandatory capital punishment. The move aligns with restorative justice and human rights principles.



KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Malaysia’s highest court reduced the sentences of seven death row inmates to life in prison on Tuesday, four months after the country abolished mandatory capital punishment.

Under a new law, which took effect in July, judges have the option to impose lengthy prison sentences of up to 30 years.

Previously, convictions for several offences, including murder and drug trafficking, came with automatic death penalties.

Since then, the Federal Court has been reviewing previous death penalty decisions.

Lawyers for more than 860 death row inmates have applied to have their clients’ sentences downgraded.

The first batch of rulings was handed down on Tuesday.

Seven inmates, including five Malaysians and two Thai nationals, had their death sentences for drug trafficking commuted to life in prison.

Life imprisonment in Malaysia is defined as 30 years in jail and prisoners can be freed for good behaviour after serving one third of their sentence.

The seven inmates had been in prison for more than 20 years each. It is not clear if any of them will be immediately freed.

Malaysia has had a moratorium on executions since 2018, but courts have continued to send inmates to death row.

Azalina Othman Said, a minister in the prime minister’s office, described the sentence reductions by the Federal Court as a “historic day” for the country.

“This proves that the principle of restorative justice in the criminal justice system in Malaysia is always maintained,” she said in a statement.

“This success also reflects the government’s commitment in promoting and defending universal human rights.”

In reaching its decision, the Federal Court took into account “various factors” including the inmate’s age, health and number of years already served, Azalina said.


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