Families of death row inmates pray for end to death penalty

There are close to 1,300 death row inmates in Malaysia. (File pic)

KOTA KINABALU: The families of two convicts on death row are elated with the government’s plan to abolish the death penalty, and cannot wait for the law to be passed.

Duis Akim and Vincent Gisup were sentenced to death alongside a third person, Hendry Motutud, over the murder of a 7-Eleven clerk at Penampang in 2001.

For the families, it has been a “living nightmare” waiting for the duo’s execution.

Duis’ younger sister Angelina said the experience had been particularly tough on both families.

The trio had been acquitted at the High Court, but this was reversed by the Court of Appeal, who sentenced them to death by hanging.

“They were free for five years and then jailed again before being sentenced to death,” Angelina told FMT.

She said the episode was a living nightmare.

“We are restless, upset, sad and can’t sleep much. When we do fall asleep, we wake up thinking about their impending sentence.

“My mother can suddenly break down just like that because she is so heartbroken. That is why we’re praying for the abolishment to go through,” she said.

“We’re not saying they should be freed, because the court has ruled they are guilty. But please don’t take another life.”

Duis’ mother Kindayom Jidu, 64, is praying hard the abolition of the death sentence would indeed take place.

“I actually feel a loss already although the execution has yet to be carried out,” said Kindayom, who broke into tears several times during the interview.

“Imprisonment is enough of a sentence for them,” she added.

Duis, Vincent and Hendry were first freed of murder on July 10, 2007, after a trial that lasted 22 months, in which 24 witnesses were called.

Five years later, on Jan 11, 2012, the Court of Appeal sentenced the trio to death after finding them guilty on a joint charge of murdering Wilfred Thomas, 34, at a 7-Eleven store in Donggongon, Penampang on May 26, 2001.

The court allowed the appeal and set aside the High Court’s order of acquittal and discharge and substituted it with the three respondents being found guilty and convicted of the murder.

They were convicted under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries the mandatory death sentence on conviction.

The Federal Court then upheld the ruling after the trio lost their appeal later in December the same year. They have been waiting for the death sentence ever since.

Another sibling of Duis, who declined to be named, said she understood it would be difficult for families of victims to accept the abolishment of death penalties.

“But our plea is a life has been tragically taken, but why should another life be taken as well?

“We hope forgiveness is there although we know to forgive is not so easy,” she said.

A bill to abolish the mandatory death penalty is expected to be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong said the Attorney-General’s Chambers was currently in the final stages of preparing the legislative papers for this purpose.

The Cabinet had decided that the death penalty for 33 offences under eight acts of law would be abolished, including Section 302 of the Penal Code (for murder).

The laws are the Firearms (Heavier Penalties) Act 1971, Firearms Act 1960, Kidnapping Act 1961, Armed Forces Act 1972, Water Services Industries Act 2006, Strategic Trade Act 2010 and Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

As of October this year, there were 65,222 prisoners, including 1,281 death row inmates.