03/21/2006, 00.00
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Justice Minister backs abolition of death penalty

For Nazri Aziz "a life is a life. No one has the right to take someone else's life, even if that person is a murderer". From 1970 to the present, 359 people have been condemned to death; 159 are on death row.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Malaysian Justice Minister has said he supports abolishing Malaysia's death penalty. "For me, a life is a life. No one has the right to take someone else's life, even if that person has taken another life," Nazri Aziz, minister in charge of law, was quoted as saying to a local newspaper.

The minister's statement comes as the Malaysian Bar Council launched a campaign for abolishment of the death penalty: "I welcome this proposal. This is definitely something which should be looked into."

The Council said the death penalty is "barbaric, inhumane and an insufficient deterrent for crime", and called for an immediate moratorium on all death sentences.

But the minister said this would not be possible: "The death sentence has been part of our laws for a long time. It goes with the fabric of the whole system. After discussions are held, hopefully the attorney general will advise the government."

Malaysia is one of 76 countries which still impose the death penalty. It is mandatory for murder, for trafficking in heroin, cocaine, opium and marijuana, and for offences against the king. In the national penal code, possession of drugs is presumed to be trafficking.

At his discretion, a judge can also hand down the death penalty – administered by hanging – for crimes like kidnapping, associating with people carrying arms or explosives and waging war against the ruler.

Since 1970, Malaysia has hanged 359 people, 40 of them in the last 10 years. Most were convicted of drug trafficking. There are 159 prisoners on death row.

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