Deep in the conservative heartland of the upper Malaysian peninsula, the state of Kelantan was once known for its secluded location and coastal piracy, but today is known more for the strict Islamic order that has been put in place by the long standing hardline government. It is that draconian set of laws that has three friends facing death by hanging after being found guilty of selling weed in a hospital parking lot.
The isolated region has been ruled by the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) since 1990. With a Muslim population of over 95%, the PAS has managed to pass local laws in Kelantan that segregate supermarket lines, as well as public seating, by gender. They have restricted public performances by women if any men are present, and have placed outright bans on many traditional Malaysian forms of theater.
These laws, they say, are in place to squash immorality in the name of Islam. Following their interpretation of Islamic doctrine, the PAS attempted to institute punishments like chopping off fingers or hands of thieves, and execution for something as simple as blasphemy. Fortunately, cooler heads at the national level intervened, blocking the most extreme local legislation on constitutional grounds.
But even national laws in Malaysia leave little room for sympathy when it comes to drug-related offenses. Getting busted with any controlled substance can earn you a heavy fine and instant deportation, at best. Anyone caught with a mere 7 grams of marijuana can be labeled and tried as a drug trafficker, an offense punishable nationwide by the death penalty. They don't mess around.
The three men convicted today were accused of selling 4.8kg, or over ten and a half pounds, of herb in the parking lot of the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital in August of 2007. Ultimately found guilty of all charges, the three men will be put to death by hanging.
They had previously avoided the death penalty when the same High Court ruled on the case in 2010, acquitting two of the men altogether, and reducing the third man's charges to drug possession, earning him 12 years in prison.
The prosecution wasn't satisfied though. They appealed the case and were granted a re-trial, through which they somehow cast a newfound doubt in the mind of the Judge. With the facts of the case unchanged since the Court's first decision back in 2010, today Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah announced his decision, stating that the defense put forth was not enough to re-convince him.
Their story is almost identical to a similar case from March of this year, where three men were convicted of pushing over 14 pounds of illegal pot on the west coast of the peninsula, also in 2007. Seriously, if you like your neck at its current length, don't sell weed in Malaysia.
The friends in this latest case - ages 42, 48, and 52 - all appear to be Malaysian nationals. Charged and convicted under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952, which carries a mandatory death sentence, their only hope now is for some sort of reprieve from the notoriously dispassionate Malaysian national government.