As her family makes one last desperate appeal, a Singaporean woman faces execution in China


Ismiraldha Abdullah first realized her mother was in trouble when she returned home from school in Singapore to find her aunt sobbing and clutching a Chinese letter.

It was October 2015, and the letter stated that Ismiraldha’s mother, Siti Aslinda Binte Junaidi, had been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and faced the death penalty.

She faces execution if her final appeal, which could be heard at any time, is not successful. Back in Singapore, her family is trying desperately to save her from this fate.

“It has been very difficult to get a pro bono lawyer in China and the family cannot afford to pay for one,” said M. Ravi, a Singaporean lawyer who has been advising on the case. “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?”

Smuggling through Shenzhen

Aslinda Yusri and Chibuzor Onwuka were stopped by customs officials in Shenzhen in October 2015. A search of their suitcases revealed more than 11 kilos of methamphetamine stitched into their bags. The judge ruled that they were either aware or should have been aware of the contents. Ismiraldh says she has been unable to visit her mother due to concerns about coronavirus.

Death penalty

China is the the world’s leading executioner, according to analysis by Amnesty International and an advocacy group. The country does not report total executions, but it is believed to be in the thousands. Those executed include large numbers of foreigners, though again China does not release exact figures. Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was sentenced to death for drug smuggling. His sentence was upgraded following the arrest in Vancouver of top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. In August this year, Xu Weihong and Ye Jianhui were also sentenced to die for drug offenses.

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