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Malaysia accused of U-turn on death penalty abolition

AFP  |  Kuala Lumpur 

The was Wednesday accused of a "shocking" U-turn on plans to abolish after a said only the mandatory death penalty would be axed.

A reformist alliance which stormed to power last year announced in October that it had decided to scrap entirely, a move that would have handed a reprieve to more than 1,200 people on death row.

Executions are currently mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes.

The decision to axe capital punishment, carried out by hanging in Malaysia, had however sparked opposition from murder victims' families and opposition politicians.

Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, a in the prime minister's department, told parliament about the change of plan.

"We have made a decision. The government will only repeal the mandatory death penalty," he was cited as saying by official agency

This means it will be at a judge's discretion whether to order someone to hang or send them to jail for offences where a death sentence is currently mandatory.

Any change to the law must however be approved by parliament and there is still a chance the government may change its plans, or their proposal could be defeated.

Legal reform group accused the government of making a "complete U-turn".

"The reversal of the earlier decision is shocking, unprincipled and embarrassing," said the group's N Surendran in a statement.

"To hold out hope of being spared the gallows, only to have the hope snatched away again is extremely cruel and unjust."

International described the announcement as "disappointing", adding the government "appears to have bowed to political and public pressure to retain the death penalty".

"The government must reconsider," said Amnesty's

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."

The move could have implications for a major scandal involving the murder of a Mongolian model that has been linked to the country's ex-leader

wants to extradite former Sirul Azhar Umar, who was sentenced to hang over the model's death and has maintained he was ordered by "important people" to commit the murder, from

But Canberra's policy is not to send people back to countries where they may face death. Najib has long been implicated in the model's killing, but denies the claim.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 13 2019. 19:36 IST