MADPET Coordinator Charles Hector was interviewed on this story, To listen to the radio broadcast - Click
Malaysia may spare life of accused Australian drug trafficker
Under current laws, Perth man Dominic Bird will be hanged if he's found guilty of attempting to sell a trafficable amount of methamphetamine to undercover police.
South East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel reports.
ZOE DANIEL: Dominic Bird is accused of attempting to sell 167.8 grams of methamphetamine to undercover Malaysian police. The amount exceeds the 50 gram threshold for drug trafficking which attracts a mandatory death penalty.
Under section 39B of Malaysia's Dangerous Drugs Act as it stands, he'll be hanged if found guilty.
But there's a real chance that section of the act may be abolished, which would give judges discretion to hand out jail sentences rather than being required to order execution when delivering guilty verdicts to drug traffickers.
Charles Hector is a lawyer and co-ordinator of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture.
CHARLES HECTOR: We have the de facto law minister coming out and saying that the government is seriously considering the abolition of death penalty - especially for drug trafficking cases - realising that the people who have been arrested, charged and convicted, most of the time are mules, and sometimes some of them are actually conned and many of these are young people.
ZOE DANIEL: In Dominic Bird's case, is the timing right do you think for him to fall under an amendment that may be forthcoming before the end of his legal process?
CHARLES HECTOR: I think the chances are good, at the end of the day, I think so. It's not just Dominic but I think so the whole number of people who are languishing in death row today.
ZOE DANIEL: In practice, few of those convicted of drug trafficking have been executed in recent years but they still wait in jail expecting to be hanged.
The fact that a number of Malaysians have been executed in other countries for drug offences seems to have prompted a rethink of the law here, along with changes along similar lines in Singapore.
Dominic Bird's barrister Muhammad Shafee says an unspoken moratorium on executions should be formalised with a change to legislation.
MUHAMMAD SHAFEE: Death penalty has slowed down in terms of execution. There is some kind of moratorium, unofficially - but I cannot confirm that with you because I may be totally wrong. But as you know a moratorium is normally given when you are considering a change of the law.
That could be the situation.
ZOE DANIEL: If the Australian is convicted, any change to the law would have to apply retrospectively to commute the death sentence.
In Kuala Lumpur, this is Zoe Daniel for AM. - ABC News Website, 4/12/2012, Malaysia may spare life of accused Australian drug trafficker