A Singapore court on Thursday stopped the execution of a convicted Malaysian murderer for the second time in a dramatic reprieve just hours before he was scheduled to be hanged.
Kho Jabing, 31, was expected by his family and rights groups to be executed at dawn on Friday but was granted a stay of execution following a last minute application by his lawyer on Thursday evening, exploiting a legal loophole.
Kho was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing a Chinese construction worker in a robbery gone wrong two years earlier and spent the next six years on a legal roller-coaster trying to avoid the gallows.
His family said Tuesday they had received a letter from prison authorities setting his execution for Friday.
A five-member appeal court dismissed an 11th-hour application Thursday to set aside the death sentence but defence lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss filed a separate suit against the attorney-general asking to halt the execution.
While permission was denied after a two-hour hearing that stretched late into the night, under Singapore law all court decisions can be appealed.
That appeal will be heard Friday morning at the Court of Appeal, and in the meantime Kho's execution will be suspended until the case is concluded, the Supreme Court said in a statement.
Singapore's president has refused to grant clemency to Kho.
There was no immediate statement from Malaysia, which also has capital punishment, executing murderers and drug traffickers by hanging, a system like in Singapore that dates back to British colonial rule.
Amnesty International Malaysia and Human Rights Watch have both released statements calling on Singapore to halt the execution and review the case.
After Kho was sentenced to death in 2010, Singapore amended its mandatory death penalty for murder, giving judges the discretion to impose life imprisonment under certain circumstances.
His case was reviewed and Kho was re-sentenced to a life term in 2013.
But after an appeal by prosecutors, Kho's death sentence was reinstated in January 2015.
Another appeal, which stayed his execution scheduled for November 2015, was thrown out last month.
Singapore executed four people in 2015, one for murder and three for drug offences, according to Singapore prison statistics.
Rights groups have called on Singapore to abolish capital punishment but the government argues that it is a deterrent to crime. — AFP