In August 1994, a chilling incident unfolded at the Kim Swee Leong oil palm plantation in Pahang, Malaysia, as Francis Anthonysamy, a palm oil estate worker, beheaded his Bangladeshi colleague, Ali Ahammed Mohammed Ullah, according to The Star.
This gruesome act was purportedly guided by advice from a bomoh, a local shaman, who suggested that such an extreme measure could bring Francis luck in winning the lottery. The subsequent legal journey and recent developments in Malaysia’s justice system have cast a spotlight on the case.
Francis’s actions on that fateful night involved getting Mr. Ali intoxicated and wielding a parang to carry out the horrific act. This incident, echoing a blend of superstition and desperation, would have profound implications for both individuals involved and the broader legal landscape in Malaysia.
Legal Verdict: Death Sentence
The High Court in Temerloh, Pahang, delivered its verdict on October 21, 1996, sentencing Francis to death. For three decades, Francis sought to overturn this sentence, attempting appeals in 2002 and 2005, only to face repeated setbacks.
In a pivotal move, Malaysia abolished the mandatory death penalty in July 2023. This groundbreaking decision bestowed judges with the discretion to replace death sentences with prison terms ranging from 30 to 40 years, applicable to serious crimes such as murder, treason, kidnapping, terrorist acts, and drug trafficking.
Commutation and Legal Argument
Francis, now 52, seized the opportunity presented by this legal reform. Following a review application, his death sentence was commuted to 35 years’ imprisonment. Lawyer Abdul Rashid Ismail, representing Francis, emphasized that the crime did not involve terrorism and had only one victim, presenting a compelling argument against the severity of the initial sentence.
Francis is not alone in this transformation. Among the 17 prisoners aged between 45 and 63, his case mirrors a broader shift in sentencing. Death sentences and natural life imprisonment terms were commuted to jail sentences ranging from 30 to 35 years, marking a significant departure from Malaysia’s previous approach to capital punishment.
The evolution in Malaysia’s legal framework signifies a departure from the rigid application of the death penalty.