By The Death Penalty Project
The Court of Appeal of Malaysia was right to quash the death sentences of two Bulgarian nationals in 2015, the Federal Court has ruled. In a judgment delivered on 17 January 2017, the Federal Court in Malaysia dismissed an appeal by the Prosecution which could have seen the pair’s death sentences reinstated.
Ivan Kostov and Georgi Bakalov, were convicted of drug trafficking in 2012 and sentenced to the mandatory penalty of death by hanging. Malaysia carries the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, as well as for murder, certain firearms offences, and treason.
On 27 May 2015, the Court of Appeal accepted the appellants’ evidence that they were merely drug mules and not the mastermind of the alleged drug trafficking crime. The appellant’s convictions were reduced to possession and their death sentences substituted for 15 years imprisonment, plus 14 lashes.
Speaking at the time of the Court of Appeal judgment, Abdul Rashid Ismail, one of the lawyers representing the two appellants said, “This is a fantastic outcome. Ivan and Georgi are no longer under threat of execution – they are extremely happy to be removed from death row and join the general prison population.”
The Federal Court decision means that Kostov and Bakalov will not be returned to death row, and will be eligible for release in approximately five years, taking into account good behaviour.
A large number of those facing execution in Malaysia are foreign nationals convicted for drug trafficking offences. Imprisoned in a foreign country with little understanding of the legal system and without the support of friends or family, foreign nationals facing the death penalty experience a range of unique issues.
Note to Editors
The Death Penalty Project have been assisting the local legal team in Malaysia in this case since 2012. Kostov and Bakalov were represented by Edmund Bon and Joshua Tay of BON, Advocates, and Abdul Rashid Ismail and Azreen Ahmad Rastom of Rashid Zulkifli Advocates and Solicitors. UK barristers, Ben Silverstone and Eleanor Mitchell of Matrix Chambers, were also instructed pro bono, along with Amanda Clift-Matthews (In-house Counsel).