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Mr Chell, a psychiatric nurse, was today reportedly convicted of heroin trafficking and sentenced to death by hanging, despite numerous alleged inconsistencies in the prosecution's case against him, which was heard in the absence of a jury.

Information concerning death sentences and executions in Malaysia is not generally made available and Amnesty International is concerned that it has proved impossible to obtain reliable figures either about death sentences imposed, or about executions that may recently have been carried out in the country.

The organisation is aware that at least one person was sentenced to death in 1999; the death penalty is mandatory for certain drugs offences in Malaysia.

Amnesty International UK Director of Communications Mark Lattimer said:

'In the absence of official information, Amnesty International is extremely concerned that death sentences – against drug offenders and others - are being carried out in Malaysia.

'The air of secrecy fuels suspicion that people face execution in Malaysia after unfair trials '

Amnesty International is calling for the Malaysian Government immediately and unconditionally to abandon the death penalty and to ensure that all trials adhere to international standards of fairness. The organisation is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and is calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions in the year 2000.

Background According to a Malaysian parliamentary question in 1996, 349 people had been executed between 1970-1996. According to media reports known to Amnesty International, there were two executions in 1997; there have been none reported since that year. Death penalty sentences continue to be passed: the sentence against David Chell is the sixth this year.

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