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Singapore Sentences British Author for Contempt of Court

Nov 3, 2010 3:21:33 AM - thesundayleader.lk

UK author Alan Shadrake was found guilty of insulting the Singapore judiciary in a book he wrote about the death penalty.

The 75-year-old will be sentenced for contempt next week; he also faces trial on defamation charges.

In his book, “Once a Jolly Hangman – Singapore Justice in the Dock”, he criticised how the death penalty is used, alleging a lack of impartiality.

On his conviction by a Singapore court, he said he felt he had received a fair trial.

The Malaysia-based Shadrake was arrested in July when he visited Singapore to launch his book, reported the BBC.

Contempt of court carries a jail sentence, a fine, or both. No maximum penalty has been specified under Singapore’s constitution, according to the attorney general’s office.

Shadrake’s book isn’t banned in Singapore, according to the Media Development Authority. Retailers and distributors will have to seek legal advice on whether they can sell or distribute the publication, the regulator said.


“This is a case about someone who says among other things the judges in Singapore are not impartial… (and are) influenced by political and economic situations and biased against the weak and the poor,” Justice Quentin Loh said.

The Straits Times reported that Justice Loh found Shadrake had included half-truths and falsehoods in his book.

The judge noted that 6,000 copies of the book have been sold so far, the newspaper reported.

If left unchecked, this would result in readers losing confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore, Justice Loh said.

The book contains interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, as well as a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore’s Changi Prison.

It claims he executed around 1,000 men and women from 1959 until he retired in 2006.

The case has highlighted not just the use of capital punishment, but the broader issue of freedom of speech in Singapore where dissent is rare.

Human rights groups say the Singaporean authorities too often resort to the courts to silence their critics.

“I think I’ve been given a fair hearing,” Shadrake told the media after the verdict was issued.

At the start of his trial, the BBC quoted him as saying that he would never apologise: “I will not grovel to them, I will carry on this fight.”

Separately, Shadrake is being investigated by the police for criminal defamation; his passport is being held by the police.

The controversy surrounding Shadrake is likely to propel the sales of his books, internationally.