Author jailed over Singapore criticism

British author jailed after court rejects his appeal against prison sentence for criticism of country's judiciary.

    A Singapore court rejected an appeal by author Shadrake against a conviction for contempt of court [Reuters]

    A British author will spend up to eight weeks in a Singapore jail after a court rejected his appeal against a conviction for contempt of court.

    Alan Shadrake's appeal against a sentence of two months, meted out to him last November for what was described by the court as "scandalising" comments in his book, "Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, was rejected on Friday.

    The 76-year-old was sentenced to six weeks' jail and a fine of $16,090 for comments about the Singapore judiciary.

    The author said he could not pay the fine and would have to remain in jail for an additional two weeks.

    "I expected the decision. I am very sorry for Singapore. I'm not sorry for myself," said the freelance journalist after the Court of Appeal, his last legal resort, upheld the sentence imposed by a High Court judge in November.

    The British High Commission in Singapore said in a statement: "The British government attaches importance to freedom of expression around the world and we will continue to call on all countries, including Singapore, to recognise the right to freedom of expression as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

    Shadrake's book includes a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison who, according to the author, hanged around 1,000 men and women, including foreigners, from 1959 until he retired in 2006.

    Shadrake's book included interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, and alleged that some cases involving foreigners may have been influenced by diplomatic and trade considerations.

    Shadrake had been free on bail pending the appeal and will start his jail sentence on June 1, the same day the second edition of his book appears in British bookstores.

    Singapore, an island-nation of 5.1 million people, imposes the death penalty for crimes such as murder and has a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking. As a result, it boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

    But it has been criticised for its harsh laws and use of civil defamation lawsuits against some of its critics.

    Authorities in Singapore say such lawsuits are necessary to protect the reputation of government leaders.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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