British author jailed in Singapore for critical book on death penalty

By staff writers
November 17, 2010

A 76-year-old British author has been sentenced to jail in Singapore for publishing a book which criticises the country's judiciary over the death penalty.

Alan Shadrake was sentenced to six weeks in jail and a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars (equivalent to US$ 15,400) on 16 November 2010.

He was convicted of contempt of court for ‘scandalising the judiciary’ over allegations of judicial misconduct in his book on Singapore’s death penalty, which features an interview with a former chief executioner.

“Singapore is answering criticism by jailing its critics,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director. “Alan Shadrake’s sentence is a major step backwards for freedom of expression in Singapore.”

Shadrake was arrested in Singapore in July 2010 after launching his book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock.

He is being prosecuted under the country’s criminal defamation laws, which have been used to target other critics of the government.

The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression has called on countries to abolish criminal defamation laws, on the grounds that civil defamation laws provide adequate protection.

“By penalising Alan Shadrake, Singapore has drawn even greater global attention to its lack of respect for freedom of expression,” commented Zarifi.

Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison, executed around 1,000 men and women from 1959 until he retired in 2006, says Shadrake in his book.

His book also interviews human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers about cases involving capital punishment.


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