Britsh writer and freelance journalist Alan Shadrake has been sentenced to six weeks in jail and fined 20,000 dollars (£9,540) for contempt by a court in Singapore.
The High Court delivered the verdict against Shadrake, 76, in connection with his book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock, which was deemed to have insulted the Singaporean judiciary.
The attorney-general’s office, which took Shadrake to court, claimed that statements in the book impugned the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary. Shadrake had offered a qualified apology during a hearing last week but said he would not disavow his book.
High Court Judge Quentin Loh, who found Shadrake guilty of contempt of court earlier this month, ordered the author to spend six weeks in jail and pay a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars. The prosecution, representing the attorney-general’s office, had demanded a sentence of 12 weeks.
Under Singaporean law, the crime is punishable by a fine and jail term, but the judge has the discretion to determine the exact penalty.
The case has once again highlighted complaints by critics who claim Singapore uses criminal defamation laws to silence them. But the government said any statement which damaged the reputations of its leaders would hinder their ability to rule effectively.
Prosecution lawyer Hema Subramaniam said Shadrake had shown “complete lack of good faith in making these allegations against the judiciary”.
The writer was arrested on 18 July and freed on bail two days later. It is not clear if he will appeal against his sentence. A criminal defamation investigation against him is still pending. Singapore’s leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in past years for defamation. The government says restrictions on speech and assembly are necessary to preserve economic prosperity and racial and religious harmony in the multi-ethnic city-state of five million people.
Shadrake, who was born in Essex, and has four children, said he did not expect to be arrested after hosting a book launch party on 17 July because the Media Development Authority has not banned the sale of the book in Singapore.
The book features an interview with Darshan Singh, who was Singapore’s hangman from 1959 to 2006. Singapore applies capital punishment by hanging for offences such as murder, drug trafficking and unlawful use of a firearm. The island nation at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula is one of the world’s richest and has a very low violent crime rate. Shadrake did not say anything after the sentence was announced, but, going in to the hearing, he said: “I will never apologise for my book. If they put me in jail, they put me in jail.”