British Weekly columnist Alan Shadrake was said to be ‘recovering well’ this week after undergoing an angioplasty on Tuesday in Singapore. The writer, currently facing jail time for his alleged defamation of the Singapore judicial system in his book “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock”, will be back in court August 30th where he faces the possibility of a two year jail sentence.
Shadrake told the British Weekly on Wednesday that he was ‘feeling confident and healthy’ and ‘delighted at the all the support I’ve been getting.’
The support Shadrake refers to has been growing on a daily basis both locally and internationally. Not only has the case prompted outrage from from respected international organizations including Amnesty International and Journalists Without Borders, but locally there is a groundswell of support for his release. On Monday huge crowds thronged the Singapore High Commission building in Kuala Lumpur in neighboring Malaysia, to plead for leniency in the case and to highlight another alleged miscarriage of justice, the execution of 23-year old Vignes Mourthi seven years ago.
“I want my son’s name back,” Mr Mourthi Vasu, father of the executed man, told reporters. “And I want my son back. Can they give me my son? Can they give me? They cannot.”
Mr Mourthi is asking for an apology from the Singapore government for the execution, which took place in September 2003. Vignes was hanged after having been found guilty of trafficking in 27.65g of heroin. But subsequent revelations about his chief accuser have now cast serious doubt on the safety of the conviction.
At the time of Vignes’ trial the officer in charge of the sting operation which led to his arrest, a certain Sergeant Rajkumar, – and who was also the key prosecution witness during the trial – was being investigated internally for allegations of rape, sodomy and bribery. Neither Vignes’s lawyer nor his family knew about this at that time. Rajkumar’s testimony against Vignes was pivotal in the conviction but likely would have been far less convincing if the allegations against him at the time were known.
After Vignes’s execution, Rajkumar was found guilty of bribery in a later trial and was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
“The Vignes’ case is just one of many that Singapore would rather not have exposed to the light,” a leading Singapore democratic activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the British Weekly on Tuesday. “His case is an embarrassment, and so is the prosecution of Mr. Shadrake. But we’re going to keep shining the light of scrutiny on this case. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
One of the key organizers of Monday’s demonstration was the UK-based civil rights group Laywers for Liberty. Among the written demands they have presented to the government of Singapore are that it ‘acknowledge the enormous miscarriage of justice that happened in Vignes’ case’ and that it ‘halt all pending executions in Singapore and commute death sentences to imprisonment; and that they ‘cease immediately the malicious persecution of British author Alan Shadrake.’
Singapore’s discomfort at the unfavorable publicity and condemnation their prosecution of Mr. Shadrake has provoked is perhaps evidenced by their recent offer to drop all charges against the author in return for an apology – an offer Mr. Shadrake has refused. To make matters worse, the book itself is said to be ‘selling like hot cakes’ Malaysia.