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Alan Shadrake held for alleged criminal defamation and other offences after visiting Singapore for book launch
A veteran British journalist and author promoting his book on the death penalty in Singapore was arrested in the country today for alleged criminal defamation and other offences.
Alan Shadrake’s arrest came two days after Singapore’s Media Development Authority lodged a police report. The Foreign Office in London said it was seeking more information from local authorities.
The 75-year-old’s latest book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock, contains accounts of high-profile cases in Singapore involving the use of the death penalty, and includes interviews with a former executioner, Darshan Singh. Published by a Malaysian company, the book was first released in Malaysia.
Death penalty opponents who helped to organise the Singapore launch were told by police that no bail had yet been set for Shadrake, whose passport has been impounded.
Last week one of Singapore’s biggest book retailers, Kinokuniya, withdrew the book from its shelves after it was contacted by the Media Development Authority, which controls censorship in Singapore, according to the Asian Correspondent website.
In publicity material for the book, Margaret John, from Amnesty International Canada, described it as “a timely contribution to growing criticism of Singapore’s shameful use of the death penalty”.
Shadrake attracted the attention of authorities in Singapore in 2005 when he revealed the identity of Singh shortly before he executed an Australian drug trafficker, Nguyen Van Tuong. The case, a cause célèbre in Australia, led to friction between the Australian and Singaporean governments.
Singapore has a reputation for taking tough legal action against what it sees as unfair criticism. In March last year a judge found a Wall Street Journal senior editor, Melanie Kirkpatrick, in contempt of court for allegedly impugning the independence of Singapore’s judiciary.
In October the Far Eastern Economic Review and its editor-in-chief, Hugo Restall, lost an appeal in a defamation lawsuit brought by Singapore’s founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew, and his son, the current prime minister, Hsien Loong Lee, over a 2006 article that they said implicitly suggested they may have abused the public’s trust.
“In the interests of security, public order, morality, national harmony, or friendly foreign relations, Singapore law authorises censorship of content and distribution of print material and films, severe limits on public processions and assemblies, and prolonged detention of suspects without trial,” was Human Rights Watch’s verdict on the city state.