July 19, 2010

Singapore Arrests British Journalist for Death Penalty Book


Alan Shadrake

Alan Shadrake

“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 offenses. Alan Shadrake‘s arrest came two days after Singapore’s Media Development Authority lodged a police report,” according to a Guardian report.

Shadrake’s book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock, published by a Malaysian publisher and released in Malaysia first, “was withdrawn from the shelves of one of Singapore’s biggest book shops last week after the retailer, Kinokuniya, was contacted by the Media Development Authority, which controls censorship in Singapore,” according to another report from the Asian Correspondent. The report says “The book calls into question the way the government deploys the death penalty, suggesting that justice can be less than even in Singapore. The government has shown little tolerance in the past for those who cast doubt on the independence and fairness of the judiciary.”

The book contains an interview with Darshan Singh, the long-time chief executioner at Singapore’s Changi Prison, now retired, as well as interviews with local human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers.

The death penalty is mandatory for murder, treason and drug trafficking in Singapore.

According to the Asian Correspondent story, Shadrake, who reports for the Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, first “came to prominence in Singapore in 2005 after revealing the identity of Singapore’s hangman, Darshan Singh, shortly before he executed Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Van Tuong in a controversial case that caused friction between the Australian and Singaporean governments.”

A story in The Australian reports Shadrake said “after the book’s Singapore launch on Saturday that he had expected trouble, but felt that the authorities were not going to take action. ‘If they do anything, it’ll just draw more attention to it all, and they have no defence,’ he said.”

Defamation carries a sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a fine or both. The Foreign Office in London is seeking more information from local authorities.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.