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Alan Shadrake and the Police State

Author of death penalty book interrogated by Singapore police “all day long explaining all the chapters of the book”

British author of book on hangings posts bail in Singapore
Philip Lim, AFP, 19 July 2010

British author Alan Shadrake (L) walks with his lawyer M. Ravi after being released on bail from a remand centre in Singapore early July 20, 2010. Singapore police had arrested Shadrake on charges of criminal defamation and contempt of court, a day after he launched a book titled "Once a Jolly Hangman" on death penalty in the city-state. The arrest was made pursuant to a report that was lodged by the government's Media Development Authority on Friday, the Singapore police said in a statement. Shadrake said he was released on an S$10,000 bail and that his passport had been impounded pending his trial. - REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

A British author arrested in Singapore while promoting his book on executions in the city-state was released on bail Tuesday pending further investigations by police.

Alan Shadrake, a 75-year-old freelance journalist, told AFP at a police complex that he was freed after a local activist posted bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars (47,000 pounds) for him.

“I’m feeling pretty shaken at the moment,” he said.

Shadrake, who divides his time between neighbouring Malaysia and Britain, is facing charges of criminal defamation and contempt of court, which are punishable by jail and fines.

The case is to be heard in court on July 30, his lawyer M. Ravi said.

Critics say Singapore, which has only five million people, has one of the world’s highest rates of executions but the government refuses to disclose any numbers and maintains that capital punishment helps keep crime rates low.

Shadrake was arrested at a hotel on Sunday after the launch of his book “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock” in which he alleged double standards in the Southeast Asian nation’s use of the death penalty.

British author Alan Shadrake speaks to the media after being released on bail from a remand centre in Singapore early July 20, 2010. Singapore police had arrested Shadrake on charges of criminal defamation and contempt of court, a day after he launched a book titled "Once a Jolly Hangman" on the death penalty in the city-state. The arrest was made pursuant to a report that was lodged by the government's Media Development Authority on Friday, the Singapore police said in a statement. Shadrake said he was released on an S$10,000 bail and that his passport had been impounded pending his trial. - REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Speaking later to reporters after his release, a haggard-looking Shadrake said he had hardly slept “since they dragged me out of bed” the morning after launching his book in a private function.

“I’ve had a few hours of sleep on a very hard floor and I’ve been sitting at the desk being interrogated all day long explaining all the chapters of the book and going through the history of the book, my research, why I did the book.”

His passport has been impounded to prevent him from leaving Singapore until the case is resolved.

Amnesty International earlier urged Singapore’s government to immediately release the elderly author.

“Singapore uses criminal defamation laws to silence critics of government policies,” Donna Guest, Amnesty’s Asia Pacific Deputy Director, said in London.

“The Singapore government should release Shadrake at once.”

She added: “If Singapore aspires to be a global media city, it needs to respect global human rights standards for freedom of expression… Singapore should get rid of both its criminal defamation laws and the death penalty.”

Singapore carries out capital punishment by hanging, a practice which goes back to British colonial rule. The death penalty is meted out to people convicted of murder, drug trafficking and treason.

Shadrake’s 219-page book contains a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore’s Changi Prison who, according to the author, executed around 1,000 men and women from 1959 until he retired in 2006.

It also features interviews with local human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers on various cases involving capital punishment.

A spokeswoman from the censorship body Media Development Authority (MDA), which filed the complaint that led to Shadrake’s arrest, said the book “has not been prohibited” in Singapore.

But a check by AFP showed that the book was not available in major bookstores and libraries.

Despite criticism from human rights activists, Singapore officials have maintained that the death penalty has been a key factor in keeping a low crime rate in the island, widely regarded as one of Asia’s safest countries.

Amnesty International said last year that Singapore was “estimated to have one of the highest per capita execution rates in the world.”

It said Singapore had executed at least 420 people since 1991, adding that the number was probably higher as “not all sentences and executions are reported publicly”.

Jacob 69er: See my post here on the arrest a day after the launch

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