Alan Shadrake – the author of ‘Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock’ arrested

Posted by on Jul 19, 2010 | Leave a Comment

On Sunday, July 18, 2010 a British author of ‘Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock’ Mr. Shadrake, 75, was arrested by Singapore police at a hotel at 8am, only a day after the book launched in Singapore at the Post Museum.

A British author promoting his book on alleged double standards in Singapore’s use of the death penalty has been arrested here on charges of criminal defamation and contempt of court. For alleged offences of criminal defamation and other offences, Alan Shadrake is now undergoing investigations at Cantonment Police Headquarters. The arrest was made pursuant to a police report made by the Media Development Authority on 16 July 2010.

Alan has also been served with applications by the Attorney-General for an order of committal of Contempt of Court. In an email to Reuters on July 3, Mr. Shadrake called himself a “British freelance journalist and author” who had planned to launch his latest book “Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock” in the city-state on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Straits Times newspaper reported on its website that Mr. Shadrake was 75 and his 219-page book was filled with accounts of high-profile cases in Singapore involving the use of the death penalty. Shadrake’s book also contains interviews with former executioner and a retired prison officer Darshan Singh. It also includes interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers.

The alleged offences are believed to be linked to the book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock, which was released for sale in the country late last month but was taken off shelves less than two weeks later after the MDA contacted the store. An MDA spokesperson said the book had not been banned but added that the authority would “where necessary, advice book importers and retailers to seek legal advice to ensure that the books they sell do not contravene Singapore laws“.

On June 26, “Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock” was released for sale in Kuala Lumpur and went on sale at the Kinokuniya bookshop’s flagship store at Ngee Ann City around the same time, but was taken off the shelves less than two weeks later, purportedly under pressure from Media Development Authority.

In 2005, Shadrake wrote an article based on an interview with Singh that caused an outcry among Australians who were campaigning at the time for convicted Australian drug offender Nguyen Van Tuong to be spared the gallows. Nguyen was hanged in December that year. Mr. Shadrake, who divides his time between Britain and Malaysia, is an investigative journalist and author. He has written for many international newspapers and the first major book in his 50-year career was ‘The Yellow Pimpernels’, which detailed escape stories across the Berlin Wall.

The crime rate on the island nation of five million people, which imposes the death penalty for crimes such as murder and a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking, is among the lowest in the world, and Singapore officials say the death penalty is a key factor in maintaining that. Human rights monitors have long criticized the government however for using defamation suits to stifle political opposition. Separately, Singapore has banned a movie made by a local film-maker about a human rights activist, saying the film was not in the public interest.

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