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Shadrake’s appeal dismissed, to start jail term

Andrew loh /

British author Alan Shadrake’s appeal against a conviction for contempt of court was dismissed by the Singapore Court of Appeal on Friday.

The author was arrested in July last year, the day after he had launched his book, Once A Jolly Hangman, at a public event. (See here.)

Mr Shardrake was eventually charged and found guilty of “scandalizing the judiciary” last November for comments he made in his book, which highlighted the use of the death penalty in Singapore. He was sentenced to six weeks jail and a S$20,000 fine.

The book highlighted prominent capital cases which had occurred in Singapore and questioned the handling of these cases. In bringing charges against Mr Shadrake in November, Singapore’s Attorney General said "public confidence in the Singapore Judiciary cannot be allowed, in any way, to be tarnished or diminished by any contumacious behaviour."

Mr Shadrake’s defence was based on Article 14 of the Singapore Constitution which provides for "fair criticism on matters of compelling public interest.”

It was dismissed by the court.

In response to Friday’s Court of Appeal dismissal, international rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the verdict was “a major setback for free expression in Singapore.”

“The prosecution of Alan Shadrake for doing nothing more than calling for legal reform is a devastating blow to free speech in Singapore,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW. “More broadly, until the government releases its iron grip on basic freedoms, the Singaporean people will remain all the poorer.”

Once A Jolly Hangman is planned to be released in the US and the UK in the coming months.

Mr Shadrake has been allowed by the courts to undergo a medical test before serving his jail term on Wednesday.