British author Alan Shadrake still awaits trial in Singapore

The 75 year old British author Alan Shadrake, who was visiting Singapore to launch his new book, ‘Once a Jolly Hangman – Singapore Justice in the Dock’, was arrested on arrival to the country on 20 July 2010. The Singapore Attorney General asserted that passages of the book scandalise the Singapore judiciary and undermine the authority of the courts.

Mr Shadrake has been charged with contempt of court and, if found guilty, could receive a sentence of up to two years in prison. His trial was originally due to start on 30 July but has been adjourned, and Mr Shadrake still awaits trial, having been released on bail.

As the title suggests, Mr Shadrake’s book criticises the death penalty in Singapore and was intended to highlight the double standards and lack of impartiality in its application. However, the reception of his book in Singapore is now also exposing broader concerns relating to constraints on freedom of speech. Singapore is a country where dissent is rare, and it has a reputation for using the courts to silence those who express what it perceives to be unfair criticism of the state. It has been found to lawfully allow ‘censorship of content and distribution of print material and films, severe limits on public processions and assemblies, and prolonged detention of suspects without trial’, in the interests of security, public order, morality, national harmony, or friendly foreign relations.

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