November 17, 2010

Office of the Prime Minister
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Orchard Road
Singapore 238823
Fax: +633 28 983/+683 56 621

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the sentence handed down to British author Alan Shadrake.

According to our information, on November 16, the High Court sentenced 76-year-old Shadrake to six weeks in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of S$20,000 for “scandalizing the judiciary” in his new book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, a critique of the use of capital punishment in Singapore. The book uses interviews with human rights activists, lawyers, and former police officers to highlight alleged double standards and a lack of impartiality on capital offenses. Shadrake faces an additional two weeks in prison if he is unable to pay the fine.

Shadrake was arrested on July 18, 2010, after he arrived in Singapore to launch his book, and was originally released on bail pending trial. He may face a further charge of defamation for the book, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. During the trial, Shadrake offered a qualified apology which the High Court Judge Quentin Loh dismissed as “a tactical ploy in court to obtain a reduced sentence.” Shadrake stands by the claims he makes in the book. He is said to be in poor health and there are serious concerns for his well-being in prison.

PEN American Center strongly protests the six-week sentence handed down to Alan Shadrake. We believe he is being punished solely for his critical views and for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release.  

Thank you for your urgent attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Chan Heng Chee
Ambassador of Singapore to the United States
Embassy of Singapore to the United States
3501 International Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 537-0876

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