PEN International protests the six-week sentence handed down to British author Alan Shadrake by the high court in Singapore today for allegedly “scandalizing the judiciary” in his book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. The book is a critique of the use of capital punishment in Singapore, alleging double standards and a lack of impartiality. He also received a heafine. Shadrake faces a further charge of defamation for the book, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Shadrake, aged 76, was arrested on July 18, 2010, after arriving in Singapore to launch the book, and released on bail pending trial. He is said to be in poor health, and there are serious concerns for his well-being in detention. PEN considers Shadrake to be detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on humanitarian grounds.

Background Information

The BBC Online News gives the following information:
A Singapore court has sentenced the UK author Alan Shadrake to six weeks in prison for insulting the judiciary in a book he wrote about the death penalty.

The 76-year-old was found guilty last week, and faces a further trial on defamation charges.

He was also ordered to pay a S$20,000 (£9,585; US$15,400) fine.

In his book, Once a Jolly Hangman - Singapore Justice in the Dock, he criticized how the death penalty is used, alleging a lack of impartiality.

Prosecution lawyers had sought a prison term of 12 weeks.

Shadrake offered an apology, which High Court Judge Quentin Loh called "nothing more than a tactical ploy in court to obtain a reduced sentence."

Shadrake's lawyer, M Ravi, said an appeal was unlikely to succeed.

He said his client was in ill health and regretted that he had received no support from the British public.

Mr. Ravi added that Shadrake did not have any money and the fine could not be paid.

Judge Loh said that Shadrake would have to serve an additional two weeks in prison if he failed to pay the fine.

Malaysia-based Shadrake was arrested in July when he visited Singapore to launch his book.

The book contains interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, as well as a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison....

Shadrake offered a qualified apology at his trial last week but stood by the claims he makes in the book. In a recent interview with The Guardian, he admitted one minor inaccuracy in his book, but insisted the rest was "devastatingly accurate...They know the book is accurate, which is why they're going to all this trouble," he said. He added that he was undeterred by the prospect of going to prison: "This story is never going away. I'll keep it on the boil for as long as I live. They're going to regret they ever started this."

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the detention of writer Alan Shadrake for his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock;
  • Expressing serious concern for his health and well-being in detention;
  • Urging his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on humanitarian grounds.

Send Your Letter To

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

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Singapore in your country if possible.