Tuesday, November 16, 2010

U.K. Author Jailed for Six Weeks for Singapore Contempt

Alan Shadrake, the British author convicted of contempt of court for disparaging Singapore’s judiciary, was sentenced to six weeks in jail and fined S$20,000 ($15,380), a record sentence for the crime in the city-state.

Shadrake, 76, was also ordered to pay S$55,000 in costs to the prosecution by Singapore High Court Judge Quentin Loh. He was released until Nov. 24 to decide whether he wants to appeal the decision.

The writer accused Singapore’s courts of succumbing to political influences and favoring the rich over the poor in his book “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice in the Dock.” The book contained “half-truths and selective facts; sometimes even outright falsehoods,” Loh said in his Nov. 3 verdict.

“I still believe in what I said,” Shadrake told reporters after the sentencing today, wearing a navy blue open-neck shirt, beige jacket and cream-colored trousers. He’s working on a second edition of the book that will correct a “misuse of the word ’judiciary’ which was careless on my part,” he said.

The prosecution had sought a jail term of at least 12 weeks because of Shadrake’s “continued defiance” and allegations of “the worst possible kind” against the judiciary.

Shadrake had no intention of undermining the city’s judiciary and ought to be censured instead of jailed or fined, his lawyer M. Ravi said at a Nov. 9 hearing.

‘Reckless Disregard’

Loh said in sentencing Shadrake today that he had shown a “reckless disregard for the truth,” a “tendency to distort his sources for his own purposes, and that an average reader of his book would be ‘‘likely to believe his contemptuous remarks.’’

He also said Shadrake made his situation worse in an interview with the Guardian newspaper last week in which he said Singapore’s authorities had ‘‘over-reacted’’ and were ‘‘going to regret they ever started this.’’

Loh said he gave Shadrake a discount on the sentence to signal the court has no interest in stifling debate on the death penalty. The sentence exceeds that of Tan Liang Joo, who was jailed for 15 days in November 2008 for wearing a t-shirt to court with a picture of a kangaroo dressed as a judge.

Shadrake and Ravi wore badges with the number 2, which Shadrake said were a call for second chances for people on death row in Singapore.

Shadrake said the jail term was about what he expected, but that he had expected a higher fine. Ravi said in court that Shadrake ‘‘doesn’t even have S$2,000’’ with which to pay the fine. Loh said Shadrake will serve an extra two weeks in jail if he defaults on the fine.

The case is Attorney-General vs Alan Shadrake OS720/2010 in the Singapore High Court.

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