Singapore’s highest court yesterday ordered a defiant 76-year-old British writer to serve six weeks in jail for contempt after he published a book denouncing judicial hangings in the city-state.
Alan Shadrake, author of Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, said he could not afford to pay a S$20,000 (US$16,150) fine on top of the prison term, resulting in another two weeks in jail.
The freelance journalist, who has worked in Britain, the US and Asia, laughed and joked with reporters after the Court of Appeal, his last legal resort, upheld the sentence imposed by a High Court judge in November last year.
“I expected the decision. I am very sorry for Singapore. I’m not sorry for myself,” he said after leaving the packed courtroom.
Shadrake was granted a request to start his jail term on Wednesday after he undergoes a medical test. He told reporters he had been receiving treatment for polyps in his colon and doctors recently found a tumor on his face.
Even if Shadrake has to serve an extra two weeks in jail for not paying the fine, Singapore prison terms are often reduced by a third for good behavior.
The author had been on bail while seeking to reverse his conviction for “scandalizing” the judiciary in Singapore, which imposes a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking and murder.
“We affirm the sentence imposed by the judge,” Justice Andrew Phang of the Court of Appeal said yesterday. “This was still the worst case of scandalizing contempt that had hitherto come before the Singapore courts.”
The British High Commission in Singapore did not comment on the ruling, but indirectly criticized Singapore’s policies on freedom of expression.
“The British government attaches importance to freedom of expression around the world and we will continue to call on all countries, including Singapore, to recognize the right to freedom of expression as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” it said in a statement.
Shadrake’s jail term was the stiffest sentence ever imposed in Singapore for contempt.