Singapore police question British author after 'defamation' arrest

A British author arrested in Singapore in a criminal defamation probe will face more questions today.

Alan Shadrake, 75, who is on €5,500 bail, was arrested on Sunday while in the city-state to promote his book on its death penalty policy.

His lawyer, M Ravi, said police confiscated Mr Shadrake’s passport, interrogated him about the book and were due to question him further today.

Mr Shadrake had hosted an event on Saturday promoting 'Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock'.

Police said they arrested him based on a complaint by the government’s Media Development Authority and were investigating him for other offences. They declined to give further details.

The attorney general’s office is also seeking contempt of court charges against Mr Shadrake because statements in the book allegedly impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary, a spokeswoman said.

The contempt of court charges will be heard by a judge at the country’s high court on July 30.

Criminal defamation carries a sentence of up to two years in jail, a fine, or both.

A leaflet promoting the book says it “cuts through the facade of official silence to reveal disturbing truths about Singapore’s use of the death penalty”, and “reveals the cruelty and imprudence of an entire judicial system”.

The media authority said it had not banned the sale of the book in Singapore.

Singapore’s leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in past years for alleged defamation.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International contend Singapore applies defamation laws selectively to silence criticism. The government says restrictions on speech and assembly are necessary to preserve economic prosperity and racial and religious harmony in the multiethnic city-state of five million people.

It says any statement that damages the reputations of its leaders will hinder their ability to rule effectively.

Singapore applies capital punishment by hanging for offences such as drug trafficking and unlawful use of a firearm.

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