British author appeals six-week jail term
A British author launched an appeal on Monday against a six-week jail term for scandalising Singapore's judiciary, saying the charges against him were "bloody nonsense".
Alan Shadrake, 76, was sentenced and fined Sg$20,000 ($16,000) in November last year after Singapore's High Court ruled that his book on the death penalty broke the city-state's laws.
Shadrake's lawyer M. Ravi told the Court of Appeal on Monday the book, entitled "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock", did not damage public confidence in the judiciary.
"If the book had been considered to be as dangerous and risky... It is astonishing that it is not banned," Ravi said.
"The Singapore citizen is not so gullible as to lose faith in the judicial system... regardless of any abusive criticism directed at it."
The court reserved its judgment.
Shadrake, who is on bail, said after the hearing that bringing the charges against him "is bloody nonsense and if they put me in prison, I don't care".
The Attorney-General's Chambers had argued that a custodial sentence should be imposed on Shadrake as his book risked undermining the judiciary in the eyes of Singaporeans.
Principal senior state counsel David Chong said in court Monday that Shadrake's book had "transgressed the limits" of free speech and that his intention to publish a second edition showed an "avowed intention of the appellant to repeat the offence".
"A sentence of imprisonment is necessary to deter the appellant from repeating (his offence)... He should reap the consequences of his contempt," Chong said.
Shadrake's jail term was the stiffest sentence ever imposed in Singapore for the offence, and was denounced by international human rights groups campaigning for an end to executions and for greater freedom of expression in the country.
State prosecutor Chong said however that it represented "the lower end of the punishment".
Shadrake said outside the court he was "feeling quite up" about the proceedings.
He added that the second edition of his book was due to be released May 1 in Australia, with sections deemed offending to the Singapore judiciary deleted or rephrased.
US-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued before the hearing that "the outcome of Shadrake's appeal... could have important implications for free expression in Singapore."
"Singapore officials egregiously violated the right to free expression by prosecuting Shadrake for daring to suggest that the government doesn't have it all right all the time," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
© 2011 AFP