British author to appeal Singapore jail sentence: lawyer

18th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British author jailed for six weeks after his book on Singapore's death penalty was found to be in contempt of court is filing an appeal to overturn his conviction, his lawyer said Thursday.

Alan Shadrake, 76, "wishes to appeal against his conviction and sentence," a letter sent by his lawyer M. Ravi to the Supreme Court said.

Ravi told AFP by telephone that Shadrake, a freelance writer based in Malaysia and Britain, should not have been convicted for insulting the judiciary in his book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock".

"Even if he's found guilty, the sentence is excessive," Ravi added.

The lawyer declined to state his grounds for challenging the conviction.

Shadrake was handed a six-week jail term on Tuesday and fined 20,000 Singapore dollars (15,000 US) after being found guilty of scandalising the city-state's courts.

It 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.

The previous longest jail term for contempt of court was 15 days.

Judge Quentin Loh said he imposed a deterrent sentence on Shadrake as the freelance journalist's allegations of "judicial impropriety" were without precedent.

Shadrake had issued a last-minute apology before his sentencing but Loh dismissed it as a "tactical ploy" to obtain a more lenient sentence.

Shadrake was arrested by Singapore police in July while visiting the city to launch his book.

It includes a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison who, according to the author, hanged around 1,000 men and women including foreigners from 1959 until he retired in 2006.

The book also features interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, and alleges that some cases may have been influenced by diplomatic and trade considerations.

Singapore executes murderers and drug traffickers by hanging, a controversial method of punishment dating back to British colonial rule.

© 2010 AFP

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