Freed British author deported from Singapore

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A British author who spent five weeks in a Singapore prison for contempt after publishing a book questioning executions in the city-state was deported to London on Saturday hours after being released.

Alan Shadrake, 76, told AFP by mobile phone from Changi Airport before boarding a Singapore Airlines plane that he was in good health and "very, very happy" to be free again.

"I am now waiting for take-off and I will be at Heathrow (airport)," said the freelance journalist, whose book "Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock" drew ire from the corridors of power in the former British colony.

Shadrake said he had no regrets about writing the book, which is now on its second edition, and expected family members to welcome him in London after his more than 13-hour flight.

"It's very tiring being locked up. I just need to get back to my exercise routine," said the writer, who was deported nearly a year after he was arrested while visiting Singapore to launch the book.

It includes a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Changi Prison, located close to the airport from where Shadrake was deported.

According to the book, Singh hanged around 1,000 men and women including foreigners from 1959 until he retired in 2006.

It also features interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, and alleges that some foreigners may have been spared from the gallows as a result of diplomatic and trade considerations.

Singapore executes murderers and drug traffickers by hanging, a controversial method of punishment dating back to British rule, and insists harsh penalties help keep its crime rates low.

Shadrake went to jail on June 1 after losing his appeal against a six-week sentence, the toughest ever imposed in Singapore for contempt of court.

He was ordered to serve an extra two weeks behind bars because he could not pay the Sg$20,000 ($16,000) fine that accompanied his jail term.

But his lawyer M. Ravi said Shadrake, who turns 77 next month and had health problems during his trial, was released early on account of good behaviour.

"He is glad that the whole thing is over," the lawyer told AFP following Shadrake's release from prison in the morning.

Shadrake said that he had been a "good boy" in the new Changi Prison.

A spokesman from the British High Commission said it was aware of Shadrake's release and deportation but declined to comment further.

The spokesman said the embassy provided Shadrake with all the necessary consular assistance.

Lance Lattig, Amnesty International's researcher on Southeast Asia, said Singapore should have dropped all charges against Shadrake.

"They shouldn't have prosecuted him in the first place," Lattig said.

Critics of Singapore's death penalty and restrictions on press freedom had demanded Shadrake's release but the government said he insulted the judiciary without basis and went ahead with his prosecution.

© 2011 AFP

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