British author Alan Shadrake was released early from Changi Prison yesterday morning after serving time for contempt of court.
Shadrake had been found in contempt of court, and faced criminal contempt in Singapore courts for his book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock, about the death penalty in Singapore,
Shadrake’s book contained in-depth interviews with Darshan Singh—Singapore’s chief executioner for nearly fifty years—and accounts of high-profile cases in Singapore resulting in death by hanging.
We had written about Singapore’s executions in our book, Escape from Paradise:
“Mercifully, our high tech gallows use the “long drop,” so, the prisoner, hooded, and with arms and legs bound, dies instantly, in a snap. The gallows can accommodate up to seven people at a drop, a great convenience when you are hanging fifty or more people every year.”
This was not written to criticize Singapore, as the upside is that Singapore is safe.
Most executions involve drugs and drug couriers who are caught at Singapore’s Changi Airport—in the transit lounge, where they expect it least.
On his release, the 76-year-old Shadrake was taken in an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) van to Changi Airport and was deported. He was due to serve a longer sentence, which at Shadrake’s age could mean life.
Shadrake, a British citizen, told Agence France-Presse before boarding his 13-hour flight to London that he had no regrets writing the book and was happy to be free. He was also lucky to be free, and his early release may have been due to requests routed through Britain’s consulate to the Singapore authorities.
Last November, he was sentenced to six weeks’ jail and a $20,000 fine after the court found 11 passages in his book to be in contempt of court.
After an unsuccessful appeal against his conviction, the former journalist started his jail term on June 1. He was to serve eight weeks, two more than the original sentence because he could not afford to pay the fine.
According to Shadrake’s lawyer, M. Ravi, his client, who has health problems, was released early on good behavior. Shadrake was in high spirits and was looking forward to seeing his family and friends, Mr. Ravi added.
Last year, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) took the British author to court on the grounds that 14 passages in his book about the death penalty here had scandalized the judiciary.
The AGC contended that it was a baseless broadside for the author to allege that the Singapore courts bowed to pressure from foreign governments, favored the rich and privileged and were used as a tool by the ruling party to muzzle political dissent.
Shadrake had been arrested on a brief trip to Singapore to publicize his book.
In a way, he succeeded.