Singapore arrests British author of death penalty book

SINGAPORE, July 18, 2010 (AFP) - Singapore police arrested a British author on Sunday, a day after he launched a book alleging double standards in the city-state's use of the death penalty.

Alan Shadrake, who wrote the book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice on the Dock," was detained on charges including criminal defamation and contempt of court, police said in a statement.

"Police confirm that they have arrested British national Alan Shadrake. He is being investigated for alleged offences of criminal defamation and other offences," it said.

"Alan Shadrake has also been served with an application by the Attorney-General for an order of committal for contempt of court," the statement added.

It said that the arrest was made "pursuant to a police report that was lodged" by regulator Media Development Authority.

Shadrake's arrest came a day after the launch of his book, which contained an interview with Darshan Singh, the long-time chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison, who has since retired.

The book also features interviews with local human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers on various cases involving capital punishment in the city-state, which carries out the death penalty by hanging.

In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for murder, treason and drug trafficking, among other crimes.

Despite criticism from human rights activists, Singapore officials have maintained that the death penalty has been a key factor in keeping a low crime rate in the island-state, one of Asia's safest countries.

Shadrake, who wrote articles for London's Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, told AFP after the book's Singapore launch on Saturday that he had expected trouble but felt that the authorities were not going to take action.

"If they do anything, it'll just draw more attention to it all, and they have no defense," he said.

Defamation carries a sentence of two years imprisonment or a fine or both.

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