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Singapore Seeks 12-Week Jail Term for U.K. Author

A Singapore prosecutor urged a judge to jail British author Alan Shadrake for at least 12 weeks for disparaging the city-state’s judiciary in a book.

Prosecutor Hema Subramaniam said at a sentencing hearing today that Shadrake was “insincere” in his “half-hearted attempt at an apology” and deserved to be jailed for contempt of court.

Shadrake, 76, challenged the impartiality of Singapore’s judiciary in the book “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice in the Dock,” accusing courts of bowing to political and economic pressures and dispensing justice unequally to the rich and the poor.

Shadrake alleged “grave misconduct” by the city state’s courts, High Court Judge Quentin Loh said in his Nov. 3 decision to convict the author for contempt. The book contained “half-truths and selective facts; sometimes even outright falsehoods,” Loh said then.

The judge said he’d give Shadrake “a final opportunity to make amends,” when he convicted the author. Loh today reserved his decision on a sentence until Nov. 16.

The writer, dressed in a beige linen suit, showed “continued defiance” of the Singapore judiciary, Subramaniam said. She cited the writer’s comments to media that he wouldn’t apologize and would continue fighting for freedom and democracy.

Heart Condition

“The attitude of the state is horrendous,” Shadrake’s lawyer M. Ravi said at the hearing, adding the authorities were “overzealous” in pursuing Shadrake. He urged the judge to be merciful.

Shadrake has a heart condition and is fighting colon cancer, which is in remission, Ravi said.

“He would certainly apologize if he had offended the sensitivities of the judiciary,” Ravi said. “It was never his intention to undermine the judges or the judiciary.”

Shadrake, based in Malaysia, was arrested in his hotel room after the book’s release in Singapore in July. The author, who’s out on bail, is also being investigated for criminal defamation by the Singapore authorities.

Shadrake declined to comment after the hearing.

Contempt of court carries a jail sentence, a fine, or both. No maximum penalty has been specified under Singapore’s constitution, according to the Attorney General’s office.

A Wall Street Journal editor was fined S$10,000 ($7,772) last year for the publication of three articles that the Singapore government said showed contempt of the judiciary. In another case, three activists were sentenced to between seven and 15 days in prison for wearing T-shirts with pictures of a kangaroo dressed as a judge.

The case is Attorney-General vs Alan Shadrake OS720/2010 in the Singapore High Court.

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