Singapore released on bail on Tuesday a British author arrested two days earlier as part of a criminal defamation investigation related to his book on the city—state’s death penalty policy.
Alan Shadrake, a 75—year—old freelance journalist, posted $10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,250) bail, said his lawyer, M. Ravi. Police confiscated Mr. Shadrake’s passport, interrogated him about the book and will question him further on Tuesday, Mr. Ravi said.
Mr. Shadrake was in Singapore to promote his book, “Once a Jolly Hangman- Singapore Justice in the Dock”, when he was arrested on Sunday based on a complaint by the government’s Media Development Authority.
The attorney—general’s office has charged Shadrake with contempt of court because it alleges statements in the book impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary. The contempt of court charge will be heard by a judge at the country’s High Court on July 30.
“The allegations and imputations in the book are calculated to undermine the authority of the Singapore courts and public confidence in the administration of justice,” the attorney general’s office said in court documents.
Criminal defamation and contempt of court carry a sentence of jail, a fine, or both.
Singapore’s leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in past years for defamation. The government says restrictions on speech and assembly are necessary to preserve economic prosperity and racial and religious harmony in the multiethnic city—state of 5 million people. It says any statement that damages the reputations of its leaders will hinder their ability to rule effectively.
Human rights group Amnesty International said Singapore uses criminal defamation laws to silence critics of government policies. The group also called for Singapore to abolish capital punishment.
“If Singapore aspires to be a global media city, it needs to respect global human rights standards for freedom of expression,” Donna Guest, Amnesty’s Asia Pacific deputy director, said in a statement. “Singapore should get rid of both its criminal defamation laws and the death penalty.”
A flier promoting Shadrake’s book says it “cuts through the facade of official silence to reveal disturbing truths about Singapore’s use of the death penalty,” and “reveals the cruelty and imprudence of an entire judicial system.”
The media authority said on Monday that it had not banned the sale of the book in Singapore.
Singapore applies capital punishment by hanging for offenses such as drug trafficking and unlawful use of a firearm.