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Appeals court upholds ruling against government critic

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, May 27, 2011 - The Court of Appeal's decision to uphold author Alan Shadrake's contempt of court sentence for "scandalizing the judiciary" is a major setback for free expression in Singapore. The charges should be dropped, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 27, 2011, the appeals court upheld British national Shadrake's original sentence of six weeks in prison and a S$20,000 (US$16,000) fine. He had been charged for the allegation in his 2010 book, "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock", that mandatory death penalty decisions were not always equitably applied in Singapore. He contended that the justice system was subject to political and economic factors, including pressure from the ruling People's Action Party. At Shadrake's appeal on April 11, the prosecutor contended that he had "transgressed the limits of free speech and fair criticism and maligned the entire judiciary."

"The prosecution of Alan Shadrake for doing nothing more than calling for legal reform is a devastating blow to free speech in Singapore," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "More broadly, until the government releases its iron grip on basic freedoms, the Singaporean people will remain all the poorer."

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