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British author Alan Shadrake freed and deported, status of his book remains unclear

(SEAPA/IFEX) - British author Alan Shadrake was deported from Singapore soon after being released from jail, but restrictions on the sale of his book, "Once the Jolly Hangman", continue and have resulted in the questioning of three people from the non-government organization Singaporeans for Democracy (SDF), media reports said.

The AFP news agency reported on 9 July 2011 that the 76-year-old author was taken to the Changi Airport to board a London-bound aircraft after having served five weeks out of an eight-week jail sentence for contempt of court. He was indicted on November 2010 and started serving the sentence on 1 June 2011 after losing an appeal.

Police also mounted an investigation against SDF members Seelan Palay, Jarrod Luo and Rachel Zeng for selling the book. According to a statement posted on the SDF website on 25 June, they were questioned under the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code for "defamation", but were not charged.

Although there appears to be no official ban on the book, the Asia Sentinel news site reported in August last year that the Media Development Authority (MDA) has sent letters to book shops discouraging the sale of the book.

"The absence of a clear classification of the book by the MDA, which is still the subject of a contempt of court case brought by the Government against its author Alan Shadrake, puts members of the public at legal risk," SDF said in a 27 June statement, after its members were called in for questioning.

The Singaporean government charged Shadrake for contempt of court and criminal defamation for statements in his book questioning the application of the death penalty in Singapore. However, the latter charge, carrying a two-year jail sentence, was dropped while Shadrake was serving the jail sentence handed down to him for contempt of court.

One of Shadrake's contentions in his book was that the meting out of the death penalty in Singapore was contingent upon the socioeconomic background of the offenders, and, in the case of a foreigner, his or her country's economic and political relationship with the island-city state. He featured a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Changi Prison and interviewed human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers.

Shadrake's lawyer, M. Ravi, told AFP that his client is healthy and "glad that the whole thing is over."

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