Singapore arrests British writer for defamation

SINGAPORE (AP): Singaporean police said Monday they arrested a British author as part of a criminal defamation investigation related to his book on the city-state’s death penalty policy.

Alan Shadrake, 75, was in Singapore to promote the book and was arrested Sunday, police said in a statement.

He hosted an event the day before promoting “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock.”

Police said they arrested Shadrake based on a complaint by the government’s Media Development Authority and were investigating him for other offenses. They declined to give details.

The attorney-general’s office is also seeking contempt of court charges against Shadrake because statements in the book allegedly impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary, a spokeswoman said. She spoke anonymously in line with the attorney-general office policy.

The contempt of court charges will be heard by a judge at the country’s High Court on July 30.

Singapore’s leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in past years for alleged defamation.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International contend Singapore applies defamation laws selectively to silence criticism. 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.

Singapore applies capital punishment by hanging for offenses such as drug trafficking and unlawful use of a firearm.