Author's sentence 'dismays' UK minister

2010-11-19 12:14
Singapore - A British minister has said he is "dismayed" by the prison sentence handed to a British author convicted by a Singapore court of insulting the city-state's judiciary.

Foreign office minister Jeremy Browne said in comments posted on the website of the British High Commission in Singapore that author Alan Shadrake's views on the judicial system should be covered by the right to freedom of expression.

The High Court of the island republic on Tuesday imposed a six-week jail term on 76-year-old Shadrake for insulting the judiciary by publishing a book critical of executions there.

The freelance journalist was also fined $15 000 following his conviction for contempt of court. He remains free pending an appeal.

"The government attaches importance to freedom of expression around the world," Browne said in remarks seen on the website on Friday.

"I am therefore dismayed that Mr Shadrake has been charged, convicted and sentenced to six weeks in jail in Singapore for expressing his personal views on the legal system."

Filing appeal

Browne added that the commission "would continue to call on all countries, including Singapore, to recognise the right to freedom of expression as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

On Thursday, Shadrake said through his lawyer that he was filing an appeal to overturn the conviction, which stemmed from allegations made in his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a sharp rebuttal to Browne's comments, saying it was "surprised" he had raised the issue and the case had nothing to do with freedom of expression.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is surprised that a British minister has commented on the matter, which is not about freedom of expression or Singapore-UK relations, but about the integrity of Singapore's judicial system," a ministry spokesperson said.

"The British government should understand that Singapore has the right to enforce its own laws to protect the reputation of our judiciary and judicial system, as well as other key public institutions."

However, both Browne and the MFA said Shadrake's case was unlikely to affect bilateral ties, with the British minister scheduled to make an introductory visit to Singapore in December.

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