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PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am


British author Alan Shadrake has been sentenced to six weeks in a Singapore jail for contempt of court after publishing a book which criticised the city's use of the death penalty. He has also been fined S$20,000 (HK$119,000).


Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock is based on the career of hangman Darshan Singh. It also alleges that some cases may not have been fairly judged and were influenced by diplomatic and trade considerations.


According to Shadrake, Singh executed around 1,000 men and women between 1959 until his retirement in 2006. Singh was the chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison.


Influenced by former status as a British colony, Singapore retains the death penalty for serious crimes such as murder and drug offences.


Why did the judge impose the city's state's heaviest penalty ever for contempt of court? The book was said to insult the judiciary, with the judge saying the author displayed 'a reckless disregard for the truth'.


Why has the case made such a splash internationally? The jail sentence is seen as major setback to freedom of speech and the promotion of human rights. Phil Robertson, deputy director of US group Human Rights Watch said: 'it will have a chilling effect on others who have differences or issues with the government'.