One sometimes wonders which is the meanest regime in Southeast Asia?

Singapore is often categorised as an authoritarian regime. However, its brutality does not compare with say the Khmer Rouge or the cleansing of Communist sympathisers at the start of the Suharto era. Alan Shadrake may change this perception.

Aged 75, Shadrake is a Malaysia-based British writer and journalist. He was arrested on 18 July 2010 by the Singaporean authorities while promoting his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock which is about the death penalty in Singapore. It contains a portrait of Darshan Singh, the chief hangman at Singapore’s Changi Prison, who reportedly executed a thousand people between 1959 and 2006. Shadrake was held for 39 hours at the headquarters of the Singapore Criminal Investigation Department before being freed on $10,000 Singaporean dollars bail. Despite having serious health problems, the 75-year-old had to sleep on the floor of his cell and was interrogated for hours at a time about the content of his book.

Originally scheduled for 30 July, his trial began on 18 October 2010. He is facing a possible two-year jail sentence. Reporters Sans Frontieres have a started a petition to appeal for his release (see the details here).