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Graffiti sprayer in Singapore: imprisonment and flogging for two Germans

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Beatings, long imprisonment, the death penalty: As elsewhere 100 years ago, Singapore punishes wrongdoers for small crimes - and justifies this with the low crime rate in the city-state. Now two people from Leipzig have been sentenced to beatings and imprisonment for spraying graffiti.

The two graffiti sprayers from Leipzig in Singapore stand in front of the judge like felons: their hands handcuffed behind their backs are brought into the room. They wear T-shirts that read: Prisoner. Then the two present themselves as repentant sinners: he is ashamed, says one, he was really stupid, the other admits.

Judge Liew Thiam Leng listens and doesn’t move a face. It embodies the entire Singaporean state of state: It is about the small Asian city-state which, with iron discipline, authoritarian governance and the strictest laws, has developed from the post-colonial chaos in the region 60 years ago into one of the most prosperous locations in the world. The country is unwilling to let go of the reins on even one of these attributes.

"To scare off others," he instructs the two of them - that is the intention of his judgment in addition to the penalty. He interprets the whole planning of the break-in into a subway depot with the smear of a wagon as criminal energy: the purchase of the twelve spray bottles - on November 6th at 5:31 pm in a shop for art supplies, as the prosecutor reads meticulously; then also the brazen spying on the crime scene the night before. He finally announced nine months in prison and three strokes of the stick.

The public prosecutor had previously demonstrated the act by photo. The color photo shows a subway car with the Germans sprayed on it: ten meters long and 1.8 meters high. "This act of vandalism shows a remarkable effort," says the prosecutor.

One of the lowest crime rates in the world

What would have been dismissed elsewhere with a fine or a few hours of community service is considered a serious crime in Singapore. The first head of government, Lee Kuan Yew, gave the high-rise metropolis an authoritarian-paternalistic style that has continued to this day. No wonder: his son is head of government today. One day before the verdict, the court reiterated that the corporal punishment was constitutional. The prohibition of torture in the law does not apply to convicts, but only to suspects, in order to prevent confessions from being extorted.

"Yes, we have draconian punishments: corporal punishment, long prison sentences, death penalty," Justice Minister K. Shanmugam said in 2012 in parliament. "The result: We are one of the few countries that has, for example, fairly successfully contained the drug problem." The small country, not even as big as the island of Rügen, has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and is squeaky clean.

The Singaporeans conclude that deterrence through draconian penalties works. The lawyer for the two Leipzigers, Rüdiger Ackermann, says that he is personally not in favor of corporal punishment. But: "When you travel abroad, you have to observe the local laws."

Beats with a stick on the bare rump

The people of Leipzig - like more than 2,000 other convicts a year on average - will soon have to let their pants down in prison. The chances of getting around corporal punishment in an appeal are zero. It seems that the two of them have already come to terms with the blows of the cane: their lawyer called for a shorter prison sentence in his plea, but accepted the three blows of the cane.

The spanking punishment is administered to the bare bottom with a damp rattan cane. "It hurt like hell for a week," said Bangladeshi Forhad Mridha, who was once caught without a visa and was beaten with a stick as a result. According to him, the corporal punishment is usually given at the end of the prison sentence - so that the convict can still remember the painful experience in freedom.

dpa / una / LTO editorial team