Fri, Oct 22, 2010
US citizen faces caning for overstaying in Singapore

SINGAPORE - An American businessman is facing the prospect of being caned in Singapore after overstaying his visa by almost half a year, court documents and his lawyer said Thursday.

If convicted for violating Singapore's immigration laws, US citizen Kamari Kenyada Charlton, 37, could become the first American in 16 years to be caned.

Kamari, who was born in the Bahamas, was arrested at Changi Airport on September 1 when he was about to leave the country, his lawyer M. Ravi said.

A charge sheet issued against him seen by AFP said Kamari had remained in Singapore for an extra 169 days after his three-month social visit pass expired on March 15, 2010.

"Without reasonable cause, you did remain in Singapore for 169 days after the expiry of the social visit pass... and you have thereby committed an offence," it said.

Under Singapore laws, overstaying for more than 90 days is punishable by a jail term not exceeding six months and a minimum three strokes of the cane.

The punishment entails being struck on the back of the thigh below the buttocks, which can split the skin and leave lasting scars.

Kamari, who runs a construction business in the Bahamas, is currently on remand in a local prison, Ravi said.

He had entered Singapore on December 15 last year to accompany his wife, who had come to the city-state seeking medical treatment for her pregnancy.

Ravi had appealed for a commutation of the American's potential sentence to a fine, citing the case of a relative of Kamari's wife who was handed down a fine of 500 Singapore dollars (384 US) for exceeding his visa by 194 days.

But in a written response to Ravi, the Attorney General's Chambers rejected the appeal "after having carefully considered your representations".

"What we are asking here is why is there such differential treatment especially considering the fact that he had overstayed longer than our client," Ravi said.

The case has caught the attention of US officials.

"The US Embassy is closely monitoring the case and embassy officials have provided consular assistance to this individual, including six visits by consular officials," a spokeswoman for the mission told AFP.

If caned Kamari would be the first American to undergo the punishment in Singapore since the widely-publicised case of Michael Fay, an American teenager who was given four strokes of the cane in 1994 for vandalism.

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