Thailand frees Australian writer

Harry Nicolaides pardoned after spending five months in jail for "slandering the monarchy".

    Lese majeste is a very serious offence in Thailand, where many consider the king semi-divine [Reuters]

    "A few hours before that I was climbing out of a sewerage tank that I fell into in the prison.

    "I ran out of tears but I never ran out of hope or love."

    Serious offfence

    Nicolaides was sentenced to three years jail after pleading guilty to lese majeste, or slandering the monarchy, in his 2005  novel titled Verisimilitude.

    Lese majeste  is a very serious offence in Thailand, where many people regard the 81-year-old Bhumibol as semi-divine.

    It is punishable by up to 15 years in prison although convictions, especially of foreigners, are rare and are normally followed quickly by a pardon.

    A spokesman from Australia's foreign affairs department said diplomats in Bangkok and Canberra had worked closely to resolve the writer's case.

    Nicolaides, reunited with his family, was freed after intense Canberra lobbying [EPA]
    Speaking at his son's side, Nicolaides' father Socrates said the ordeal had been a "living death" for the family.

    "But now I feel I have come alive again," he said.

    Nicolaides, who had previously worked as a university lecturer in Thailand, had been in prison since his arrest at Bangkok airport's departure lounge on August 31.

    The charge against him related to a passage in Verisimilitude, of which Nicolaides says only a handful of copies were sold.

    "My book, Verisimilitude, was a rather clumsy first attempt at fiction - only 50 copies were printed and seven sold," he said, in a piece dictated from his prison cell earlier this month.

    Previous arrests

    A Swiss man, Roland Jufer, was sentenced to 10 years' jail in 2007 for spraying black paint on pictures of the king but was pardoned at Thai New Year in mid-April after serving only four months. Jufer was deported as soon as he was released.

    A prominent Thai leftist academic, who was charged with lese majeste for comments made in a 2007 book about the previous year's military coup, said he could not get a fair trial in Thailand and fled to London earlier this month.

    Thailand has some of the strictest laws in the world protecting revered  and his family from insult, but  media freedom groups have accused authorities of abusing the law to  suppress dissent.

    Thai authorities have banned nearly 4,000 websites in recent  months for allegedly insulting the monarchy. Police said last week  that more than 17 criminal cases of insulting the royal family are  currently active.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    More than 300 people died in Somalia but some are asking why there was less news coverage and sympathy on social media.

    The life and death of Salman Rushdie, gentleman author

    The life and death of Salman Rushdie, gentleman author

    The man we call 'Salman Rushdie' today is not the brilliant author of the Satanic Verses, but a Picassoesque imposter.

    The Beirut Spy: Shula Cohen

    The Beirut Spy: Shula Cohen

    The story of Shula Cohen, aka The Pearl, who spied for the Israelis in Lebanon for 14 years.