Thailand releases magazine editor imprisoned for royal insult

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was arrested in 2011 after launching a campaign calling for a reform of strict lese majesty law.

    Somyot Prueksakasemsuk stands next to his supporters after his release from prison [Aukkarapon Niyomat/Reuters]
    Somyot Prueksakasemsuk stands next to his supporters after his release from prison [Aukkarapon Niyomat/Reuters]

    A Thai activist and magazine editor who in 2013 was sentenced to 11 years behind bars for insulting the monarchy has been released after seven years in prison.

    Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was arrested in 2011 after launching a campaign to collect 10,000 signatures for a petition that called for a reform of Thailand'strict lese majesty law - using the French term, a "lese majeste" crime is one committed against a sovereign ruler. 

    The editor of the political magazine "Voice of Taksin" was imprisoned without bail for nearly two years and in January 2013, the Criminal Court of Thailand convicted him of lese majeste and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, plus another year for a separate defamation case. 

    Somyot refused to plead guilty or seek a royal pardon. The Supreme Court reduced his sentence in 2017.

    After his release on Monday, Somyot vowed to keep pressing his call for democracy. 

    "I will use my rights as a Thai citizen to join this movement and I invite people to support calls for an election as soon as possible," the 56-year-old told reporters outside the Bangkok prison, where about 100 supporters greeted him.

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    "Calling for democracy, especially elections, is good," added Somyot. 

    Thailand's military government has repeatedly delayed general elections, with the latest date set for February 2019.

    Student-led protests calling for elections and for the military government to step down have been taking 

    The military government's top legal adviser has already warned Somyot not to break the law.

    In Thailand, it is illegal to defame, insult or threaten members of the royal family. The lese majeste law has been on the statute books since 1908.

    An alliance of human rights organisations had lobbied for the dismissal of the charges against Somyot, including Amnesty International, Freedom House and the International Federation for Human Rights.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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