HM the King grants pardon to US citizen jailed for lese-majesty

national July 11, 2012 00:00

By Deutsche Presse Agentur

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HM the King has granted a pardon to a Thai-born US citizen serving a jail sentence for lese-majesty, US embassy officials said Wednesday.

Joe Gordon, 55, whom the Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced to twoand a half years in jail in December, was released Tuesday night, US press attache Walter Braunohler said.

"We are very pleased that he has been granted a royal amnesty,"Braunohler said. "We have been urging the Thai authorities bothpublicly and privately to ensure that freedom of expression isrespected."

A Bangkok Remand Centre spokesman confirmed that Gordon had been released. Gordon, a naturalized US citizen who was born Lerpong Wichaikammat, was arrested in May 2011 while visiting Thailand.

He was found guilty of lese-majesty for posting excerpts from The King Never Smiles, an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol that isbanned in Thailand, on a Thai-language website. Lese-majesty is a criminal offence, punishable by up to 15 yearsin jail.

The court originally sentenced Gordon to five years in jail butreduced the sentence because he pleaded guilty. The sentence drew criticism from US Ambassador Elizabeth Pratt, who stressed  the time of the verdict that while the embassyrespects the monarchy, "at the same time, we support freedom ofexpression, not just in Thailand but worldwide."

The US State Department and the European Union last year expressed concern over a recent spike in lese-majesty prosecutions.

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