Bangkok, Jan 19: Australian writer Harry Nicolaides, 41, has been sentenced to three years in jail here for insulting Thailand's revered royal family in a novel. Nicolaides pleaded guilty to the charge earlier on Monday Jan 19. He has been in custody for nearly five months.
“He was found guilty under criminal law article 112 and the court has sentenced him to six years, but due to his confession, which is beneficial to the case, the sentence is reduced to three years," a judge told the court.
Article 112 refers to Thailand's harsh 'lese majeste' laws protecting the monarchy from insult, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. Thailand has in recent months intensified the policing of laws against insulting the royal family. The country''s lese majeste laws are some of the harshest in the world.
Nicolaides, who had previously worked as a university lecturer in northern Thailand, was detained at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport departure lounge in early September on an arrest warrant issued two-and-a-half years earlier.
The charge relates to a passage in a novel published by Nicolaides in 2005 that was considered offensive to the Thai monarchy. Nicolaides's lawyer said last year that he would plead not guilty to the charge, but the Australian said before today''s hearing that he expected some kind of deal with Thai authorities.
“People told me they will make a deal if I plead guilty. I pleaded not guilty last time with advice from someone," The Australian quoted Nicolaides as saying outside the court, without elaborating.
'I respect the king of Thailand,' he added. “I was aware there were obscure laws (about the monarchy) but I didn't think they would apply to me." 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.