A Thai court will deliver its verdict Thursday to a US citizen who has pleaded guilty to insulting the monarchy, hoping for leniency over charges punishable by up to 15 years in prison, his lawyer said.
Thai-born Joe Wichai Commart Gordon was arrested in May on a visit to the kingdom and accused of translating a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej into Thai and publishing it online while living in the United States.
“I estimate that the court will give him three to five years imprisonment,” his lawyer Arnon Nampa told AFP.
“If he receives three years in jail, he may get a suspended sentence. That’s what I hope for, even if it is unlikely to happen.”
Gordon, a 55-year-old car salesman who has lived in Colorado for more than 20 years, told Bangkok’s Criminal Court in October that he did not wish to fight the case.
Under Thailand’s lese majeste legislation, which has been internationally criticised for suppressing freedom of expression, anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.
In the latest conviction to alarm activists, 61-year-old Ampon Tangnoppakul was jailed last month for 20 years on four counts of sending messages to the private secretary of then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in May 2010.
The European Union said it was “deeply concerned” about the Thai man’s sentence and the United States has since voiced alarm over lese majeste prosecutions in Thailand.
A group of activists opposed to the legislation plan a “fearlessness walk” in Bangkok on Saturday in support of Ampon and other political prisoners.
The government said Wednesday it had set up a committee to clamp down on websites considered insulting to the monarchy.
Deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubumrung said he would chair the first meeting of the group this week, including representatives from the police, the interior ministry and other related agencies.