Pattaya Daily News

22 February 2009 :: 20:02:01 pm 27995

Nicolaides Receives Royal Pardon,Returning to Melbourne on Saturday

Harry Nicolaides has received a royal pardon and been sent back to Australia. The man's release followed active lobbying by the Australian government.
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The 41-year-old Australian man, Harry Nicolaides, had been sentenced to three years of jail in January for insulting the Thai monarchy in a 2005 novel. 

But a royal pardon, granted by King Bhumipol Adulyadej late Thursday, led to Nicolaides departing Thailand Friday to reunite with his family in Melbourne. 

Nicolaides was arrested in late August and held in prison until his sentencing last month. In January, TV images showed a clearly distraught Nicolaides as he was brought to court in prison garb and shackled. 

Nicolaides had described his time in prison as “torture” and “a bad dream.” In the novel, which sold fewer than a dozen copies, he made references deemed to have defamed the Thai crown prince. 

Under Thailand’s laws individuals can face up to 15 years prison for insulting the monarchy. 

The Australian government, politicians and the general public had been actively calling for Nicolaides’ release. 

Nicolaides, upon returning to Melbourne on Saturday, told reporters he was still “bewildered” and “dazed” from the experience and had a deeply emotional journey back to Australia. He said he had been skeptical over earlier reports a pardon had been recommended by prison authorities. 

But human rights lawyer Somchai Homal-or says foreigners, who are charged under laws protecting the monarchy, generally are pardoned. 

“The lese majeste law in Thailand, the penalty is high,” said Somchai. “We have this law based on our tradition or customary law that every Thai person should respect our king. So this cannot be expected that the foreigner should respect or regard the monarchy the same as the Thai.” 

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 ”A few hours before then, I was informed I had a royal pardon and asked to kneel before a portrait of the king, a royal audience of sorts, and be informed that I had been pardoned.

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

 

He had written a book entitled Verisimilitude, a fictional account of life in Thailand. Part of the book, which sold only seven copies, dealt with the sex life of an unnamed crown prince, and it was those 12 lines that caused his arrest and conviction. 

His lawyer Mark Dean, SC, said Nicolaides was made an example of by the former Thai government which was determined to appear tough on critics of the country’s monarchy. 

”I think it’s fair to say that Harry was a political prisoner, and that the reason for the commencement of this case against him were inextricably linked to the political crisis in Thailand in August 2008,” he said. 

”But since then, conditions have changed in Thailand, there has been a change of government, and the current Thai Government has done everything it can to support Harry’s case.” 

Claims by his family and supporters months ago that the Australian Government had not done enough to support his release were tempered by Nicolaides’s offer of thanks to officials. 

”I am happy with the Australian Government’s efforts. They had constraints that they had to work within,” he said. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said he was very grateful to the Thai authorities for quickly processing Nicolaides’s return to Australia. 

”I think it is a measure of the good relationship between Australia and Thailand that the pardon was granted by the King of Thailand on Wednesday, the paperwork was completed on Friday and less than a day later, with the assistance of the Thai authorities, he was returned to Australia,” Mr Smith told reporters in Perth. with AAP 

Grateful author home
BY JESSICA WRIGHT
Read from the source here 

Arriving at Melbourne Airport yesterday at about 1.30pm, he hugged his partner, Jintana Suttanu, his father Socrates, brother Forde, and other family members.

  

”I am angry, I am frustrated, I am perplexed,” Nicolaides said of his harrowing ordeal.

 

The emotional trauma of his experience was compounded by the news his mother had suffered a stroke during his incarceration. ”I learned only a few minutes before boarding my flight that my mother had suffered a stroke,” Nicolaides said. 

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Politics News

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