December 5, 2020

American sentenced to prison for Thai royal insult

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Thai-born American Joe Gordon looks out from a cell after his arrival at a criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011. The court sentenced Gordon to two and a half years in prison Thursday for defaming the country's royal family by translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the king and posting them online. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

BANGKOK (AP) — A court in Thailand sentenced a U.S. citizen to two and a half years in prison Thursday for defaming the country’s royal family by translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the king and posting them online.

The verdict is the latest so-called lese majeste punishment handed down in the Southeast Asian kingdom, which has come under increasing pressure at home and abroad to reform harsh legislation that critics say is an affront to freedom of expression.

The 55-year-old Thai-born American, Joe Gordon, stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out at a Bangkok criminal court.

Judge Tawan Rodcharoen said the punishment, initially set at five years, was reduced because Gordon pleaded guilty in October. Defense lawyer Arnon Nampa said Gordon would not appeal, but would apply for a royal pardon.

The sentence was relatively light compared to other recent cases. In November, 61-year-old Amphon Tangnoppakul was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sending four text messages deemed offensive to the queen.

Gordon posted links to the banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej several years ago while living in the U.S. state of Colorado, and his case has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.

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