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Thailand: Supreme Court decision to uphold activist’s lèse majesté conviction a gross injustice

Thailand’s Supreme Court today upheld the conviction of activist and magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, imprisoned under the country’s draconian lèse majesté law.

The court reduced his jailsentence from 10 years to seven years, citing his age, years served, and the fact that he was not the author of the article he had published containing alleged lèse majesté content.

In response, Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues and Research said:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to reduce Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s sentence does not go far enough. Upholding the conviction only perpetuates the profound injustice he is suffering. He has already been continuously detained for nearly six years, and even one additional day behind bars is too much. Somyot should not have been convicted in the first place and must be immediately and unconditionally released.

“This decision underscores the extent to which the Thai authorities are repeatedly violating their obligations under international law to uphold the right to freedom of expression, including through their relentless enforcement of the oppressive lèse majesté law.”

Background

Amnesty International reiterates long-standing calls on Thai authorities to stop penalising the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, and immediately and unconditionally release all individuals who have been charged or convicted solely for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, whether by expressing themselves or sharing materials produced by others.

The Thai authorities have repeatedly violated the rights of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and others accused of lèse majesté offences by denying bail requests and subjecting them to lengthy judicial proceedings shrouded in secrecy.

Somyot has been detained since 30 April 2011. On 23 January 2013, Bangkok Criminal Court convicted him under Article 112 of the Penal Code—Thailand’s lèse majesté law—for his decision as the editor of Voice of Thaksin magazine to publish two satirical short stories. He was not the author of either story. The court sentenced Somyot to 10 years imprisonment. Subsequent courts have turned down his request for bail and temporary release 16 times. Somyot’s lawyers and relatives were not informed of today’s Supreme Court hearing until late yesterday evening. In 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that his detention was arbitrary.