Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Man admits insulting Thai monarchy

Joe Gordon, a Thai-born American, speaks to reporters upon his arrival at criminal court in Bangkok (AP)

Hoping for a lenient sentence, a shackled US citizen has pleaded guilty to charges of defaming Thailand's royal family, a grave crime in the south-east Asian kingdom that is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Judges said that a sentence would be issued on November 9.

Thai-born American Joe Gordon has been detained since late May for translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and posting them online.

Gordon committed the alleged crimes years ago while living in the US state of Colorado, where he worked as a car salesman.

The case has raised concerns about the reach of Thai law and how it is applied to both Thai nationals and foreign visitors. Thailand has the most severe lese majeste laws in the world, and critics say they have been increasingly abused by political rivals to harass opponents.

"I'm not fighting in the case. I'm pleading guilty, sirs," Gordon, 55, told three judges at a Bangkok criminal court, standing with handcuffs and ankle shackles.

"The fact that his bail requests have been repeatedly denied - that disheartened him and made him want to plead guilty," Arnon said before the hearing began. "He said he wanted the penalty to be lessened and intended to ask for the royal pardon."

Royal pardons are granted to prisoners by the Thai king on special occasions, such as his birthday or the anniversary of his ascension to the throne.

Gordon had previously denied the charges against him, according to the independent Thai-language prachatai.com news website, which has interviewed him in prison.

Speaking briefly to reporters as he was being escorted into the courtroom, Gordon said pleading innocent was futile. "How can I fight?" he said, adding that the trial is "not fair". "I want the American government to help me because this is about freedom of expression," he said.

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