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Thailand's Supreme Court reduces editor's sentence in lèse majesté case

Editor Somyot Pruksakasemsuk leaves the court after a ruling in Bangkok, 23 February 2017
Editor Somyot Pruksakasemsuk leaves the court after a ruling in Bangkok, 23 February 2017

AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

This statement was originally published on on 23 February 2017.

The Thai Supreme Court's verdict on 23 February 2017 reduced the penalty of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk from 10 to six years in prison in a lèse majesté case.

Somyot, editor of the defunct red shirt affiliated Voice of Taksin, was charged of lèse majesté in 2011 for the publication of two articles written by an author using a pseudonym.

Government prosecutors argued that the two fiction-style articles alluded to specific persons behind Thailand's political conflicts and violated the law.

In reducing the sentence, the Supreme Court stated that the defendant gave details about the identity of the articles' author during the proceedings. The court acknowledged that the defendant declared his loyalty to the monarchy. It also gave consideration to Somyot's previous career, his age, and the fact that he has been in jail for almost six years.

Somyot's lawyer argued that the Printing Registration and Notification Law of 2007 abolished the 1941 Printing Act and removed the liability of editors for a publication's content.

Somyot's sentence was reduced from five to three years per count of lèse majesté offense. An additional year was added to his sentence for a separate defamation case for a total of seven years in prison.

Somyot has been in jail since April 2011, or a total of five years 10 months. He serves a remainder of 14 months in prison.

"See you next year," Somyot said to the crowd after today's verdict.

Somyot has spent his life as a labor rights activist. Prior to his arrest, he led a campaign to abolish the controversial lèse majesté law. Thailand has one of the strictest laws against royal defamation, which has been used to limit freedom of expression especially in the current political conflict.

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