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Cypriot jailed in eIKing and IeIU nightmare.

Byline: Alexia Saoulli

AN Australian Cypriot was yesterday jailed for three years in Thailand for offending the countryeIUs monarchy.

Harris Nicolaides, 41, was originally sentenced to six years imprisonment but this was reduced after he pleaded guilty to l[R]Ase-majest[R] charges.

L[R]Ase-majest[R] crimes, which can carry up to a 15-year jail sentence in Thailand, apply to eIuwhoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the RegenteIN.

Most cases involve Thai citizens, although foreigners are sometimes accused.

The presiding judge said that parts of the book eIusuggested that there was abuse of royal powereIN.

Nicolaides was tried for slandering the 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej and other members of the royal family, including the crown prince, in his 2005 self-published novel, Verisimilitude.

eIuHe was found guilty under criminal law article 112 and the court has sentenced him to six years, but due to his confession, which is beneficial to the case, the sentence is reduced to three years,eIN the judge said.

The Melbourne resident, who lived and taught in Thailand from 2003 to 2005, was arrested in Bangkok last year when he tried to board a plane back home.

He had apparently been unaware of the outstanding arrest warrant against him.

The charge was prompted by a passage in NicolaideseIU novel.

eIuI wrote that from King Rama, and I didneIUt say which King Rama, to the Crown Prince, Thai men are well-known for having multiple wives and concubines for entertainment,eIN the 41-year-old said at the time of his arrest.

He said the paragraph had been a work of eIuimaginative fictioneIN and was in the form of eIuan omniscient narrator passing a rumour to the protagonisteIN.

He nevertheless acknowledged it had offended Thai culture and tradition.

Nicolaides, who was born to Greek Cypriot parents who emigrated to Australia in 1955, told reporters he had endured eIuunspeakable sufferingeIN during his five months of detention but would not elaborate. He also asked them to tell his family he was eIuvery concernedeIN.

"This is an Alice in Wonderland experience. I really believe that I am going to wake up and all of you will be gone. I would like to apologise. This caneIUt be real. It feels like a bad dream,eIN Nicolaides said.

eIuI respect the king of ThailandeI[logical not] I was aware there were obscure laws (about the monarchy) but I didneIUt think they would apply to me,eIN he added.

Last month his lawyer told Australian Broadcasting Corporation: eIuAt night time heeIUs in a cell with at least 50 other peopleeI[logical not] The sanitary conditions, to put it mildly, are basic. People suffer from TB and HIV. There is violence within the cell.eIN

Reporters Without Borders had called on authorities to drop the charges against the Australian, saying eIuhis novel never intended to threaten or defame the royal familyeIN.

The Cyprus JournalistseIU Union yesterday condemned the sentences as a eIublatant violation of international justice and the right to freedom of expressioneIN and demanded his immediate release. It also called on the State to intervene.

The paperback book, which the writer has described as a commentary on the political and social life of contemporary Thailand, has sold less than a dozen copies.

A Thai website described the book as an eIuuncompromising assault on the patrician values of the monarchyeIN. It said it was eIusavage, ruthless and unforgivingeIN in revealing a society eIuobsessed with Western affluence and materialismeIN.

Last week new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government would try to ensure the law was not abused. However he said the monarchy had to be protected because it had eIuimmense benefits to the country as a stabilising forceeIN.

Copyright E Cyprus Mail 2009

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Jan 20, 2009
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