An American sentenced to two and a half years in Thai prison for translating a banned biography about the country’s king and posting the content online has been freed by a royal pardon, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday.
Joe Gordon was convicted in December for translating excerpts of the book “The King Never Smiles” from English into Thai. The punishment was a high-profile example of the severe sentences meted out here for defaming Thailand’s royal family, an issue that has raised concern about freedom of expression in this Southeast Asian kingdom.
The AP reports:
An American who translated a banned biography of Thailand’s king and posted the content online while living in Colorado was sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison Thursday for defaming the country’s royal family.
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.
The New York Times says:
A Thai court on Thursday sentenced a U.S. citizen to two and a half years in prison for insulting King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the latest case in the government’s crackdown on criticism of the monarchy.
Joe Gordon, who was born in Thailand but has lived in the United States for the past three decades, was convicted of translating and posting to the Internet portions of a book, “The King Never Smiles,” which is published by Yale University Press and banned in Thailand.
The BBC has a short video and a text story:
Thailand has jailed a US citizen for two and a half years after he admitted posting web links to a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Joe Gordon, a used car salesman from Colorado who was born in Thailand, admitted lese-majeste, or insulting the king, at an earlier hearing.
Today’s Bangkok Post says:
US President Barack Obama is expected to pay an official visit to Thailand in November during his trip to Bali to attend the East Asian Summit, government sources said.
Thailand extended an invitation for Mr Obama to visit the kingdom after he was inaugurated, which was about the same time that former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took office.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been the highest-level Obama administration cabinet member to visit Thailand, in July 2009. President Obama telephoned Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday to congratulate her on her election as the country’s first female prime minister, describing it as a sign of “success of the democratic process”.
On Twitter this morning, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney wrote, seemingly in response to a question about Obama’s potential visit:
It is way to early to know. There are no definite plans at this point.
As I mentioned in May, Gordon is being detained for allegedly insulting the Thai king.
As it happens, the AP reported yesterday that he has now been officially charged:
A lawyer says an American citizen has been formally charged with insulting Thailand’s monarchy, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.