Reporters Without Borders condemns Australian writer Harry Nicolaides’ formal indictment on 21 November by a Bangkok criminal court on a charge of lese-majeste, punishable by three to 15 years in prison. Held since 31 August in a Bangkok prison, he has been remanded in custody until the next hearing on 19 January.
“We urge the authorities to free Nicolaides pending his trial,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Keeping him in custody is an abuse that just highlights how the government is using the king’s political popularity to win over Thais. Nicolaides must not be used as a scapegoat or handy bogeyman.”
Nicolaides referred in his 2005 novel “Verisimilitude,” of which only 50 copies were ever printed, to the way King Bhumipol’s son treated one of his mistresses. The Australian lawyer representing him, Mark Dean SC, said: “No specific name was mentioned in one short paragraph in a book 226 pages long and only three sentences are concerned. Furthermore, the charge is based on the translation of this passage into Thai, not on the original English.The reference to the monarccy is incidental, and in no way is central to the story in this work of fiction”
A Melbourne resident, Nicolaides, 41, lived in Thailand from 2003 to 2005, teaching at Mae Fah Luang university in the northern city of Chiang Rai and writing for online publications such as Phuketinfo.com, a website targeted at expatriates in Thailand. After returning to Australia, he wrote regularly for the Greek-language newspaper Neo Kosmos.
Although a lese-majeste complaint was brought against him in March of this year, the Thai authorities granted him a six-month visitor’s visa in May.
He was arrested for lese-majeste under article 112 of the criminal code on 31 August, when he went to Bangkok airport to get a flight back to Australia. His request to be released on bail on 2 September was rejected on the grounds that he might try to skip the country. Two subsequent requests were also turned down.
[He then gave the royal family a public apology: “I am sorry that my words may have hurt. It was not my intention to attack His Majesty the King or his kingdom [...] I know the importance of customs, traditions and expectations in this country. I am not a provocateur.”->http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28436]