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Thailand 21 February 2009

“Immense relief” after Harry Nicolaides is pardoned and flies home

Reporters Without Borders hails the release of Harry Nicolaides, who flew home to Australia today after being granted a royal pardon on 19 February. The press freedom organisation calls for a rapid overhaul of Thailand’s lese majeste law.

“Nicolaides should never have been arrested and sentenced to three years in prison,” Reporters Without Borders said. “By according him a pardon, the king has corrected a serious miscarriage of justice and a violation of free expression. We call for an end to lese majeste proceedings against Thai citizens such as university academic Giles Ungpakorn and Internet user Suwicha Thakor.”

On his arrival today at Melbourne airport, a moved Nicolaides thanked his fellow Australians for their support during the more than five months in spent in a Bangkok prison. He was told he was being released just a few hours before being put on a flight back to Australia. Thai officials made him kneel before a photo of the king before freeing him.

“I have been crying for eight hours as I learned only a few minutes before my flight that my mother had suffered a stroke,” Nicolaides told journalists, adding that he blamed his detention for his mother’s condition.

Nicolaides’ brother sent Reporters Without Borders an email thanking all those who supported the family’s efforts. “Harry will not make any statements to the press for a while because he wants to be with his family and to regain his health.”

Aged 41, Nicolaides was sentenced by the Bangkok criminal court on 19 January to three years in prison on a charge of lese majeste under article 112 of the criminal code for referring in his 2005 novel “Verisimilitude” to the way King Bhumipol’s son had treated one his mistresses. He pleaded guilty at the trial and asked the court to be lenient. Only 50 copies of the novel were ever printed.

Earlier this month, Reporters Without Borders issued a report on lese majeste in Thailand and organised a cyber-demonstration to demand Nicolaides’ release.

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