Thai activitst in demonstrations. Picture by: Lillian Suwanrumpha

In The News International

Prominent Thai activist handed 2.5-year sentence for Facebook post

A prominent Thai student activist on Tuesday was
found guilty by a criminal court of insulting the country’s royal
family on Facebook and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, 26, was arrested in December after sharing
a BBC article on King Vajiralongkorn on Facebook, two days after the
new king ascended the throne. His bail applications have been
repeatedly rejected.

The verdict came hours after Jatupat pleaded guilty for the first
time after spending months in detention, his lawyers said.

Jatupat’s legal team told dpa his change of heart was most likely due
to the court signalling that there was no way to fight the case. All
of his hearings were closed-door.

It is not immediately known if Jatupat will seek an appeal, his
lawyers said.

Jatupat’s sentence was halved from the original sentence of five
years due to his confession, a usual practice in the Thai judicial
system.

Thailand’s strict lese-majesty law makes it illegal to defame, insult
or criticize the monarchy, with perpetrators facing up to 15 years in
prison per offence if found guilty.

Government critics said Jatupat was singled out for his
anti-government activism as more than 2,000 people who shared the
same article on Facebook were not targeted.

In May, Jatupat’s parents travelled to Seoul to receive the Gwangju
Prize for Human Rights Award on his behalf for his “courage in
fighting against a non-democratic regime.”

Jatupat had been arrested several times previously for speaking out
against the ruling military government and defying its orders.

Since coming to power in a May 2014 coup, the pro-monarchy junta has
launched a crackdown on royal insults, having arrested more than 100
people for alleged lese-majesty in the past three years.

Last week, a Thai man was sentenced to 18 years in prison by a
military court for posting six voice clips deemed to defame the royal
family on his commercial website. He pleaded not guilty.

In June, another Thai man was sentenced to 35 years for posting royal
defamation on Facebook, the longest such penalty to date. His
sentence was halved from 70 years due to his confession.

-DPA

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