Rights groups demand bail for Somyot

Two international human rights organisations have joined the demand for bail and a quick appeal hearing for Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who was convicted of lese majeste, pointing out he has now been held in detention for two years.

  • Published: 5/04/2013 at 03:22 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, former editor of the Voice of Taksin magazine, flashes a V sign before the verdict in his case at the Criminal Court on Jan 23. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn)

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) urged the Court of Appeal to review the conviction of the former Voice of Taksin editor and labour activist as soon as possible, in conformity with international human rights standards.

The FIDH and the OMCT are NGOs that operate within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

Vasant Panich, Somyot’s lawyer, filed an appeal, along with a 14th request for bail, at the Criminal Court Ratchada on Monday. The court has yet to consider the appeal or the bail application.

The NGOs' statement, issued on Thursday, said the court should review the bail plea and the conviction as a matter of urgency. On April 30, 2013, Somyot will have spent two full years in detention, the statement said.

Somyot was arrested at the Thai-Cambodian border five days after he launched a petition to collect 10,000 signatures required for a parliamentary review of the lese majeste law.

On Jan 23, 2013, Somyot was convicted under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, and sentenced to 10 years in prison on each of two counts of offending the monarchy, plus an additional one-year sentence that had been suspended for a previous violation of the Printing Act in 2009.

Somyot was convicted for allowing the publication of two satirical articles, written by someone else, in the magazine he edited that were deemed “insulting” to the monarchy. Thailand's lese majeste laws prohibit any word or act which “defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the heir-apparent or the regent”.

“This case is a test for Thailand's democracy. Launching a petition to review the lese majeste law and the publication of articles that were subsequently deemed to be critical of the monarchy fall within the boundaries of opinions and speech protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” said FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen.

“Furthermore, an editor must not be held criminally accountable for articles posted by third persons."

OMCT secretary general Gerald Staberock said, “Somyot’s application for bail should be reviewed on the basis of objective criteria. Pre-trial detention must be lawful, reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances.

"The authorities have still not provided an adequate justification for his continued detention or a legally sound explanation as to why less restrictive and non-custodial measures are not sufficient to prevent flight and non-tampering with evidence."

An independent group campaigning for Somyot's release in Thailand plans to stage "Somyot's mask Pop-UP" at the Book Festival at Queen Sirikit Convention Center this Sunday, after launching it on the first day of the book fair.

About the author

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Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter

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