Rights lawyer gets 16 months’ prison for Facebook post

Rights lawyer gets 16 months’ prison for Facebook post

Human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul, who has been charged with lese majeste, sedition, and computer crimes arrives for his appearance in a criminal court in Bangkok on Wednesday. (AP photo)
Human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul, who has been charged with lese majeste, sedition, and computer crimes arrives for his appearance in a criminal court in Bangkok on Wednesday. (AP photo)

Human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul was sentenced to 16 months in prison on Wednesday after being found guilty of sedition for material he posted online, but a lese majeste charge against him was dropped.

Mr Prawet had been indicted on 10 royal defamation charges and three sedition charges. He had opted to  defend himself in the case, which he said was "a political issue, not a legal one”.

The Criminal Court in Bangkok sentenced him to five months on each sedition count and an additional month for refusing to have his fingerprints taken, the organisation Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said. With time served, it was estimated that he could be freed in two months.

Prawet had acted as lawyer for supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He was arrested last year in connection with material he posted on Facebook about the 1932 revolution in Thailand, which turned the country from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy.

The Prayut military government has declared safeguarding the monarchy a top priority.

Critics of the lese majeste law, which provides for three to 15 years' imprisonment, say it is used to silence political dissidents. The legal aid group said last week at least 162 people had been charged under the lese majeste law since the junta seized power in 2014. Prawet's is a rare case of an acquittal.

At least 92 people have been prosecuted for sedition-like offences, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

“Prior to the 2014 coup, the ‘sedition’ offence was used infrequently. In contrast, the article has become one of the most used tools of the NCPO to restrict freedom of expression,” their report said.

The government has often targeted people for their online activities, including simply sharing or re-posting material originating elsewhere. Last year a court sentenced a prominent student activist to 2½ years in prison for sharing a BBC article about His Majesty the King on Facebook.

In 2017, Thai authorities declared it illegal to exchange information online with three prominent government critics who live outside Thailand and often write about the monarchy.


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