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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Thailand's king pardons Swiss man
Oliver Jufer arrives at court in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on 12 March 2007
Oliver Jufer is expected to be deported soon
Thailand's king has pardoned a Swiss man who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for defacing images of him.

Oliver Jufer was sentenced last month, after he admitted spray-painting images of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the city of Chiang Mai.

Mr Jufer has been ordered to leave the country and was due to be deported by the end of the day, according to the news agency AFP.

Mr Jufer is thought to be the first foreigner jailed under such laws.

"The king in his kindness has granted him a pardon and he has been transferred from prison and is in the process of being deported from the country," Chiang Mai police Col Prachuab Wongsuk told the Associated Press news agency.

Defacing portraits

The king is widely loved in Thailand and often treated as a virtual god.

Analysts say that this act of compassion against a now contrite foreigner will only enhance his image still further.

Jufer had lived in Thailand for more than 10 years before his arrest.

He was recorded on surveillance cameras on 5 December, defacing the portraits on the king's 79th birthday.

Earlier he had tried to buy alcohol but been refused, since such sales are sometimes banned on important days.

The case against Jufer highlights the strict laws in Thailand that forbid any criticism of the monarchy.

These laws have remained virtually unchanged since the creation of the country's first criminal code in 1908.

Most Thais feel a deep reverence for their monarch. But they also fear discussing the institution because of the severe penalties for criticising members of the royal family.

The government is also anxious to protect the monarch's image. Despite heavy criticism, it recently took the decision to block access to the videosharing website YouTube because it contained clips which were deemed offensive to the king.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Oliver Jufer is led away to prison in shackles



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