Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Pardon bid for Australian author

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney


Harry Nicolaides says his jailing "feels like a bad dream"

The Australian government has asked Thailand's royal family to pardon an Australian author who was jailed for three years for defaming the monarchy.

Harry Nicolaides was sentenced by Bangkok's criminal court on Monday for defaming the king and crown prince in a 2005 novel.

The court said a passage about the book's fictional prince caused "dishonour" to the royals.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy but has severe lese majeste laws.

Among the Australian public, the imprisonment of the author Harry Nicolaides appears to have violated a basic sense of fair play, not to mention a strong belief in the freedom of speech.

Newspapers here had featured a front-page picture of the author jailed behind bars, with a tear running down his cheek.

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (left) and Queen Sirikit. File photo
King Bhumibol is revered in Thailand

Now the Australian government has weighed in by issuing a statement saying it "strongly supports" Harry Nicolaides's plea for a pardon from the King of Thailand.

The country's Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, has also written to his Thai counterpart, outlining Australia's "firm" backing for the author's pardon application.

Only 50 copies of Mr Nicolaides novel were ever printed.

Of those, only seven were ever sold.

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