10.09.2011

Joe Gordon, Thailand Prisoner, To Plead Guilty To Royal Family Insult


BANGKOK -- A detained U.S. citizen facing up to 15 years in prison for allegedly insulting Thailand's royal family was to plead guilty in the case Monday in hopes of receiving a lenient sentence, his lawyer said.

Thai-born American Joe Gordon, 54, has been detained since late May on charges of translating parts of a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and posting the links online.

This Southeast Asian kingdom has the most severe lese majeste laws in the world, and anyone convicted of defaming the royal family faces from three to 15 years behind bars.

Defense lawyer Arnon Nampa said Gordon had decided last week to plead guilty after being denied bail eight times. The court was expected to issue a verdict and a sentence Monday.

"The fact that his bail requests have been repeatedly denied – that disheartened him and made him want to plead guilty," Arnon told The Associated Press. "He said he wanted the penalty to be lessened and intended to ask for the royal pardon."

Gordon has previously denied the charges against him, according to the independent Thai-language prachatai.com news website, which has interviewed him in prison.

Speaking briefly to reporters as he was being escorted into the courtroom on Monday, Gordon confirmed that he would plead guilty. "How can I fight?" he said, adding that the trial is "not fair."

"I want the American government to help me because this is about freedom of expression," he said.

The U.S. Embassy has tried unsuccessfully to help Gordon, registering its public disappointment in the case in August, when prosecutors officially filed charges.

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