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Thai activist convicted of defaming king pardoned

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October 3, 2013 04:39 AM EST | AP


BANGKOK — BANGKOK (AP) — A political activist who was convicted of defaming Thailand's monarchy received a royal pardon from the king on Thursday and will be freed from jail.

Surachai Danwattananusorn was sentenced last year to 7 1/2 years in prison for making speeches judged to have insulted the monarchy three times in 2010.

He was a communist insurgent in Thailand in the 1970s and was imprisoned in the 1980s. More recently, Surachai led a faction of the Red Shirt political movement, whose members took to the streets and clashed with the military in 2010.

Surachai, 70, was expected to be released from a prison on Bangkok's northern outskirts on Thursday after being pardoned by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Red Shirt chairwoman Thida Thavornseth said.

Surachai filed a request for the pardon last year, she said.

Thailand's lese majeste law, which protects the monarchy from defamation, is the world's harshest. It mandates a jail term of three to 15 years.

In most cases, those charged with lese majeste are denied bail repeatedly, with courts usually saying the crime is serious and could affect national security.

Earlier this week, a court sentenced a Thai media firebrand to two years in jail and a woman to five years for defaming the monarch in two unrelated cases.