Man jailed for insulting Thai queen
A 61-year-old man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Thailand for sending text messages deemed offensive to the country's queen.
Thailand's criminal court found Amphon Tangnoppaku guilty on four counts under the country's lese majeste and computer crime laws, sentencing him to five years' imprisonment for each charge.
Lese majeste is the crime of insulting a monarch, and Thailand's laws against it are the most severe in the world. Even repeating the details of an alleged offence is illegal.
The court said Amphon had sent offensive text messages in May 2010 to a personal secretary of then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Amphon denied the charges, saying he was unfamiliar with the text message function on mobile phones and did not know the recipient of the message.
Lese majeste arrests and convictions in Thailand spike during times of instability, when the law is used by political rivals to harass opponents. That has been the case since a 2006 military coup ushered in years of political upheaval that has at times spiralled into violent street confrontations.
Amnesty International's Benjamin Zawacki condemned the verdict, accusing the government of suppressing freedom of expression.
"Thailand has every right to have a (lese majeste) law, but its current form and usage place the country in contravention of its international legal obligations," Mr Zawacki said. "Repression remains the order of the day in Thailand on freedom of expression, and Amphon is a political prisoner."
Amphon was arrested on August 3, 2010 and detained at Bangkok remand prison without bail after being indicted by the public prosecutor for lese majeste.
Before his arrest, he had lived with his wife, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in a rented room in Samut Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok. He is retired and receives a 3,000 baht (£60) monthly allowance from his children. He has mouth cancer and has required regular medical care since 2007.