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The Court of Appeals has found a programmer not guilty of lese majeste charges, affirming the ruling of the previous court.
Mr. Surapak (surname withheld for privacy reason) was arrested in September 2011 and accused of defaming the monarchy via a Facebook page.
Lese majeste, or insults of the Thai Royal Family, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison per offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Codes. The controversial Computer Crime Act also outlaws lese majeste.
The suspect had been detained by the police for nearly a year – his requests for bail release repeatedly denied – before the lower court acquitted him of the charges, but the prosecutors appealed the ruling.
The Court of Appeals today ruled that there was no sufficient evidence to support the prosecutor’s case against Mr. Surasak, noting possibilities that crucial evidence, such as his computer, might have been tampered by the investigators.
In the verdict statement, the judges also remarked that lese majeste is a serious crime with sensitive implication to the Thai society. Therefore, the judges insisted, punishing individuals for the offence should only follow strictest set of evidence and rule of laws.
Mr. Surapak and his mother expressed joy and embraced each other upon hearing the verdict, Prachatai reported.
Nevertheless, not-guilty ruling for lese majeste defendants is considered to be rare, and many individuals accused of insulting the monarchy have been sentenced to prison by the Thai courts in recent years.
A number of experts and human rights groups have urged the Thai authorities to amend or repeal the laws on lese majeste, arguing that it stifles freedom of speech in Thailand.