BANGKOK (AP) — 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.
Many had hoped that the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, some of whose top supporters have been accused of lese majeste charges, would re-examine the harsh sentences for lese majeste cases. Critics say the laws are frequently abused by political rivals, and the issue remains highly sensitive.
Gordon reportedly lived in the U.S. state of Colorado for about 30 years before returning recently to Thailand. Arnon said Gordon wished to return to Colorado.
Gordon’s primary crime appears to be translating excerpts from the locally banned, unauthorized biography “The King Never Smiles” into the Thai language and publishing them online in an article that allegedly insulted the monarchy. He also provided links to the translation to other two web forums.
Royal pardons are granted to prisoners by the Thai king on special occasions, such as his birthday or the anniversary of his ascension to the throne.
Gordon was arrested by Thai authorities in May in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima after returning to Thailand for medical treatment in March.