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Pardoned by Thai monarchy, Australian writer returns home

Harry Nicolaides seen here at Bangkok's criminal court on Jan. 19 when he was sentenced to three years spent more than five months in a Thai jail before being pardoned on Thursday. (Apichart Weerawong/Associated Press)


An Australian writer, sentenced to jail in Thailand for insulting that country's monarchy, has been pardoned and whisked back to his country after spending more than five months behind bars.

"[I am] bewildered and dazed nauseous," Harry Nicolaides, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Saturday.

"I've been crying for eight hours I learned only a few minutes before boarding my flight that my mother has suffered a stroke."Harry Nicolaides seen here at Bangkok's criminal court on Jan. 19 when he was sentenced to three years spent more than five months in a Thai jail before being pardoned on Thursday.Harry Nicolaides seen here at Bangkok's criminal court on Jan. 19 when he was sentenced to three years spent more than five months in a Thai jail before being pardoned on Thursday. (Apichart Weerawong/Associated Press)

The writer, 41, was arrested last August and sentenced to three years in prison in January for insulting King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the crown prince in a passage in his 2005 book, Versimilitude, which sold only seven copies.

Under Thai law, insults against the monarchy result in sentences of three to 15 years behind bars.

Only last weekend, Nicolaides's lawyer had been told his client's name would be put forward for a royal pardon, a move that was supported by Thai justice officials.

Nicolaides says he was told to kneel before a picture of the Thai king and was granted a pardon just hours before his flight bound for Melbourne.

"I ran out of tears but I never ran out of hope or love," Nicolaides said.

His lawyer, Mark Dean, revealed the pardon was granted Thursday night and Nicolaides was deported from Thailand soon after.

"The Australian government and the Thai government have been working together very closely on the resolution of Harry's case," Dean said.

"The various steps that had to be taken in Thailand were expedited in this case, resulting in the king being able to grant the pardon."

Expresses remorse

Nicolaides has described his 5 months in a Thai jail as "torture" but also expressed remorse for writing the part of the book that insulted the monarchy.

The Australian government had been lobbying for his release ever since his arrest. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said he was pleased by the decision.

"We believe that we did everything that we could," he told reporters.

"I welcome the fact that so soon after his pardon he has returned to his family and Australia."

Nicolaides says he's going back to writing and this time it will be a tell-all account of his time in jail.

With files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Thailand frees Australian writer


Harry Nicolaides: 'I've been crying for eight hours'

Harry Nicolaides, an Australian writer jailed in Thailand for defaming its monarch, has returned home after being pardoned by the king and set free.

Mr Nicolaides, 41, had been sentenced to three years imprisonment in January.

The charges arose from a passage in a largely unknown novel he wrote in 2005, of which only seven of 50 copies printed were ever sold.

Mr Nicolaides was met by his family in Melbourne. He would next see his mother in hospital, his father told reporters.

Speaking at the airport in Melbourne, Mr Nicolaides thanked the Australian people for their support, the Associated Press news agency reports.

He told reporters he had been crying for eight hours, having only learnt moments before his flight that his mother had suffered a stroke while he was imprisoned.

"A few hours before that I was informed I had a royal pardon... A few hours before that I was climbing out of a sewerage tank that I fell into in the prison," AP quotes him as saying.

'Dishonour'

The Australian government had lobbied Thailand's royal family for his release.

Before he was jailed in January, the Bangkok court said a passage about an unnamed crown prince in the author's self-published fictional book, Verisimilitude, had caused "dishonour" to the Thai royal family.

The case had become a real cause celebre in Australia, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney, with Mr Nicolaides's imprisonment violating a basic Australian sense of fair play.

Images on television of him wearing prison clothes and in chains shocked many Australian viewers, our correspondent says.

According to Mr Nicolaides's lawyer, Mark Dean, the writer's release was the result of close co-operation between the Thai and Australian governments, our correspondent adds.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy but has severe lese majeste laws.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdee told AP: "This is not the first time that a foreigner has been granted a royal pardon. It is within his majesty's power to do so."

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