Man Sentenced To 35 Years In Jail For Allegedly Criticizing Royal Family On Facebook

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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A man in Thailand was sentenced Friday to 35 years in prison for posting critical and purportedly disrespectful content about the country’s royal family on Facebook, according to the watchdog group iLaw.

The penalty is believed to be the harshest ever issued in the southeast Asian country.

A military court in the country’s capital convicted the 33-year-old man, identified only as Wichai, of 10 counts of lèse-majesté, the act of committing treason or insulting a monarch or ruler. Journalists were reportedly not permitted within the confines of the tribunal.

Thai authorities arrested Wichai in December 2016, specifically accusing him of publishing a total of 10 photos, videos and comments on the social media platform. They allege that he used a fraudulent account meant to look as if a former friend was the owner.

Wichai consistently denied the accusations and charges, but after spending more than a year in jail, he abruptly changed his mind and confessed, iLaw reports. He was originally sentenced to seven years for every offense, but the country ultimately reduced the punishment from 70 to 35 years.

Wichai isn’t the only Thai citizen to be charged for allegedly defaming the nation’s monarchy. More than 100 people have been charged since a junta successfully engaged in a coup and overthrew the government in 2014, according to The Guardian.

The United Nations has condemned Thailand’s lèse-majesté law many times before. The international organization issued an opinion in November 2016 saying that its application may constitute “crimes against humanity.”

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