At last the U.S. Embassy has made an official statement expressing concern for Joe Gordon, incarcerated since he was arrested on 26 May 2011 by the Department of Special Investigation on lese majeste, security and related computer crimes infringements. The U.S. Embassy made its official statement following the official charges being laid against Joe on Thursday, following his full, legally-permitted remand in prison of 84 days.
In that report Joe’s lawyer, Anon Numpa, is cited as saying that Joe “was charged with lese majeste for allegedly translating parts of an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej [Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles] and writing articles that defamed the royal family.”
On the reaction, AP reports that the U.S.stated it was “disappointed Thailand has charged an American citizen with insulting the country’s monarchy, a severe offense that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.”
Joe has repeatedly denied the charges.
AP goes on to report that “U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Kristin Kneedler said the U.S. has urged Thai authorities to respect freedom of expression and ‘was disappointed’ with the charges against Gordon. Embassy officials have had regular contact with Gordon, she said.”
PPT wonders why the embassy waited so long before a public statement. Yes, perhaps there were behind the scenes discussions, but a bold public statement soon after his arrest may have been effective.
PPT points out that the last two known cases of lese majeste charges being pursued in court – Joe and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk – both entailed keeping the accused in jail on remand as long as possible. No bail was granted. This also means that neither man has been able to adequately prepare their defense.
In fact, the lengthy incarceration is a form of pressure to force the detainees to plead guilty. They are repeatedly offered deals to plead guilty. If one doesn’t plead guilty, then the authorities drag out the case so that the accused simply languishes in jail. This amounts to a gross abuse of human rights and (arguably) challenges international legal agreements Thailand has signed.
Update: The U.S. Embassy text of its statement is short (thanks to the reader for the link):
The United States is disappointed by the prosecutor’s decision to file lese majeste charges against U.S. citizen Joe Gordon. We have discussed Mr. Gordon’s case extensively with Thai authorities, stressing at every possible opportunity his rights as an American citizen. We urge the Thai authorities to ensure freedom of expression is respected and that Mr. Gordon, a U.S. citizen, receives fair treatment.