He was arrested on 26 May 2011 by the Department of Special Investigation on lese majeste, security and related computer crimes infringements. His computer and mobile phone were seized. His arrest was masterminded by DSI who apparently needed a team of 20 to take the man into custody as he reclined at home in Nakorn Ratchasima. He was then transported to Bangkok for further interrogation by DSI.
Joe is reported to have lived in the US state of Colorado for many years. He returned to Thailand about a year ago for treatment of high blood pressure and gout.
DSI say he is the owner of a blog that was established 4 years ago (i.e. when he did not reside in Thailand) with links that allowed downloading of Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles, a book that is banned but very widely available in Thailand in English and Thai. He is also alleged to have translated some articles or a part of Handley’s book.
Despite friends presenting 1.7 million baht, the court refused bail as it was opposed by DSI and because it was a serious case related to national security. He remains in jail not least because he has denied the charges. The DSI considers that he is Nai Sin Sae Jiew (นาย สิน แซ่ จิ้ว), the owner of a blog, which was created in the USA in 2007.
The US Embassy has confirmed that he is an American citizen and that it was providing consular assistance while he languishes in the Bangkok Remand Prison.
During his stay in Korat, Joe says he taught English to children. He said that the authorities had sent a young man to study with him as a spy. They, however, never discussed politics.
Joe has made numerous appeals for bail following his arrest but none were granted. In the end, Joe was refused bail at least 8 times. (In Prachatai, it is reported that there were 10 bail applications).
After a long delay, in its 19 August 2011 report, AP stated 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.” The previous day, following the full detention period allowed under the law, Joe was officially charged with lese majeste.
This may represent the
first second known case of a foreign citizen being charged with lese majeste for alleged offenses committed outside Thailand. The first case seems to be Anthony Chai.
On 7 October 2011, frustrated by the continual refusal of bail and facing the prospect of a long and drawn out trial and then a longer period in jail, Joe decided to plead guilty. It is clear that he has been pressured to make this plea.
PPT considers the use of extended incarceration for lese majeste victims in order to force guilty pleas is a form of torture, as defined by the U.N.:
… any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
PPT reads this statement as a reflection to the way that Thailand’s legal authorities pressure lese majeste victims and subject them to mental suffering in order to obtain a confession. This is cause for foreign governments, including that of the U.S. to condemn the forcible extraction of confessions from lese majeste victims.
On 8 December 2011, following the guilty plea, Joe’s sentence was issued. He received a two and a half year prison sentence, reduced from five for the guilty plea. Two and a half years for admitting to translating parts of a book published by the prestigious Yale University Press. When he is alleged to have done this he was engaging in legal activity in the United States.
Joe reportedly stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out. He later said “I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America.” He added that “he had no expectation of being let off easy,” stating: “This is just the system in Thailand…. In Thailand, they put people in prison even if they don’t have proof.”
Joe hoped for royal pardon that apparently makes the royals involved look somehow magnanimous when they grant it. However, it isn’t coming as the prosecution repeatedly extends its preparation of an appeal against Joe’s “light sentence.” Until the appeal is dropped or completed, Joe cannot hope for a pardon and deportation.
On 8 May 2012 it was reported that a petition for pardon had been sent to the Royal Household Bureau.
On 10 July 2012 Joe was pardoned.
Joe finally left Thailand on 8 November 2012. This is his departure interview with the BBC:
Media reports on Joe’s case:
Red Shirts blog, 2 December 2012: “The Remarkable 112 Community”
AP, 8 November 2012: “AP Interview: American jailed for insulting Thailand’s king says law holds country back”
PPT posted a list of stories related to Joe’s pardon here.
msnbc.com, 8 May 2012: “American jailed in Thailand for insulting monarchy to be released?”
Prachatai, 6 March 2012: “Surachai will ask PM to seek royal pardon for political prisoners”
Prachatai, 24 February 2012: “Appeals Court denies bail for Amphon”
We have a large set of links to stories on Joe’s sentencing here.
AP, 7 December 2011: “American sentenced to prison for Thai royal insult”
Prachatai, 12 November 2011: “Joe Gordon awaits court verdict”
Huffington Post, 31 October 2011: “This Can Get Mark Zuckerberg Arrested”
The Post and Courier, 12 October 2011: “Free U.S. citizen Joe Gordon”
Prachatai, 11 October 2011: “Joe Gordon pleads guilty”
The Telegraph, 10 October 2011: “US man pleads guilty to insulting Thai royals”
Fox News, 10 October 2011: “U.S. Man Faces 15 Years in Prison for Defaming Thailand’s Royal Family”
Prachatai, 28 September 2011: “Activists urge the US to help Joe Gordon”
Prachatai, 7 September 2011: “Fear of Flying: Joe Gordon Denied Bail an Eighth Time”
Mediashift, 1 September 2011: “Online Comments Run Afoul of Thailand’s Laws Shielding Royalty from Criticism”
Prachatai,26 August 2011: “‘Disappointment’ from the United States is not enough”
AP, 19 August 2011: “US disappointed with Thai charges against American”
AP, 18 August 2011: “Joe Gordon, American Citizen, Charged With Insulting Thai Monarchy”
Prachatai, 11 August 2011: “Bail Granted, Bail Denied”
Prachatai, 21 July 2011: “There is no justice in Thailand”
Prachatai, 14 June 2011: “Court denies bail for Joe Gordon”
Asian Human Rights Commission, 3 June 2011: “THAILAND: Criminalization of free speech ahead of election”
Prachatai, 28 May 2011: “Family of arrested Thai-American citizen believes he is innocent”
Prachatai, 28 May 2011: “Thai-US citizen arrested over link to banned book”
Prachatai, 27 May 2011: “A Thai with American citizenship arrested for lèse majesté and denied bail”
All of the following are from 26 and 27 May 2011:
New York Times, American Arrested for Insulting Thai King
BBC News, US citizen held for Thai ‘insult’
NBC Connecticut, Thailand Arrests American Accused of Insulting King
The Irrawaddy, Thailand’s Lèse Majesté Laws under Scrutiny
Malaysia Star, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult
Jakarta Post, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult
Corvallis Gazette Times, Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult