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Political Activist Acquitted of Sedition After 3 Years in Jail

Thanet Anantawong, 25, is escorted outside a military court Dec. 18, 2015, in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — The Criminal Court on Thursday acquitted activist Thanet Anatawong of insurrection charges and ordered him to be freed after spending 1,396 days behind bars.

The charge was filed against Thanet by the ruling junta back in 2015. His lawyer Arnon Nampa welcomed today’s ruling and hoped it would set a precedent to a dozen other cases brought against those who opposed the junta.

“This ruling was based on rather good principles that expressing opposition can be done,” Arnon said by phone after the verdict.

Thanet was snatched from Bangkok’s Sirindhorn Hospital while awaiting a surgery in December 2015 and taken to the military court, where he was charged with sedition and cybercrimes for his anti-government posts on social media.

He was granted bail on a 100,000 bond in the same month, but jumped bail and fled overseas for six months before returning to Thailand in July 2016. The activist was arrested upon his return and put in jail since.

In its ruling, the court said Thanet did not violate sedition offenses because he was merely expressing his political views. The judges also rejected the prosecutor’s claims that Thanet’s activism related to the Rajabhakti Park scandals was intended to cause unrest.

The court added that expressing views in opposition to the government is protected by the constitution.

Arnon said his client has the rights to file lawsuits demanding restitutions for the time he spent in prison, but Thanet hasn’t made a decision about the matter.

The lawyer said Thanet needs time to recover from three years of prison time, during which his father died of illness.

Reference