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Protesters rally for release of lese majeste prisoners

Twenty opponents of the lese majeste law held a 112-minute vigil outside the Criminal Court yesterday to condemn the postponement of lese majeste detainee Somyos Prueksakasemsuk's sentencing. The verdict has been postponed to December 19.

The protesters wore black eye masks reading "release political prisoners", while one placard read "justice delayed is justice denied".

Photo by Prainn Rakthai

Somyos has been detained for 17 months now and his bail request denied 11 times.

Inside the court yesterday, another lese majeste and Computer Crimes Act detainee, 41-year-old Surapak Phuchaisaeng, became the first such prisoner to be prosecuted and tried under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.

Surapak, whose trial was in its second day yesterday, is accused of being behind a Facebook page with a name that is deemed defamatory to the King. "I shall rule through…" is part of the title of the account, which cannot be revealed in its entirety by The Nation for fear of violating the lese majeste law.

Surapak, who was arrested on September 2 last year, told The Nation that it is "disgusting" that he has to wear shackles and prisoners' garb even though no concrete evidence has been produced linking him to the Facebook page, which is still active even though he is in prison. His bail request has been denied about half a dozen times now.

"Think about it. This is Thailand! The justice process never protects the people, only the elite," Surapak said as prosecution witness Pol Major Niti Inthurak, an officer at the Computer Crimes unit, told the court that it was not the police force's job to trace the suspect's IP address.

Surapak, who hails from Nong Khai province and is a computer programmer, said he had lost lots of job opportunities while in prison, adding that prosecutors would never be able to prove that he was linked to the Facebook account.

He is scheduled to testify in court tomorrow.