Court grants bail to elderly lèse majesté suspect

The Supreme Court has granted bail to an elderly anti-establishment red shirt accused of defaming the monarchy for uploading lèse majesté audio clips.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 9 September 2015, released on bail lèse majesté suspect Chaleaw J., a 56-year-old tailor from the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum, after six days imprisonment in Bangkok Remand Prison.

On 3 September 2015, the Appeal Court sentenced Chaleaw to five years in jail for offenses under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, the lèse majesté law, and under  Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for importing illegal content online.

The court of appeal, however, halved the jail term because he pleaded guilty, but did not suspend the jail term.

The defendant was accused of uploading audio clips with lèse majesté content recorded by Hassadin U., aka DJ Banpodj, a well-known red shirt radio host at the centre of the Banpodj Network, onto 4shared.com, a file-sharing website.

After his family submitted 400,000 baht bail request, the Supreme Court yesterday granted him bail.

According to Sasinan Thamnitinan, the suspect’s defence lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Chalaew is now preparing to appeal the earlier ruling by the Supreme Court.

The lawyer added that the defendant must submit the request to the Supreme Court by 3 October 2015.

On 1 September 2014, the Criminal Court sentenced Chaleaw to three years imprisonment. However, since the defendant pleaded guilty and had never committed a crime before, the jail term was halved and suspended for two years.

But on 8 October 2014, the public prosecutor appealed against the sentence asking the Court to impose the maximum possible penalty against the defendant and to not suspend the jail term.

During the trial last year, the full-time tailor from and self-taught computer geek said that he would listen to red-shirt online radio programmes or save the audio files for later listening when he was busy with his military/police uniform tailoring.

He insisted that he did not intend to distribute the clips to anyone else and said he was not aware that uploading the clips could be a crime.

Chaleaw was among 28 people summoned by the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Order No. 44, issued on 1 June 2014. He was later charged with lèse majesté after being detained for seven days by the military. The court never granted him bail and he was imprisoned in Bangkok Remand Prison for about three months.

During military detention, the authorities accused him of being Banphot, but Chaleaw only confessed to uploading the clips and insisted that he was not Banphot. The authorities then interrogated him three times and also interrogated him using a lie detector, while most of the other detainees were interrogated only once.

A total of 14 people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the Banpodj Network. They were separated into two groups of 12 and two, each group facing different charges. Two of the 12 decided to fight the case, while 10 pleaded guilty. The verdicts for the 10 were read on 14 July 2015.

Hassadin or ‘DJ Banpodj’ is among the eight who were sentenced to 10 years in jail for violations of the lèse majesté law and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act. Meanwhile, the other two, including Hassadin's wife, were not found guilty of lèse majesté, but guilty on a charge of supporting the activity of the network.