Pardoned by Thai monarchy, Australian writer returns home
An Australian writer, sentenced to jail in Thailand for insulting that country's monarchy, has been pardoned and whisked back to his country after spending more than five months behind bars.
"[I am] bewildered and dazed — nauseous," Harry Nicolaides, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Saturday.
The writer, 41, was arrested last August and sentenced to three years in prison in January for insulting King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the crown prince in a passage in his 2005 book, Versimilitude, which sold only seven copies.
Under Thai law, insults against the monarchy result in sentences of three to 15 years behind bars.
Only last weekend, Nicolaides's lawyer had been told his client's name would be put forward for a royal pardon, a move that was supported by Thai justice officials.
Nicolaides says he was told to kneel before a picture of the Thai king and was granted a pardon just hours before his flight bound for Melbourne.
"I ran out of tears but I never ran out of hope or love," Nicolaides said.
His lawyer, Mark Dean, revealed the pardon was granted Thursday night and Nicolaides was deported from Thailand soon after.
"The Australian government and the Thai government have been working together very closely on the resolution of Harry's case," Dean said.
"The various steps that had to be taken in Thailand were expedited in this case, resulting in the king being able to grant the pardon."
Nicolaides has described his 5½ months in a Thai jail as "torture" but also expressed remorse for writing the part of the book that insulted the monarchy.
The Australian government had been lobbying for his release ever since his arrest. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said he was pleased by the decision.
"We believe that we did everything that we could," he told reporters.
"I welcome the fact that so soon after his pardon he has returned to his family and Australia."
Nicolaides says he's going back to writing — and this time it will be a tell-all account of his time in jail.
With files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation