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A court in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a former civil servant to a record prison term of 43 years and six months for breaching the country’s strict law on insulting or defaming the monarchy, lawyers said.

The Bangkok Criminal Court found the woman guilty on 29 counts of violating the country’s lese majeste law for posting audio clips to Facebook and YouTube with comments deemed critical of the monarchy, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said.

The court initially announced her sentence as 87 years, but reduced it by half because she pleaded guilty to the offenses, the group said.

The sentence, which comes amid an ongoing protest movement that has seen unprecedented public criticism of the monarchy, was swiftly condemned by rights groups.

“Today’s court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only criticisms of the monarchy won’t be tolerated, but they will also be severely punished,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the group Human Rights Watch.

Violating Thailand’s lese majeste law — known widely as Article 112 — is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment per count. The law is controversial not only because it has been used to punish things as simple as liking a post on Facebook but also because anyone — not just royals or authorities — can lodge a complaint that can tie up the person accused in legal proceedings for years.

During Thailand’s last 15 years of political unrest, the law has frequently been used as a political weapon as well as in personal vendettas. Actual public criticism of the monarchy, however, had until recently been extremely rare.

That changed during the past year, when young protesters calling for democratic reforms also issued calls for the reform of the monarchy, which has long been regarded as an almost sacred institution by many Thais. The protesters have said the institution is unaccountable and holds too much power in what is supposed to be a democratic constitutional monarchy.

Authorities at first let much of the commentary and criticism go without charge, but since November have arrested about 50 people and charged them with lese majeste.

Sunai said Tuesday’s sentence was likely meant to send a message.

“It can be seen that Thai authorities are using lese majeste prosecution as their last resort measure in response to the youth-led democracy uprising that seeks to curb the king’s powers and keep him within the bound of constitutional rule. Thailand’s political tensions will now go from bad to worse,” he said.

After King Maha Vajralongkorn took the throne in 2016 following his father’s death, he informed the government that he did not wish to see the lese majeste law used. But as the protests grew last year, and the criticism of the monarchy got harsher, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned a line had been crossed and the law would be used.


South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 20-year prison term for former President Park Geun-hye over bribery and other crimes as it ended a historic corruption case that marked a striking fall from grace for the country’s first female leader and conservative icon.

The ruling means Park, who was ousted from office and arrested in 2017, could potentially serve a combined 22 years behind bars, following a separate conviction for illegally meddling in her party’s candidate nominations ahead of parliamentary elections in 2016.

But the finalizing of her prison term also makes her eligible for a special presidential pardon, a looming possibility as the country’s deeply split electorate approaches the next presidential election in March 2022.

President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who won the presidential by-election following Park’s removal, has yet to directly address the possibility of freeing his predecessor. Moon has recently seen his approval ratings sink to new lows over economic problems, political scandals and rising coronavirus infections.

Many conservative politicians have called for Moon to release Park and another convicted former president, Lee Myung-bak, who’s serving a 17-year term over his own corruption charges. At least one prominent member of Moon’s Democratic Party, Lee Nak-yon, has endorsed the idea of pardoning the former presidents as a gesture for “national unity.”

Park, 68, has described herself a victim of political revenge. She has refused to attend her trials since October 2017 and didn’t attend Thursday’s ruling. Her lawyer didn’t return calls seeking comment.

The downfall of Park and Lee Myung-bak extended South Korea’s decades-long streak of presidencies ending badly, fueling criticism that the country places too much power that is easily abused and often goes unchecked into the hands of elected leaders.  Nearly every former president, or their family members and aides, have been mired in scandals near the end of their terms or after they left office.


A South Korean court on Friday ordered Japan to financially compensate 12 South Korean women forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II, a landmark ruling that’s set to rekindle animosities between the Asian neighbors. Japan immediately protested the ruling, maintaining that all wartime compensation issues were resolved under a 1965 treaty that restored their diplomatic ties.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled the Japanese government must give 100 million won ($91,360) each to the 12 aging women who filed the lawsuits in 2013 for their wartime sexual slavery. The court said Japan’s mobilization of these women as sexual slaves was “a crime against humanity.” It said it happened when Japan “illegally occupied” the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45, and its sovereign immunity cannot shield it from lawsuits in South Korea.

The court said the women were the victims of “harsh sexual activities” by Japanese soldiers who caused them bodily harm, venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancies and left “big mental scars” in the women’s lives. The proceedings in the case had been delayed as Japan refused to receive legal documents. Seven of the 12 women died while waiting for the ruling.

Another 20 women, some already diseased and represented by their surviving relatives, filed a separate suit against Japan, and that ruling is expected next week.

The women were among tens of thousands across occupied Asia and the Pacific who were sent to front-line Japanese military brothels. About 240 South Korean women came forward and registered with the government as victims of sexual slavery, but only 16 of them, all in their 80s and 90s, are still alive.

Observers say it’s unlikely for Japan to abide by the South Korean court ruling. A support group for women forced to work as sex slaves said it may take legal steps to seize Japanese government assets in South Korea if Japan refuses to compensate victims.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba had summoned South Korean Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo to register Tokyo’s protest of the ruling.


Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered authorities Tuesday to rebuild a century-old Hindu temple that was vandalized and set on fire by a mob last week, drawing condemnation from the government and leaders of minority Hindus.

The court ruled after authorities said they arrested more than 100 people for attacking the temple and several police officers were fired for neglecting to protect the structure.

The temple’s destruction happened Dec. 30 in Karak, a town in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Supporters of Pakistan’s radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party and residents attacked the building after being incited by a local cleric who was opposed to the temple’s planned renovation.

Although Muslims and Hindus generally live peacefully together in Pakistan, there have been other attacks on Hindu temples in recent years. Most of Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when India was divided by Britain’s government.



A legal challenge by Sun Yang against one of the judges who banned the Chinese swimmer for eight years in a now-overturned ruling has not been accepted by a Swiss federal judge.

Switzerland’s supreme court said Monday it deferred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to decide if Romano Subiotto is eligible to serve on the judging panel at Sun’s retrial.

Subiotto was picked by the World Anti-Doping Agency last year to sit on the panel of three arbitrators that imposed the ban on three-time Olympic champion Sun for violating rules at a sample collection.

The ban was voided last week by the Swiss Federal Tribunal, whose bench of five judges upheld an appeal by Sun’s lawyers that CAS panel chairman Franco Frattini was biased. It did not consider the merits of the evidence.

Frattini, the former foreign minister of Italy, had posted anti-China comments on social media before Sun’s CAS hearing held in November 2019.

Because the first CAS process was quashed, the federal judge ruled she did not have authority over a request for an arbitrator to be recused, the supreme court said.

Subiotto and the other judge at the original hearing, Philippe Sands, a British barrister selected for the hearing by Sun’s legal team, could be picked for the retrial due next year.

However, Sun’s lawyers would likely object to them — at a CAS panel that assesses such challenges — because they were already part of a unanimous 3-0 verdict against him.

Sun’s lawyers have consistently objected to lawyers involved in the case.

Subiotto was selected by WADA after its original choice stepped aside during repeated challenges by Sun’s lawyers, and WADA’s American lead prosecutor stayed on the case despite a failed appeal to federal court  that he had an alleged conflict of interest.

The retrial faces a tight schedule and complications during the coronavirus pandemic to be decided before the Tokyo Olympics.

The 29-year-old Sun is the current world champion in the men’s 400-meter freestyle, which is among the first Olympic events scheduled to begin competition on July 24.



A Turkish court on Wednesday convicted the former editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet on espionage and terror-related charges over a 2015 news story, a verdict the exiled journalist said exemplified the pressures on Turkish media.

The court in Istanbul found Can Dundar guilty of “obtaining secret documents for espionage” and “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being a member.” It sentenced him to 27 1/2 years in prison.

Dundar fled to Germany in 2016, and he was tried in absentia. His lawyers said the proceedings did not adhere to the standards for a fair trial and judicial impartiality, and they did not attend Wednesday’s court hearing in protest.

In an interview with The Associated Press at his Berlin office, Dundar called the verdict “a personal decision by the president of Turkey to deter the journalists writing against him.”

Dundar was first charged in 2015 and tried and convicted in 2016 for a Cumhuriyet article that accused Turkey’s intelligence service of illegally sending weapons to Syria. Wednesday’s verdict came in his retrial.

The story featured a 2014 video that showed men in police uniforms and civilian clothing unscrewing bolts to open trucks and unpacking boxes. Later images showed trucks full of mortar rounds. The AP cannot confirm the authenticity of the video.

The news report claimed that Turkish intelligence service and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not allow a prosecutor to pursue an investigation into arms smuggling.

The story infuriated Erdogan, who said the trucks carried aid to Turkmen groups in Syria and that Dundar would “pay a high price.” Cumhuriyet’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul. also faced criminal charges in the first trial.

Turkey later intervened directly in the Syrian civil war, launching four cross-border operations.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 154th out of 180 countries in its 2020 Press Freedom Index. Dundar said the trial verdict could have a further chilling effect.

“The problem is there is a cloud of fear over the country, so those decisions may deter some journalists in Turkey to write against the government, to write about the truth,” he said.

“There are still brave journalists defending the truth in Turkey, but I hope the world will see much better now what kind of government we are struggling against,” he added.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted: “The decision against Can Dundar is a heavy blow against independent journalistic work in Turkey.”

“Journalism is an indispensable service to society, including and especially when it takes a critical view of what those in government are doing,” he said.

Dundar was accused of aiding the network of U.S.-based Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric whom the Turkish government accuses of masterminding a failed 2016 coup. Gulen denies the allegations and remains in Pennsylvania.


Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and two other activists were taken into custody Monday after they pleaded guilty to charges related to a demonstration outside police headquarters during anti-government protests last year.

Wong, together with fellow activists Ivan Lam and Agnes Chow, pleaded guilty to charges related to organizing, taking part in and inciting protesters to join an unauthorized protest outside police headquarters last June. The trio were members of the now-disbanded Demosisto political party.

They were remanded in custody at a court hearing Monday, and the three are expected to be sentenced on Dec. 2. Those found guilty of taking part in an unlawful assembly could face as long as five years in prison depending on the severity of the offense.

“I am persuaded that neither prison bars, nor election ban, nor any other arbitrary powers would stop us from activism,” Wong said, ahead of the court hearing.

“What we are doing now is to explain the value of freedom to the world, through our compassion to whom we love, so much that we are willing to sacrifice the freedom of our own. I’m prepared for the thin chance of walking free.”

Wong rose to prominence as a student leader during the 2014 Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests and is among a growing number of activists being charged with relatively minor offenses since Beijing in June imposed a sweeping national security law on the territory that has severely restricted political speech.

Pro-democracy supporters have said the legal charges are part of a campaign to harass and intimidate them. Lam, who also spoke ahead of the court hearing, said he too was prepared to be jailed. Wong wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that he and Lam had decided to plead guilty after consulting with their lawyers. The two previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.


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