Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Man Gets 10 Years in Thai Graffiti Case

CHIANG MAI, Thailand - A Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for spray-painting graffiti over images of Thailand's revered king, the first conviction of a foreigner in at least a decade under strict Thai laws protecting the monarchy.

Oliver Rudolf Jufer, 57, who had pleaded guilty to five counts of lese majeste, or insulting the monarchy, had faced a maximum sentence of 75 years in prison.

Judge Phitsanu Tanbukalee said Jufer was given a reduced sentence since he had admitted his wrongdoing.

His court-appointed lawyer, Komkrit Kunyodying, called the penalty "appropriate for the crime he has committed," adding he did not yet know if his client planned to appeal.

The Swiss Embassy issued a tempered criticism.

"We respect the Thai justice system," said Jacques Lauer, deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Bangkok. "However, we consider the implementation of the Thai penal code regarding lese majeste cases a tough one."

Jufer was caught by surveillance cameras on Dec. 5 spray-painting black paint over five outdoor posters of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the northern city of Chiang Mai, where he lived, police and prosecutors said. His lawyer said he was intoxicated during the act.

Bhumibol, the world's longest serving monarch, is greatly loved by Thais and regarded by some as semi-divine. He is protected from reproach by strict laws that forbid any criticism of the monarchy.

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