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Harry Nicolaides, an Australian writer jailed in Thailand for defaming the monarchy, was granted a royal pardon on 19 February and has returned home, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) and other IFEX members.

Nicolaides had been sentenced to three years in jail last month on lese majeste charges, for defaming the crown prince in "Verisimilitude", a largely unknown novel he wrote and published in 2005. Only seven of 50 copies printed were ever sold. He had been held since 31 August 2008 in Bangkok.

Speaking from the airport in Melbourne, Nicolaides thanked the Australian people for their support. He told reporters he had only learned moments before his flight that his mother had suffered a stroke while he was in jail.

IFEX members had lobbied Thailand's royal family for his release and continue to call upon the authorities to reform the draconian lese majeste laws. According to Nicolaides's lawyer, Mark Dean, the writer's release was the result of close co-operation between the Thai and Australian governments.

Thailand's charge of lese majeste, which can be used against anyone who defames, insults or threatens the monarchy, is among the most severe in the world, carrying a possible three- to 15-year prison term.

Visit these links:
- RSF:
- WiPC:
- Committee to Protect Journalists:
(25 February 2009)

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