By Christianna Loupa*
In a two-speed world, in some countries freedom of speech is considered as a crime, separation of Powers is unknown and real distribution of justice seems to remain an unfulfilled dream in the imagination of the bold.
Unfortunately, Harry Nicolaides, a Greek- origin Australian journalist, writer and English language instructor, has managed to get himself arrested, by a rigid totalitarian regime, apparently oblivious to the extreme peril he’d placed himself in after the publication of his book “Verisimilitude. Is the truth, the truth?” Nicolaides was arrested in Bangkok airport on 31st August and detained ever since in Bangkok Remand Prison, on a charge of “Lèse Majesté”, pursuant to the Thai Penal Code.
As a matter of fact, the writer is accused of offending the Prince, in his 2005 novel, developing in Thailand, which was printed and published there in seventy copies.
Here is the controversial excerpt:
“From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives “major and minor “with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.”
As Monarchy is one Thai institution all sides claim to be loyal to above all else, his book is considered to be “a trenchant commentary on the political and social life of contemporary Thailand”. “Verisimilitude” was withdrawn and a warrant was issued last March, of which Harry was completely unaware, until his last visit to Thailand, when he was arrested as he was about to board a flight home to Melbourne,
In the meantime, the writer has been refused three bail applications, for fear of escaping or committing the same “crime” again (!), there is no official charge brought against him yet, while the date of the trial is still unknown.
“Several months may pass till an official charge is brought against him. For the time being, he is suffering under intolerable conditions”, stressed his brother, Fotis, who managed to visit him in Bangkok. Nobody is allowed to see Harry, who, although he is not a drug smuggler or gunrunner, he is locked in the same cell with eighty nine other prisoners, many of them suffering from tuberculosis and staring at him angrily.
“I’ve been getting icy stares from men covered in tattoos,” he said during his interview to “The Times” of 5/9. “On the first night I would have committed suicide if I’d had the means … I want to immediately apologize to the Royal Family for my reckless choice of words. I want to write a letter of apology, with the greatest humility.”
In the beginning, the writer was obliged to sleep with a blanket on the floor, then his brother managed, with the help of the Australian Embassy, to provide him with a mattress.
Moreover, in the moving letter, that Nicolaides sent to his elderly parents, he pointed out that his food and water is usually stolen, he suffers from a seizure and fever, he is unable to sleep and added that heʼd rather take out his life than staying in prison for fifteen years – a quite possible sentence.
According to “The Wall Street Journal” of 16/10 “Thais deeply revere their 80-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Some see him as almost divine and carry his image in talismans or on car dashboards to bring good luck”. The newspaper article is about several activists being detained in the dungeons of the Asian country recently, under the same charge as Nicolaides.
Nevertheless, Harry will need good and a lot of luck to ever come out of the medieval Thai galleys, which remind us of Turkish jail and brings to mind scenes from “The midnight express”.
Apart from luck, what is really needed is our support, not only from friends and relatives, but from everyone who detests totalitarianism and believes in the application of Human Rights all over the world.
Let us all call the Embassy of Thailand in Athens 210 6710155 to protest, or send e-mail to email@example.com, or sign the Petition created by newspaper NEOS KOSMOS and The Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria. For, the more we protest, the better.
Let us not allow Harryʼs fears come true: “If my case is forgotten, I, myself, will be forgotten in the dungeons of Thailand, as well”.
*Christianna Loupa is a lawyer, writer and columnist