- Thailand has strict laws that punish insults of the royal family
- Joe Gordon has been released early from a 2 1/2 year prison sentence
- His case is one of several that drew criticism from human rights groups
- He wants to leave Thailand immediately, his lawyer says
Thailand has pardoned a Thai-born American who was sentenced last year to 2 1/2 years in prison for insulting the monarchy, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Joe W. Gordon, whose Thai name is Lerpong Wichaicommart, was released Tuesday after receiving a royal pardon from the king, his lawyer said.
Gordon's case is one of several that provoked criticism from human rights advocates over Thailand's controversial laws that punish defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family. U.S. authorities had also expressed concern about his imprisonment.
The charge of writing and posting articles insulting the monarchy under the Southeast Asian country's lese majeste laws can yield a sentence as high as 20 years in prison in the Buddhist country, where the king is highly revered.
Gordon, 54, returned to Thailand in 2010 after 30 years in the United States. He was arrested in May 2011 for posting a link on his blog to an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.
Gordon, who was received by U.S. Embassy officials after his release, wishes to leave Thailand immediately, his lawyer Anon Rumpa said.
"The case is over, he has no more pending court case or obligatory things to do," Anon said.