Thai court denies bail for lawyer who called for monarchy reforms

FILE PHOTO: Arnon Nampa, a prominent activist and former human rights lawyer, speaks to media ahead of a Thai criminal court's verdict in a case of allegedly having insulted the monarchy, at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, September 26, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai court denied bail on Saturday for an activist lawyer sentenced to four years in prison for royal insults, his lawyer said, in one of the Southeast Asian country's highest-profile lese-majeste cases.

Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, 39, is widely known for a speech during pro-democracy protests in 2020 when he broke taboos by calling for public debate on the role of Thailand's powerful king. Arnon denies wrongdoing.

He was sentenced on Tuesday in the first of 14 cases alleging he violated article 112 of the criminal code, as the royal insults law is known.

The Appeal Court read out an order on Saturday rejecting Arnon's bail request due to concerns that "if bail was given he would escape", said his lawyer, Krisadang Nutcharus.

Krisadang said he would consult with Arnon on whether to make another bail request or appeal the order to the Supreme Court.

Thailand's lese-majeste law shields the palace from criticism and carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years for each perceived insult of the monarchy, a punishment widely condemned by international human rights groups as extreme.

Arnon was a leader of a youth-led democracy movement that held protests in Bangkok in 2020 that drew hundreds of thousands of people demanding the removal of royalist then-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who had seized power in a coup.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by William Mallard)

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