Swiss could get 75 years for treason

Darren Schuettler

Darren Schuettler

BANGKOK - A Swiss man, who faces 75 years in jail for defacing images of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, will appear in court in Thailand today, the revered monarch's birthday.

Oliver Rudolf Jufer, 57, is charged with five acts of lese-majesty, or treason, in Thailand, one of the few countries that strictly prosecutes acts deemed to be demeaning of the royal family.

A long-time resident of Thailand, Jufer was arrested in December in the northern city of Chiang Mai after black paint had been sprayed on portraits of King Bhumibol, 79, whom many Thais regard as semi-divine and as a cornerstone of stability.

Jufer, whose trial dates are expected to be set today, has been in jail while police investigated the incident, which falls under strict laws that carry a penalty of three to 15 years in jail.

The police are seeking five consecutive jail terms for Jufer, whose case has received almost no coverage in the Thai press.

Few other countries have lese-majesty on their statute books and prosecutions are rare.

In 2001 four youths were fined for throwing a cream pie at King Carl Gustaf, Sweden's first treason case in living memory.

In Japan, where tabloids gossip about royals in a way that would not be tolerated in Thailand, lese- majesty laws were repealed after the second world war.

For most Thais only the most delicate portrayal of the world's longest-reigning monarch and his family is acceptable.

Foreigners are expected to show similar respect and not doing so can have serious consequences. - Reuters