Image: Harry Nicolaides
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul  /  AFP - Getty Images
Australian Harry Nicolaides, shown sitting inside a court cell in Bangkok on Jan. 19, has been pardoned for insulting the Thai monarchy and freed.
updated 2/20/2009 8:49:26 PM ET 2009-02-21T01:49:26

An Australian author who was jailed in Thailand for defaming the country's monarchy in a novel that sold just seven copies was granted a royal pardon, his family said Saturday.

Socrates Nicolaides told The Associated Press he found out Saturday morning that his son, Harry Nicolaides, had been granted a royal pardon and was on his way home to Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. The family planned to take the 41-year-old straight to a hospital to visit his mother, who is recovering from a stroke, which Socrates Nicolaides blamed on the stress of the case.

His lawyer, Mark Dean, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio the pardon was granted on Thursday night and Nicolaides was deported from Thailand at midnight Friday.

There was no immediate comment from Thai officials.

"The Australian Government and the Thai Government have been working together very closely on the resolution of Harry's case," Dean said, adding that steps had been take to expedite the case.

In January, Bangkok's Criminal Court sentenced Nicolaides to three years in prison for insulting the king and crown prince in a self-published 2005 book "Verisimilitude." The court said a passage about the book's fictional prince caused "dishonor" to the royal family and suggested an "abuse of royal power."

End of 'six-month nightmare'
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy but has severe lese majeste, or injury to majesty, laws, mandating a jail term of three to 15 years for "whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the Regent."

Until recently, prosecutions under the law were uncommon in a country where the 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej is almost universally revered.

But questions about the monarchy have assumed a higher profile lately amid growing consideration about the eventual succession of Bhumibol, the world's longest-serving monarch and the only king most Thais have ever known.

Nicolaides brother, Forde Nicolaides, said the pardon ends a "six-month nightmare" for the family.

"I spoke to Harry last night — he rang me from the airport and assured me he is reasonably fit, despite his ordeal," Forde Nicolaides said.

More on: Bhumibol Adulyadej

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