Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Thai Activist Jailed for Two and a Half Years for Posting BBC Article That May Have Insulted the King

August 15, 2017

BANGKOK — A Thai student activist was jailed for two and a half years on Tuesday for posting on Facebook a BBC article deemed offensive to Thailand’s king, his lawyer said.

Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, an activist and critic of the ruling junta, was the first person to be charged with royal insult, known as lese-majeste, after new King Maha Vajiralongkorn formally ascended the throne on Dec. 1, following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Jatupat, a former law student, was arrested on Dec. 3 and charged for posting a BBC Thai language profile of the king which some deemed offensive.

He was also charged with violating a computer crime law for posting a link to the BBC report, which was shared by more than 2,000 people.

He pleaded guilty to the charges against him earlier on Tuesday, prompting the court to bring forward its verdict.

 Image result for Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, photos
Jatupat Boonpattaraksa

“The court sentenced Pai to five years in prison, reduced to two and a half years,” Kissandang Nutcharat, Jatupat’s lawyer, told Reuters.

“Pai confessed … He knew that if he tried to fight the charges it would not be of any use.”

A representative for the BBC in Thailand said he could not immediately comment on the verdict.

Thailand’s military government took power after a 2014 coup against a democratically elected government.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn

Since then, the detention of people accused of royal insult has increased sharply.

Last week, a man was jailed for 18 years for posting six video clips deemed insulting to the monarchy.

International rights groups have accused the authorities in Thailand of using broad laws to silence critics. Some political commentators have said the laws have been used to shield governments and the military from criticism.

“It appears that Jatupat was singled out from the thousands of people who shared the BBC article, and prosecuted for his strong opposition to military rule more than for any harm incurred by the monarchy,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Anyone can file a lese-majeste complaint against anyone in Thailand and complaints are almost always investigated by authorities who fear falling foul of the law themselves.

The laws protecting members of the royal family from insult limit what all news organizations, including Reuters, can report from Thailand.

(Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Additional reporting and writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)


Thai student leader and human rights activist pleads guilty of defaming Thailand’s royal family

August 15, 2017


© AFP/File | Activists standing behind makeshift bars wearing masks of Thai human rights activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din”  Boonpattararaksa, who was arrested in early December 2016

BANGKOK (AFP) – A prominent student leader on Tuesday pleaded guilty to defaming Thailand’s royal family by sharing a news story about the kingdom’s new monarch on Facebook, his lawyer said.

Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpatararaksa, 25, is the latest anti-junta activist to be hit with the country’s draconian lese majeste law which bans any criticism of the monarchy.

The law, which carries up to 15 years in jail per charge, has been wielded with increased ferocity under Thailand’s military rulers.

He has been held in custody since his arrest in December for sharing a profile of King Maha Vajiralongkorn written by the BBC’s Thai-language service in London.

Image result for King Maha Vajiralongkorn, photos

King Maha Vajiralongkorn

On Tuesday he changed his plea to guilty, his legal team said, a stance that usually trims the sentence of alleged offenders.

“After Jatupat consulted with his family, he pleaded guilty this morning before the court for committing the alleged wrongdoing as charged,” Krisadang Nootjaras, one of his lawyers, told AFP.

The court in northeastern Khon Kaen province is expected to sentence him later on Tuesday, he added.

Those charged with lese majeste in Thailand are almost always convicted, often behind closed doors.

Many people arrested for the crime plead guilty hoping for a reduced sentence.

The severity of the charge makes real scrutiny of the wealthy and powerful royal family all but impossible inside the kingdom — including by the media.

Use of the lese majeste law has generated widespread international criticism, including from the United Nations.

A UN report earlier this year noted that the conviction rate under the law had gone from 75 percent before the 2014 coup to 96 percent last year.

Many of those jailed have been handed record-breaking sentences as long as 30 years, often for comments made on social media.

Jatupat hails from Thailand’s northeast, a poor and rural region where anti-military sentiment runs high.

He was awarded a prominent human rights award in South Korea earlier this year.

Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne after the death in October of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades.

He has yet to attain his father’s widespread popularity.


Bangkok Post

Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Booyapatraksa has confessed and the Khon Kaen Court will hand down the sentence on Tuesday afternoon, according to his lawyer. He was charged with lese majeste and violating the… computer law….

Mr Jatupat was awarded the prestigious 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, selected by the May 18 Memorial Foundation of South Korea.

Read the rest:

Palestinian Leader Curbs Social Media Expression in Decree — Continued slide toward authoritarianism?

August 11, 2017

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has clamped down on social media and news websites — the main outlets for debate and dissent in the West Bank — with a vaguely worded decree that critics say allows his government to jail anyone on charges of harming “national unity” or the “social fabric.”

Rights activists say the edict, issued without prior public debate last month, is perhaps the most significant step yet by Abbas’ government to restrict freedom of expression in the autonomous Palestinian enclaves of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

A Palestinian prosecutor denied the decree is being used to stifle dissent and insisted that a new law on electronic crimes was needed to close legal loopholes that in the past allowed offenders, such as hackers, to go unpunished.

Image may contain: one or more people

Image from Palestinian social media

However, the government has blocked 30 websites in the past month, according to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, or Mada.

Most of the sites were affiliated with Abbas’s two main rivals — a former aide-turned-foe, Mohammed Dahlan, and the Islamic militant group Hamas, Mada said. A few of the blocked sites had supported the extremist Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Five journalists working for news outlets linked to Hamas were detained this week and charged with violating the new law, according the lawyer of one of those arrested and an official in the association of Palestinian journalists.

Separately, four other journalists were called for questioning about social media posts critical of government policy.

One of those summoned, photo journalist Fadi Arouri, who works for the Chinese news agency Xinhua, said he was shown his Facebook posts and was told that the authorities are concerned “these expressions could lead to disorder in the society.”

Ammar Dweik, head of the government-appointed Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, said the new law is “one of the worst” since the Palestinian autonomy government was established in 1994.

It’s “a big setback to the freedoms in the West Bank,” he said, citing the vague definition of the purported crimes, the wide authority given to the security forces, the large-scale blocking of news websites and the harsh punishments.

Rights groups have repeatedly accused Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, of restricting freedoms and engaging in human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests of political opponents, mistreatment in detention and cracking down on peaceful protests.

The new decree stipulates prison terms ranging from one year to life for those who use digital means for a range of all-encompassing offenses. The list includes endangering the safety of the state or the public order as well as harming national unity or social peace.

Abbas, 82, issued the decree at a time when he is facing new domestic challenges to his rule.

Dahlan and Hamas have overcome their old rivalry to team up against Abbas with an emerging power-sharing deal in Gaza, the territory Abbas’ Fatah movement lost to Hamas in 2007.

Polls routinely show that two-thirds of Palestinians want Abbas to resign. He was elected to five years in 2005, but stayed on, arguing that political disagreement with Hamas prevented new elections. With parliament paralyzed as a result of the political split, Abbas has ruled by decree.

Abbas also failed to deliver on his central promise of setting up a Palestinian state in talks with Israel.

Gaps widened since Israel’s hard-line leader Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in 2009, and an early Trump administration promise to revive long-dormant negotiations appears to have fizzled.

Officials in Abbas’ office declined to comment on the new decree or on long-standing complaints that Abbas and his government restrict freedoms in the West Bank. The officials said it was up to law enforcement and the Cabinet to comment.

A government spokesman also declined comment, referring questions to the justice minister, who did not respond to phone messages.

Ibrahim Hamodeh, a prosecutor in the attorney general’s office, said the decree was needed to go after those committing electronic crimes, such as hackers and those engaged in on-line libel.

“There is nothing about (restricting) freedom of expression in the new law,” Hamodeh told The Associated Press.

“The law criminalizes distortion, defamation, slandering,” he said. “One can criticize the president and his policy but one cannot accuse the president or anyone else of treason or make fun of him in an image, or something like that.”

Critics said the vague, fuzzy terms in the decree are problematic.

It enables the government to jail anyone for any reason, said Ghazi Bani Odeh, a researcher at Mada.

“It opens the door wide to more violations of freedom of expression,” he said.

In the past, other laws that prohibit “insulting the president” or “insulting religion” have been used selectively to prosecute Palestinians for social media posts.

Emad al-Masri, a mid-level manager in the Palestinian Health Ministry in the city of Ramallah, was among the first to be prosecuted under the new law.

He said he was detained in July, after being sued by two ministry officials for allegedly slanderous Facebook posts.

The prosecutor said the pair eventually dropped their charges and the judge reduced the sentence from two years to three months, or a fine. Al-Masri ended up paying about $130.

Al-Masri, 45, said he believes he was targeted for his critical comments recently about Abbas’ new policy of tightening financial pressure on Gaza to try to force the coastal strip’s Hamas rulers to cede ground.

“I think they meant to intimidate me, to silence me,” said al-Masri, an activist in Fatah. His posts accused Abbas of harming ordinary Gazans with his tough policies against Hamas.

The Palestinian journalists’ association in the West Bank, though dominated by Fatah, said it would push back against the decree.

An electronic crimes law is needed, but the association is concerned about articles that touch on freedom of expression and freedom of reporting, said Mohammed Laham, an official in the group. He said the association is working with the Independent Commission for Human Rights to offer alternatives to some of the articles.

Shahwan Jabareen, director of the veteran rights group al-Haq, expressed concern about what he said is a continued slide toward authoritarianism.

“The Palestinian security services intervene in everything,” he said. They have “become the masters of the land.”

Thailand Sentences Man to 18 Years in Prison for Insulting Monarchy

August 9, 2017

BANGKOK — A Thai man was jailed for 18 years on Wednesday for posting six video clips deemed insulting to the monarchy, his lawyer said, the latest conviction in junta-ruled Thailand where authorities have cracked down on critics of the monarchy and military.

Use of the country’s lese-majeste law has surged under the royalist junta that took power in a 2014 coup d’etat, with more than 100 people charged since the coup, according to legal monitoring group iLaw.

Tara, 61, whose last name was withheld by his lawyer, was arrested in 2015 for sharing online materials allegedly insulting to the monarchy.

He was charged with royal defamation and computer crime.

Image may contain: 1 person

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Prosecutions for lese-majesty have continued since he took the throne in 2016. Photograph Chaiwat Subprasom – Reuters

A Bangkok military court sentenced Tara to 18 years in jail for violating Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code, which says anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with up to 15 years in prison, and the country’s computer crime.

“He accepted the charge against him and has been in custody since 2015 so the court sentenced him to 20 years in prison, minus two years,” Yaowalak Anuphan, head of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Centre and Tara’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Tara cannot appeal his sentence, she said, because he was arrested while Thailand was under martial law.

Rights groups have accused the authorities in Thailand of intimidating critics through censorship and lawsuits.

The military government denies this and has said it acts to protect national security.

Last week Pravit Rojanaphruk, an award-winning Thai journalist, was accused of sedition over online comments critical of the junta.

He told Reuters that the charge created a “chilling effect” amid an ongoing government crackdown on critics.

Pravit was charged by police on Tuesday for posting comments on his Facebook page criticizing military rule and the junta’s slow response to flooding in the country.

“The Thai junta’s dictatorial reach has expanded well beyond traditional sources to social media like Facebook,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“These dubious charges for peaceful Facebook commentary should be dropped immediately,” he said, referring to the charges against Pravit and two former government ministers who were charged last week with sedition and computer crime.

Strict lese-majeste laws protecting members of the royal family from insult limit what all news organizations, including Reuters, can report from Thailand.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Panarat Thepgumpanat, Suphanida Thakral and Aukkrapon Niyomyat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Michael Perry)

Thailand’s Criminal Court Removes “Illegal” Websites, Even on Facebook and YouTube

August 8, 2017

But nearly 1,800 pages remain because of coordination errors

August 8, 2017, 1:53pm

8 Jul 2017

By Kosman Tortermvasana

Facebook and YouTube have confirmed that all web pages ruled as illicit by the Thai Criminal Court have been removed from their platforms.

From May 1 to July 16, 1,835 pages were removed. The removal of the remaining 1,786 pages has not been ordered by the court because of coordination errors among government agencies.

The mistake involving coordination has led to an inaccurate number of illicit pages, said Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

“The Digital Economy and Society [DE] ministry explained that they need to translate and manage details, including some slang words prior to sending the court orders to Facebook and YouTube,” said Mr Takorn.

The NBTC scrapped its previous deadline that ordered internet service providers (ISPs) and international internet gateway (IIG) providers to remove all 3,726 illicit web pages by August 7.

Mr Takorn held a press conference with representatives of Thai Internet Service Providers Association after they discussed the second phase of the crackdown on illicit web pages.

On Friday, NBTC threatened ISP and IIG providers with the revocation of internet licences and legal punishment if the latest lot of illicit web pages were in place yesterday.

Singapore PM’s Nephew Says Will Not Return Home to Face Charges

August 5, 2017

SINGAPORE — The nephew of Singapore’s prime minister, who faces contempt of court proceedings for comments he made suggesting the city-state’s courts were not independent, said he would not be returning to Singapore.

The office of Singapore’s attorney general said on Friday it would begin contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu, a U.S.-based academic, over Facebook posts he made on July 15. The legal move is the latest twist in a family feud over the fate of the house left by the late Singapore founding father Lee Kwan Yew that gripped the nation last month.

In his post, Li, nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and a son of Lee’s brother, Lee Hsien Yang, described the Singapore government as “litigious” and its courts as “pliant”.

Image may contain: 1 person, child, selfie and closeup

Li Shengwu

Li, 32, is currently a junior fellow at Harvard University and told Reuters on Saturday from the United States he expected to start an assistant professor position with the university in the fall of 2018.

He said he would defend himself through legal representation in Singapore but would not return to the country.

“I have no intention of going back to Singapore. I have a happy life and a fulfilling job in the U.S.,” he said in an interview.

Li said the prosecution against him was “politically motivated”.

“The Attorney General’s Chambers explicitly mentioned both my family relationships and recent political events in their cease and desist letter,” said Li.

“I would like to spend my time doing research, but have somehow been swept into my uncle Lee Hsien Loong’s personal political vendetta.”

Spokespeople for the Prime Minister’s Office were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.


In a statement on Friday, the attorney general’s chambers said it had previously instructed Li to remove the post and issue a letter of apology acknowledging that his comments about the judiciary were baseless.

It said since Li had failed to meet those requirements by the stipulated deadline of 0900 GMT, Friday, which had been pushed back from July 28 at Li’s request, it had filed the contempt proceedings in High Court.

Earlier on Friday, Li said on Facebook he had amended his original July 15 post to clarify any misunderstandings. However, he said he did not believe the post was in contempt of court.

Li’s July 15 post was shared on a privacy setting that allows content to only be viewed by his Facebook friends. He said on Friday the intent of that post was to convey the “international media were restricted in their ability to report” on a recent feud between Prime Minister Lee and his siblings “due to the litigious nature” of the government.

“It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice,” he said.

The public spat between the Lee siblings, children of Lee Kuan Yew, flared in June over the future of the family home, in which Lee Kuan Yew, who died at the age of 91 in 2015, lived for most of his life.

Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling accused their elder brother of abusing power to try to save the house as a historic monument in defiance of his father’s wishes. That prompted the prime minister to call an extraordinary special sitting of parliament in July to “clear the air” over an issue that some people say has tarnished Singapore’s image.

(Reporting by Sam Holmes; Editing by Alex Richardson and Bill Tarrant)

See also:

Mr Li Shengwu on Saturday (Aug 5) shared his response to the Attorney-General’s Chambers on Facebook, in which he reiterated that his earlier post, when taken in context, is not in contempt of court.

The AGC had on Friday filed an application in the High Court to begin proceedings for contempt of court against Mr Li, 32, the eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The impending proceedings involve a Facebook post Mr Li published on July 15, which the AGC said was an “egregious and baseless attack” on the judiciary. It asked that Mr Li delete the post, and sign and publish a written apology on his Facebook page.


In Singapore, Family Feud Deepens Over Facebook Posts

BANGKOK — Singapore’s government has been trying for two weeks to get the Harvard economist Li Shengwu, a grandson of Singapore’s founder, Lee Kuan Yew, to apologize for comments he made in a private Facebook post that were seen as critical of the country’s leadership.

The Singapore attorney general’s office even drafted an apology letter for Mr. Li to sign, in which he would admit to contempt of court and to making what it called “false and baseless” statements.

But on Friday, Mr. Li declined to give in to the demands of the government, which is led by his uncle, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and refused to sign the apology. In the Facebook post last month, he said that some foreign news outlets engaged in self-censorship when covering the prime minister because of the threat of legal action in Singapore.

The dispute is the latest in a bitter family drama that has riveted the city-state and raised questions about the legacy of Mr. Lee, Singapore’s first prime minister, and how the nation should be governed after 58 years of one-party rule.

In refusing to apologize, Mr. Li said Friday in a new Facebook post, this one public, that his criticism of Singapore for suppressing press freedom was aimed at the government, not the courts. “It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice,” he wrote. “Any criticism I made is of the Singapore government’s litigious nature, and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press.”

The sparring comes as Singapore’s most prominent family has been battling over Lee Kuan Yew’s wish that the family home where he lived for nearly 70 years be demolished after his death. He died in 2015 at 91. Two of Mr. Lee’s three children have accused their elder brother, the prime minister, of abusing his power to try to save the house as a historic monument, in defiance of their father’s will. The prime minister’s motive, they said, was to bolster his own legitimacy and further the possibility of a Lee family dynasty, charges he has denied.

The dispute turned into a public spectacle last month when Mr. Lee devoted two days to parliamentary discussion of his siblings’ complaints against him. “In Singapore, everyone is equal before the law,” he told Parliament. “When the dust has settled on this unhappy episode, people must know that the government in Singapore operates transparently, impartially and properly.”

The government continues to monitor criticism, including comments from the prime minister’s nephew at Harvard.

Mr. Li is the son of Lee Hsien Yang, the prime minister’s younger brother and chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. Mr. Li’s father has said he plans to leave Singapore indefinitely for fear of retribution.

Singapore’s leaders have long turned to the courts to limit free speech by filing costly defamation lawsuits against citizens and international news outlets.

In the Facebook post last month viewable only to friends, Mr. Li referred to this practice and included a link to a 2010 commentary in The New York Times on the government’s use of the law to limit criticism. After someone took a screenshot of the post and circulated it, state-run news media picked up on it and published it widely.

Read the rest:

Thailand: Crackdown on critics of Military Government continues with accusations of sedition against award-winning Thai journalist — Dissent against the junta is not permitted

August 4, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person

Pravit Rojanaphruk, an outspoken Thai columnist for the English-language daily The Nation, poses for photograph while being called to report himself to the ruling military along with other journalists in Bangkok, Thailand Sunday, May 25, 2014. A spokesman for Thailand’s coup leaders said Sunday that democracy had caused “losses” for the country, as the junta sought to combat growing international condemnation and hundreds of protesters angrily confronted soldiers in central Bangkok. (AP Photo)

By Patpicha Tanakasempipat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – An award-winning Thai journalist accused of sedition over online comments critical of the junta said on Friday that the charge created a “chilling effect” amid an ongoing crackdown on critics of the military government.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, a journalist at local news outlet Khaosod English, has been a rare voice of dissent against the junta since it took power in a May 2014 coup, ousting then prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The military government has largely silenced critics by summoning them for “attitude adjustment” sessions in military camps, banning public gatherings and detaining dissenters.

But government spokesman Weerachon Sukhontapatipak said criticism had not been outlawed.

 Image may contain: 1 person, standing
Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 as he is set to attend the ASEAN Summit in Manila

“It depends on the intention and the delivery… But if it violates existing laws, it must be dealt with accordingly,” Weerachon told Reuters.

Pravit, an avid social media user, has been summoned twice for attitude adjustment sessions.

He was accused on Monday of sedition and cyber crime over five Facebook posts in which he criticized the junta, police said.

He denies the accusations, saying his criticism was in good faith and the charges against him were aimed at intensifying a climate of fear on the internet.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor

“This creates a chilling effect, because the junta is afraid of social media platforms. The online space is a new frontier where criticism is hard for them to control,” Pravit told Reuters.

Pravit will hear the charges against him on Tuesday.

Sedition charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison for each offence. According to the criminal code, punishment will be capped at 20 years for charges with multiple offences.

The accusations came as Thailand’s military government seeks to strengthen its online monitoring.

It has also asked Facebook to remove offensive content and threatened the opposition with cyber crime charges.

Rights group Amnesty International said the accusations against Pravit suggested there was “no end to the Thai authorities’ determination to stamp out any form of criticism, whether online or on the streets”.

Last month, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists announced that Pravit was a recipient of its 2017 International Press Freedom Award.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie)

Benjamin Netanyahu — and his son — under fire in Israel

August 4, 2017


JERUSALEM (AP) — Since becoming an adult, the eldest son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly drawn media criticism for what has been portrayed as a life of privilege at taxpayers’ expense.

Yair Netanyahu, 26, has been described as someone who hobnobs with world leaders and enjoys a state-funded bodyguard, while living at the prime minister’s official residence.

But his recent behavior, including a crude social media post, has now drawn public rebuke from the children of a former Israeli leader, along with threats of a libel suit. It has also revived criticism of the Netanyahu family’s perceived hedonism and sense of entitlement, at a time when the prime minister faces multiple corruption allegations.

Israeli police on Thursday disclosed that Netanyahu is suspected of fraud, breach of trust and bribes in a pair of cases, just as his son was being pilloried in the press.

The younger Netanyahu hit the tabloids last weekend when a neighbor posted an account of how he refused to pick up after the Netanyahu family dog at a public park and then, when confronted, gave the neighbor the finger.

Yair Netanyahu then lashed out on Facebook at a website run by a liberal think tank that detailed what it said was his lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense.

In the post, Netanyahu alleged the site is funded by what he claimed are foreign interests, referring indirectly to the dovish New Israel Fund, which he renamed the “Israel Destruction Fund.” He signed the post with emojis of a middle finger and a pile of excrement.

The Times of Israel said Thursday that the Molad organization which runs the site served the younger Netanyahu with a notice of intent to sue. The notice reportedly said that his posts “had no iota of truth to them” and that Molad stopped receiving money from the NIF last year.

Representatives of Molad could not be reached for comment.

The New Israel Fund noted that Yair Netanyahu made the comments on Tisha B’Av, the day Jews mourn the destruction of their biblical Temples, brought upon by internal divisions and hatred.

“On this day … it would be appropriate for the prime minister to educate his son to spread the love of Israel,” the fund said in a statement.

But perhaps the harshest reactions came from some of the other targets of his post, in which he claimed the children of former Israeli leaders Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert did not come under such scrutiny.

It included an insinuation that one of Olmert’s sons had an “interesting relationship with a Palestinian man” that affected national security.

Olmert’s son Ariel fired back on Facebook, denying he was gay, dismissing the claims as a fabrication and accusing the younger Netanyahu of “racism and homophobia.”

“I’ve ignored that until now, maybe because in my opinion there’s nothing negative about being either gay or Palestinian,” he wrote. “Your attempts to drag me into your twisted reality are doomed to fail.”

Ariel Olmert added that he works for a living, never slept in the prime minister’s residence and “on principle, try to pick up my dog’s doody.”

His older brother Shaul then chimed in, calling Yair Netanyahu a fascist thug.

Their sister Dana Olmert declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

The online exchanges highlighted Yair Netanyahu’s pronounced presence of late around his father.

In May, he was on hand to welcome President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the official Netanyahu residence and was heard telling Mrs. Trump how he related to their youngest son Barron’s struggle with the spotlight.

He has also reportedly taken a leading role in his father’s social media platform.

Yair Netanyahu has also been questioned — though not as a suspect — about a corruption scandal in which his father was asked by police “under caution” about ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are said to have received more than $100,000 worth of cigars and liquor from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who reportedly asked Netanyahu to press the U.S. secretary of state in a visa matter.

Australian billionaire James Packer has reportedly lavished Yair with gifts that included extended stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York and Aspen, Colorado, as well as the use of his private jet and dozens of tickets for concerts by Packer’s former fiancee, Mariah Carey.

Police are trying to determine whether these constitute bribes, since Packer is reportedly seeking Israeli residency status for tax purposes.

The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media.

His office declined comment Thursday on the latest affair.

David Bitan, the coalition whip from Netanyahu’s Likud party, said Netanyahu’s son was not involved in policy and dismissed the chatter as kid’s stuff on Facebook.

“He’s a private person and that is how it should be treated,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

Others disagreed.

Columnist Sima Kadmon wrote in a front-page piece in the Yediot Ahronot daily Thursday that the prime minister’s plea to the media to leave his family alone had no merit once his son had written “one of the nastiest and most vile posts ever.”


Follow Heller on Twitter at


Thai Activist on Trial for Facebook Share of King Profile — Those Mostly Naked Pictures Won’t Go Away

August 3, 2017

KHON KAEN, Thailand — A court in Thailand’s northeast has begun the closed-door trial of an activist law student arrested for sharing an article about his country’s new king on Facebook.

Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa was arrested in December for sharing a profile about the Thai king that was posted on Facebook by the Thai-language service of the BBC.

His arrest was the first under the country’s tough lese majeste law since the new king took the throne last November. Lese majeste, or insulting the monarchy, carries a penalty of three to 15 years imprisonment.

The BBC article included mentions of the king’s personal life when he was crown prince, including details of three marriages that ended in divorce and other material Thai news media can publish only at their own risk.




Profile: Thailand’s new King Vajiralongkorn

Portrait for sale of Crown Prince VajiralongkornKing Vajiralongkorn was formally given the title of Crown Prince in 1972, making him the official heir. EPA photo

Thailand’s newly-proclaimed King Vajiralongkorn – his name means “adorned with jewels or thunderbolts” – was born on 28 July 1952, the first son and second child of Queen Sirikit and King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had succeeded to the throne unexpectedly six years previously.

After decades of uncertainty over royal succession, the birth of a male heir was seen as vital for the monarchy, at a time when its primacy in Thailand’s political hierarchy was uncertain. The absolute monarchy had been overthrown in 1932, followed by an abdication in 1935, and 11 years in which the country had no sitting king.

In King Vajiralongkorn’s early years he was educated at a palace school in Bangkok. At the age of 13 he was sent to two private schools in the UK for five years, and then for a final year at a school in Sydney, Australia. He spent the following four years being trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in Canberra.

By his own account, he struggled to keep up at school, blaming his pampered upbringing in the palace. He also found it hard to make the grade at Duntroon.

He continued to receive advanced military training in Thailand, the UK, US and Australia, and became an officer in the Thai armed forces. He is a qualified civilian and fighter pilot, flying his own Boeing 737 when he travels overseas.

Thai royal family tree

He was formally given the title of Crown Prince by his father in an investiture ceremony in 1972, making him the official heir. But by that time questions were being raised about his fitness to succeed to the throne.

He showed none of the enthusiasm of his younger sister Princess Sirindhorn for his father’s development projects and there were persistent rumours of womanising, gambling and illegal businesses.

In 1981 his mother, Queen Sirikit, alluded to these problems, describing her son as “a bit of a Don Juan” and suggesting that he preferred spending his weekends with beautiful women rather than performing duties.

In a rare audience with Thai journalists in 1992, he denied the rumours that he was involved with mafia-like figures and underworld businesses.

Crown Prince Maha VajiralongkornVajiralongkorn delayed succession in order to join people in mourning., Reuters photo

In 1977 he married his cousin Princess Soamsawali and they had their first child, Princess Bajarakitiyabha, in December 1978. However, by then he was involved with a young actress, Yuvadhida, with whom he had five children from 1979 to 1987. He married her in 1994, but in 1996 very publicly denounced her and disowned his four sons, who were studying in the UK.

He married his third wife Srirasmi, a lady-in-waiting, in 2001, and had another son, Prince Dipangkorn, with her in 2005.

In 2014 Srirasmi was stripped of her royal title and nine of her relatives, including her parents, were arrested for lese majeste on charges they had abused their connections with the Crown Prince. A police officer linked to the family died in custody after falling from a window.

That charge, of abusing his name, has also been made against others who became close to the Crown Prince, notably a well known fortune teller who, together with another police officer, died after being arrested late last year. At the same time, the Crown Prince’s personal bodyguard was stripped of his rank for “disobeying royal commands” and “threatening the monarchy by pursuing his own interests”. He disappeared and is believed to have died.

King Vajiralongkorn is these days seen in the company of a former Thai Airways flight attendant, Suthida, who has been made an officer of the Royal Household Guard, with the rank of Lieutenant-General. He also famously promoted his pet poodle Fu-Fu to the rank of Air Chief Marshall.

File image showing Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn taking part in the He led two cycling events last year in honour of his parents. EPA

The severity of the lese majeste law has prevented any open discussion of the new king’s suitability inside Thailand. But privately, the possibility of Vajiralongkorn being passed over for his more popular and dutiful sister Sirindhorn was often talked about, encouraged by her own royal title being elevated in 1978 and by a change in palace succession law to allow a female to succeed to the throne.

But that is only possible where there is no male heir, and King Bhumibol never supported the option of an alternative to his son.

As King Bhumibol’s health declined, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn began to be seen more often in public, performing traditional royal rituals on behalf of his father.

In the past there were rumours of a business relationship between him and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the telecoms tycoon whose party has won every election since 2001 and who was seen as a threat by much of the conservative royalist elite.

But after the coup in 2014, which deposed the government of Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, the new military rulers appeared to work with the Crown Prince to ensure his succession, helping organise events like mass bicycle rides in which he and his daughters participated, presenting a less formal image of the future king to the public.

Thai mourners holding a portrait of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej crying outside Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, 13 November 2016.Much of Thailand grieved when King Bhumibol died. EPA

Just what kind of king Vajiralongkorn will make is hard to guess.

Although a constitutional monarch, he will wield considerable power – for example, it is almost impossible for anyone in Thailand to reject the express wishes of the monarch.

He also has a decisive say over the Crown Property Bureau, by far the wealthiest institution in Thailand, with assets valued at between $30-40bn (£24-32bn), giving the palace largely untaxed annual income of around $300m. And he commands his own personal regiment of the Royal Guard, comprising an estimated 5,000 troops.

One advantage he will not have is the immense prestige and respect built by his father over 70 years on the throne, which Thai royal experts point out must be earned, not inherited. Vajiralongkorn, at the age of 64, will not have so long to make his mark on the monarchy. But he has had decades to observe and learn from the complex flow of power that surrounds the monarch.

He will preside over the elaborate and prolonged funeral rituals for the late king, giving him a chance to enhance his own standing in the process.

He may well be able to rely on the lasting reverence for his father to shore up the monarchy’s central role in Thai society.

Image result for Vajiralongkorn, tattoos


Related image


Image result for Vajiralongkorn, tattoos

Four more activists detained in Vietnam as anti-free speech crackdown continues

July 30, 2017


© AFP/File | Vietnam has arrested four more dissidents as the leadership intensifies a crackdown on critics

HANOI (AFP) – Four dissidents have been arrested in Vietnam on charges of trying to overthrow the state, authorities said Sunday as the country’s communist leadership ramps up its crackdown on critics.Activists, rights lawyers and bloggers are routinely jailed in the one-party state but a new government in place since last year has vigorously pursued detractors.

The four latest arrests were of dissidents who had previously served jail sentences for anti-state convictions. But the current charge they face is much more serious and can carry the death penalty.

Prominent dissidents Pham Van Troi and Nguyen Bac Truyen, freelance writer Truong Minh Duc and Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton were all arrested at their homes on Sunday, their wives told reporters.

In an online statement the Ministry of Public Security said the four were arrested under Article 79 of the criminal code — trying to “overthrow the people’s administration”.

They are connected to lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and activist Le Thu Ha, who have already been detained on the same charge.

“My husband fought against social injustice and China’s invasion of the East Sea,” Troi’s wife Nguyen Thi Huyen Trang told AFP, using the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea.

“He did not have any move to try to overthrow the state.”

Ton’s wife Nguyen Thi Lanh said her husband was already recovering from a recent assault by plainclothes police when he was arrested.

“Voicing support for the people cannot be called trying to overthrow the administration,” she told AFP.

Vietnam has competiting claims with China in the South China Sea but Hanoi is extremely sensitive to any criticism about how it handles the issue.

John Sifton, from Human Rights Watch, said 2017 has been “a terrible year” for human rights in Vietnam.

“More cases of government thugs beating up dissidents, longer and longer jail sentences, and now, more arrests,” he said.

“Vietnam’s allies and donors, especially the EU and Japan, need to speak up,” he added.

Last month prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as “Mother Mushroom”, was jailed for 10 years for Facebook posts about politics and the environment.

Anti-China activist Tran Thi Nga, 40, was imprisoned for nine years for anti-state activities after a one-day trial last week in the northern province of Ha Nam, to which media access was restricted.

The United Nations human rights office on Friday criticised the intensifying crackdown on rights and the recent convictions.


Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting and beard

Photo by Human Rights Watch: Earlier this year it seemed as if every human rights person in Vietnam was assaulted in bloody attacks — From L-R, photographs of (top) Nguyen Chi Tuyen, Nguyen Thi Thai Lai, La Viet Dung, Nguyen Van Thanh, (bottom) Tran Thi Nga, Dinh Quang Tuyen, and Le Dinh Luong after being assaulted by anonymous “thugs” in Vietnam.


Vietnam: End Attacks on Activists and Bloggers
Pattern of Thuggish Assaults Against Rights Campaigners Across Country


July 30, 2017

Vietnam Arrests Four Activists, Charges 6 With Subversion

by Defend the Defenders, July 30, 2017

On July 30, the Security Investigation Agency of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security carried out arrests of four activists namely Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen, charging them with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.

The detainees will be held incommunicado in the next four months for investigation on the case in which involve prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha who were arrested on December 16, 2015 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code, the ministry said on its website.

In the morning of Sunday, the agency carried out the arrests of Mr. Ton, Mr. Duc and Mr. Troi at their private residences, and conducted house search, taking away a number of their personnel items, including Bible books of Mr. Ton, who is a Protestant pastor. Meanwhile, Mr. Truyen, head of Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, was reported to have been gone missing when he was waiting for his wife at a gate of the Ky Dong Redemptory’s Church in Ho Chi Minh City in the morning of the day. His wife failed to contact with him by phone so she supposed he was kidnapped by local security forces.

All of the detainees are former prisoners of conscience. Mr. Troi is a former president of Brotherhood of Democracy formed by Mr. Dai while Mr. Ton is the organization’s incumbent president and Mr. Duc is his deputy responsible for the southern region. Duc is also a senior staff of the Viet Labor Movement.

The six activists face imprisonment of between twelve and twenty years of imprisonment, life imprisonment or capital punishment if are convicted, according to the country’s current law.

Mr. Ton, 45, was a prisoner of conscience. He was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Released in early 2013, he has continued to fight for human rights and multi-party democracy. Recently, he was elected as the head of the Brotherhood for Democracy.

In recent years, Mr. Ton and his family have been constantly harassed by local authorities in Thanh Hoa province. In addition to publicly defaming him through local media, the radio and loudspeakers in his neighborhood, plainclothes agents have disrupted the business of his wife at a local wet market. They even destroyed her booth of seafood products.

In late February, Ton and his friend were kidnapped, robbed and brutally beaten by plainclothes agents in the central province of Quang Binh. His legs were broken as the kidnappers used wooden sticks to beat him. He is still under special treatment for injuries sustaining from the attack after long spending in hospitals for surgery operation for his legs.

Mr. Troi, 46, was arrested in 2008 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Later, he was sentenced to four years in prison and additional four years under house arrest.

After being released in September 2012, he has continued to work for promoting human rights and multi-party democracy. In 2014-2016, he was president of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy founded by imprisoned human right lawyer Nguyen Van Dai.

Mr. Duc, 57, was arrested in 2007 and later sentenced to five years in prison on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the Penal Code. After being released in May 2012, he has been under constant persecution, including physical attacks. Currently, he is vice president of Viet Labor Movement. Hoang Duc Binh, vice president of the movement, was arrested on May 15 and charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 and “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the Penal Code.

Meanwhile, Mr. Truyen, 49, has been beaten many times by thugs since being released in May 2010. In 2006, he was arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88. Later he was sentenced to 3.5 years.

The arrests and allegations are part of Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown against local political dissidents, human rights advocates, social activists and independent bloggers amid increasing social dissatisfaction on systemic corruption, economic mismanagement, heavy environmental pollution and other problems that the Southeast Asian nation is facing.

On July 26, police in the central province of Nghe An arrested Le Dinh Luong and charged him with “Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.

Within one month from June 29, Vietnam sentenced two human rights defenders Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Tran Thi Nga to nine and ten years in jail, respectively on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

Dozens of activists have been arrested and many of them sentenced to heavy imprisonments since the beginning of 2016 when the ruling communist party held its National Congress to elect the new leadership for the 2016-2020 period, with many police generals being selected to key positions of the party and state apparatuses.

The communist government has strived to keep the country under a one-party regime and make all effort to prevent the formation of opposition party.