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Author who insulted Thai king freed

An Australian writer jailed for insulting the Thai royal family is expected to arrive home today after being pardoned by the king.

An Australian writer jailed for insulting the Thai royal family was expected to arrive home today after being pardoned by the king and freed from jail, officials said. Harry Nicolaides, 41, was last month sentenced to three years in jail by a Bangkok court after pleading guilty to lese majeste, or slandering the monarchy. Australia had lobbied intensely for a royal pardon, and Thai officials said Nicolaides was released yesterday evening.

"He was released from prison yesterday evening after the royal pardon was approved," Nathee Chitsawang, director general of Thailand's Corrections Department, said. A spokesman from Australia's foreign affairs department said diplomats in Bangkok and Canberra were working with Nicolaides' family on arrangements for the writer's return home. "We appreciate the expeditious handling of the pardon by Thai authorities," the spokesman said.

"The Australian government and the Thai government have been working together very closely on the resolution of Harry's case," said Nicolaides' lawyer, Mark Dean. Nicolaides' brother Forde Nicolaides said the family was "ecstatic" at the outcome, and expected the writer to arrive in Australia this afternoon. *AFP

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