Free U.S. citizen Joe Gordon
Far too many Americans don't have jobs. But all of us still have a right to criticize whomever we choose.
Well, at least we have that right as long as we don't go to Thailand. In that distant realm, people from anywhere are apparently at risk of arrest if they say or write -- or have said or written -- anything negative about the king.
That's the fix Thai-born U.S. citizen Joe Gordon has found himself in since May, when he was arrested for lese-majeste ("crimes against sovereigns," in this ridiculous case the "crime" of "insulting the dignity" of King Bhumibol Adulyadej).
The alleged offense that could produce a 15-year prison sentence for Mr. Gordon? Translating -- while living in Colorado -- excerpts of a Thai-banned biography entitled "The King Never Smiles" and posting them online.
The Daily Mail reported that after being refused bail eight times, Mr. Gordon pleaded guilty Monday. The 55-year-old former car salesman, wearing handcuffs and ankle shackles, told reporters as he was taken from the courtroom that the process was "not fair," adding: "How can I fight?"
And how can the U.S. help him?
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok registered "public disappointment" in August when prosecutors finally filed the formal charges against him -- three months after he was put behind bars. But as hope for a royal pardon lingers, our State Department should escalate from expressions of dismay to stern warnings that Thailand must release Mr. Gordon or risk the cessation of diplomatic relations and the imposition of economic sanctions.
Meanwhile, exercise our precious First Amendment freedom of speech -- and don't take it for granted.