Four Thai activists were denied bail Tuesday and a court determined they should be held until their trial for crimes against the monarchy during student-led protests last year in the capital, Bangkok.
Prosecutors charged them with lese majeste, the first time in three years anyone has been charged with the offense. The crime had been shelved at the behest of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. However, police began invoking the offense following recent widespread criticism of the monarchy and the government.
Lese majeste makes it a crime to insult or defame the monarchy. Offenders could be imprisoned for up to 15 years. Some have also been charged with sedition and violating the Act on Ancient Monuments, among other crimes.
The four — Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem, also known as "Mor Lam Bank," — have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
"The prosecution against us is using the law to block our freedom of expression," Parit told reporters.
The activists were part of pro-democracy demonstrations near the Grand Palace on September 19 of last year. The activists were demanding monarchical reforms to make the king more accountable.
They also requested the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and dissolution of his government, and want constitutional amendments enacted that would deepen democracy.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group said at least 55 activists have been charged under royal insult laws since November but these four activists are the first to go to court.
It is also the first time defendants are being held without bail for a long time on such charges.
The trials are scheduled to start next month.