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Thai Activist Jailed for 'Insulting King'

Co-leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) Sondhi Limthongkul arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand (file photo).
The founder of a pro-monarchy movement in Thailand has been sentenced to two years in jail for repeating comments deemed insulting to the king.

A judge on Tuesday found that Sondhi Limthongkul violated the country's controversial lese majeste laws by quoting the speech of a political rival.

Sondhi is the founder of the royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement whose protests from 2005 to 2008 helped force out ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The ex-media mogul was quoting a speech by a rival "Red Shirt" activist, Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her comments.

Sondhi argued he was only trying to bring attention of police to his opponent's speech. The judge ruled there was no need to do this. He was released on bail and will appeal the ruling.

Thailand's lese majeste laws are among the world's toughest. Rights groups say they often are used to silence the government's political opponents and are a violation of free speech.

But observers say that Tuesday's ruling highlights how even supporters of the king are subject to the controversial laws.

The country's 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej is widely revered by Thais as a unifying figure in the politically polarized nation, and talks of removing the laws have proven too contentious.