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Fed: Govt inactive as author remains in Thai jail, family says

07 Dec 2008 10:03 PM

MELBOURNE, Dec 7 AAP - The family of an Australian author who is in a Thai jail accused of insulting the nation's royal family says the federal government has not done enough to secure his freedom.

Former Melbourne man Harry Nicolaides was arrested on August 31 at Bangkok Airport on his way back to Australia.

The 41-year-old expatriate is facing one charge of criticising the royal family which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

The charges arise from a reference to the royal family in a book written by Nicolaides, who teaches at the Mae Fah Luang University in the northern Thai town of Chiang Rai.

His Melbourne lawyer, Mark Dean SC, said Nicolaides faced his fourth bail hearing on Thursday and was again refused.

Nicolaides, who has been in jail since his arrest, won't have another hearing until January 19 next year.

"Well, I think it's about time the Australian government put Harry Nicolaides' human rights before its relationship with the Thai government," Mr Dean told the Seven Network.

Nicolaides' brother Forde (Forde) said the family had petitioned the federal government, claiming it was doing nothing to assist.

When asked if he felt the Australian government was putting political expediency ahead of a citizen's rights in the case, he said:

"At the moment yes, we feel that very strongly."

Reading from a letter from Nicolaides, Forde said: "Deaths in the cells are not uncommon. Once we are locked in our cells at 4pm no one is permitted to leave."

His mother Despina wept as she described her fears for her son's life and the conditions in prison.

"They're awful, awful. He went there a healthy man and he will come out a sick man," she said.

On Thursday, Reporters Without Borders called for the release of Nicolaides.

Labor senator John Faulkner said last month Mr Nicolaides had been given a high level of consular assistance the government was taking a close interest in the case.