Imprisoned Dane Waiting For Trial

“A 44-year-old Dane has been imprisoned in Southern-Thailand for 15 months charged with arson. The Dane, James Christensen, says he is innocent, but he is still waiting to go to court to prove that,” Danish daily B.T. wrote this earlier this week.
During his 15 months imprisoning – five of those months spend in isolation – employees from the Danish consulate in Phuket visited him three times.
One of the visits was from the consulates’ driver, who embezzled 15,000 DKK, James’ entire savings, from the imprisoned man.
James ended in prison after he was charged with arson. The accusations came following a lengthy neighbour fight, revolving around James feeding homeless dogs and his neighbour, who runs a fighting cock farm, claiming that James’ dogs ate his cocks.

Rotten teeth
B.T. met the 44-year-old James Christensen in a court building on the prison ground in the southern Thailand. James was clearly marked by his 15 months in the 70-year-old Thai prison.
The 190 centimetre high Dane has lost 25 kilo during his stay and his teeth have almost been eaten up by scorbutus (scurvy), a decease James got due to lack of C-vitamin in the prison diet.
James calmly explained about his time in the Thai prison.
For the first six weeks he was in a solitary cell – 8 square metres and no window. This made James break down, and he was transferred to a hospital.
“The food was horrible and our drinking water came from the bucket with our washing water –placed next to the hole in the floor,” James explained.
As he came back from the hospital, he was once again placed in an isolated solitary cell. Here he stayed for four months, before he was allowed to join the other prisoners.
The only light James found in the dark prison was phone calls from his sister in Denmark, who has kept herself in close contact during James’ imprisoning. But the calls stopped after New Year. James’ sister was forbidden to talk to him, because she had complained about his conditions.
Now James is just waiting for his case to go court, and he has been told that trail will run towards the end of July. If James is found guilty he is looking at several years in prison.

The arson
James’ sister Eva Behring explained the background of the imprisoning to B.T. from her home in Århus.
Nine years ago James moved to Thailand and moved into a house in the jungle city Langsuan, 600 kilometres from Bangkok.
Here he got trouble with his neighbour, because he fed the dogs believed to eat the farmer’s cocks. The situation evolved and the neighbour started demanding money from James every time a bird was killed.
James one day got enough and reported the neighbour to the police. Then the dogs started dieing – killed by rats poison.
After this the event that put James in prison took place.
The way the Thai police see it, James finally got enough – took two gas-canisters and tried to set fire to the neighbour’s house.
Something James says never happened – and he calls to the simple fact that dragging the canisters 700 metre through the field separating him and his neighbour’s house was a nearly impossible job for one man.

Walk away free
James lawyer, Pongsak Sutanint, is convinced that James will walk away free after the trial.
“First of all- there were no witnesses to the “arson”. Secondly it is ridicules to think that James would drag the canisters through the field in order to set fire on a house with a tall concrete base. This could easily be done with a lighter and half of litre of gasoline,” he says.
The lawyer also adds that according to James, he put the two gas canisters in front of his house as they were empty.
“From here anyone could have moved them,” the lawyer points out.

Embassy not pressing charges
The consulates’ Thai driver, who embezzled the 15,000 DKK from James Christensen, has never been reported to the police. The driver is still missing, but James has got his money back, as the embassy chose to cover his losses.
The driver lured James’ cash card away from him, saying he was to pay James’ rent and some other bills. He used the card to withdraw James savings and ran away. Moreover the driver had already received money from the consulate to pay James’ bills.
Danish ambassador to Thailand Ulrik Helweg-Larsen admits that looking at the case in hand the driver clearly committed fraud and embezzlement, but emphasises that the embassy has held James free of economical losses, as it paid the 15,000 back to James.
“After looking into the matter we decided that we wouldn’t go to the police,” Ulrik Helweg-Larsen said to BT.
“We assessed that his punishment would be to harsh compared to the crime he committed,” the ambassador elabourates.

No compensation
Even if James is found not guilty, he gets no compensation for his 15 months in prison, as Thailand doesn’t grant damages for wrongful imprisonment.
He does however get a little aid, as he receives the early retirement pension the Danish government froze, when he was imprisoned.

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