Nine years and eight months ago, Swedish Behnam “Benny” Moafi started serving a 22 year prison sentence in a Thai jail. He was convicted of extortion, blackmail, and armed robbery, but despite the court ruling he has always maintained his innocence. Even now that he is once again a free man, he is still looking for justice.
Became a lawyer in prison
One of the things, Benny did with his time in prison was studying, and he managed to get himself a law degree. Because of that, Benny is well aware of his rights and he knows that there is a law in Thailand that entitles people to have their cases re-tried. Every time he has made an attempt to do this, however, he has hit his head against a wall.
“They always tell me that they will look at my case again, but they never do. They never listen no matter how hard I try. I have a right to present my case again if there is new evidence, but they keep telling me that they can’t change the court’s decision” he says.
After a while, most people might stop trying. They would accept and embrace their freedom, and leave Thailand. But not Benny. He wants justice, and today, wearing prison clothes and chains around his ankles, he started a hunger strike in front of the Government House in Bangkok.
“I’m doing this because I want to talk to the Prime Minister,” he says, and it seems like he is very determined to make that happen. He explains that a representative to the Prime Minister was sent out to look at his case, but Benny would not let him. He wants to make sure that his case reaches the highest level. He does understand, however, if the Prime Minister won’t talk to him.
“Other people might start doing the same thing, and obviously he can’t deal with two hundred people like me every day,” he says but adds that he has no intention of giving up anytime soon.
“I have gone on hunger strike three times before when I was in prison. One time I lasted 16 days,” he says.
Benny knows that he will never get the ten years he spent in prison back. Whatever he gets out of his hunger strike will not change the past, but it is not about that anymore, for him.
“I am doing this to get justice in Thailand,” he says and adds that he had to do a little trick in order to be able to stay in the country. When he was released from prison, he was actually supposed to be deported, but since that is not possible when you have an ongoing case, he quickly made a new case for himself, which is what he is working on now.
“I could go home. It is nice to be free, but I want to win my case. I have invested ten years of my life in this,” he says and makes it clear that he does not want to have spent all those years in prison for nothing.
Besides, as a lawyer, Benny has a lot of potential clients here in Thailand and he would really like to be able to stay in the country in order to help people in similar situations in the future.
“That would be great,” he says.
“I would love to help other people with legal problems, but I have to get justice for myself first.”