Danish Sonny Rasmussen has served four and a half years in a Thai prison and four years in a Danish prison and has just been released now although he got a Royal pardon from Thailand six months ago. Media TV2 writes that only when they stepped into the matter, something happened.
The story begins back in 2013 when then 63-year-old Sonny Rasmussen from Vesterbro in Copenhagen was caught with 70 grams of heroin in Thailand. After retiring as a sheet metal worker, he often went to Thailand where he, according to himself, got involved in some dirty business and was caught with illegal drugs.
He was sentenced to 25 years, a month, and nine days in prison for the crime. He served four and a half years in the Thai Klong Prem prison before being transferred to a Danish prison. On 24 June 2017, he had his sentence changed to 16 years imprisonment in the Copenhagen City Court.
Sonny Rasmussen still had a long sentence but he was happy to return to Denmark as he describes his time in the Thai prison as very tough. 37 inmates shared about 40 square meters and amongst other things, Sonny Rasmussen suffered a blood clot in one eye and lost his sight in that eye because of it. His hip was also destroyed after sleeping on a thin reed mat on the concrete floor for years. He has also had skin cancer on his back and thinks it may be because the inmates were virtually unable to seek shade from the Thai sun during their stay in prison.
“I was also constantly afraid of getting sick. In prison, there was tuberculosis, yellow fever, and several other dangerous diseases. The food consisted of rice and water from the river if you did not have money. Luckily I had some good friends who helped me, so I got a little more, otherwise, I would have died,” he says.
On 27 July 2021, Sonny Rasmussen got a Royal pardon from Thailand and set to be released on 30 August 2021. But February 2022 came and Sonny Rasmussen was still in prison, reportedly because his case had to be signed off by the Queen of Denmark before he could be released.
“I’m in no man’s land. They say The Queen of Denmark has to sign before I can be released. But I’ve been waiting for that since July. That is not okay, I think. I know I did something wrong, but I feel I have taken my punishment. Four and a half years in a Thai prison and four years at home. It’s been a long time,” he says.
According to the treaty of 22 June, 1999 between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of Denmark, the King of Thailand retains the right to pardon prisoners, even if they have been transferred to Denmark. According to documents regarding Sonny Rasmussen’s case, however, which TV 2 has seen, it appears that the pardon must take place on Danish terms and the Ministry of Justice has therefore referred the case to the Queen of Denmark and recommended that it ‘may please Her Majesty to decide that the execution of the remaining prison sentence lapses.’
Lawyer Erbil Kaya represents Sonny Rasmussen and can not understand at all that the pardon should take so long.
“It is approaching breach of contract when my client is not released. The Queen of Denmark does not have ‘pardon competence’. So I do not understand at all why Her Majesty has to be involved in the case in the first place. ‘Released on Danish terms’ just means that they have to fill out the papers and set him free. It must not take half a year. Not at all when my client is 71 years old,” he says.
The Queen of Denmark can pardon prisoners on the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice. TV 2 has spoken to the Ministry, but they refer to the Danish Prison and Probation Service.
And here it is acknowledged after TV 2 has entered the case, that a mistake has been made. In a written comment, Rikke Freil Laulund, who is center director for the Center for Execution of Sentences in the Directorate of Correctional Services, says that Sonny Rasmussen should have been released a long time ago:
“Based on the Royal Thai pardon, the Danish Prison and Probation Service should have taken the initiative to suspend the person in question as early as September 2021, so that the person in question has been suspended for as long as the Danish pardon case is pending. This has not happened by a very unfortunate mistake,” she says.
“The Danish Prison and Probation Service have therefore suspended the person in question yesterday (3 February), just as the person in question will be instructed to apply for compensation,” she says.