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The most expensive bananas in Thailand

  • 09 June 2009

Despite the best efforts of his jailers, Behnam Moafi, an Iranian-Swede born in Tehran in 1968, refuses to die.

He is serving a 22-year sentence in a Thai prison for extortion, blackmail and armed robbery — a crime, according to Fair Trials International, he did not commit.

After eight years of abuse, torture, hunger, solitary confinement, malnutrition, illness and conditions that would push lesser men into insanity, Benny, as he is known to the inmates of Klong Prem Prison, has earned a Thai law degree and learned to play a traditional Thai musical instrument. Preparing his own cases, he has also launched over 130 legal actions against prison officials, police officers and lawyers.

Through several changes of government, a political coup d'état, and great social upheaval, Benny has learned a great deal about Thailand. Indeed many of its dissidents, former leaders and ruling elite have ended up in his prison cell.

This month, he lodged a request to have his case re-heard, taking advantage of an obscure loophole in the Thai penal code that allows for this type of review only once in ten years.

Benny has faced far worse odds and has nothing to lose. However, if the ruling is handed down in his favour, several officers of Thailand's revered judiciary, senior government bureaucrats and the Bangkok-based, foreign chanceries of several different countries will be shamed before the world community.

Benny Moafi was arrested by Thai police on 14 September 2000. He was implicated in allegedly beating, robbing and kidnapping a Syrian national in the room of a Bangkok hotel. In an effort to help two Iranian families in a dispute with a third man, Benny found himself accused of using a gun to rob and intimidate the Syrian national.

Relying solely on the testimony of the Syrian, the court found Benny guilty of charges including possession of a handgun. Strangely, the Syrian waited 14 days after the alleged crime before lodging his complaint, and longer before he revised his statement to include the gun.

While Benny is currently at Minburi Special Prison, a detention centre on the outskirts of Bangkok, over the last eight years he has served time in more than six different prisons and 17 different compounds. He has been transferred every time he exposed corruption or abuse in the prison system.

He also campaigned for the rights and privileges of other prisoners. His most recent challenge to the director of Bangkok Remand