Author Zoe Drewett, Wednesday 23 Jan 2019
A British man says going to prison for dealing drugs in Thailand was ‘torture’. Jimmy Kelly was sentenced to 30 years but spent just three behind bars for selling crystal meth at the bar he owned in the southeast Asian country. His sentence was dramatically cut because his brother Gary paid £80,000 in life savings, but Kelly says he had a ‘hellish’ time in prison where he was attacked and lost three teeth.
Kelly moved to Thailand from his home in Watford after he was made redundant from his job as a postman. He spent his £33,000 redundancy money setting up his bar on the tourist island of Koh Samui.
It wasn’t long before he was caught up in drugs, taking and selling crystal meth. His story will be featured in National Geographic show Banged Up Abroad, where he said: ‘Months ago I was a postman living an ordinary mundane life. ‘Now, I’d taken a bar over and I’d become a pimp. I didn’t realise what I was getting myself into.’ Customers started coming to his bar just to take meth and if he asked them to stop, Kelly said he would have guns pointed at his head. When the bar next door went up for sale, he tried to sell more of the drug so he could take it over.
He bought 200 grams – a ‘ridiculous amount’ and sold it for £26,000 which was enough to buy the bar. But he was seeing a woman at the time who was actually working undercover for the police.
When armed officers swooped on his bar, they found the drugs and huge amount of money. ‘I read horror stories about Thai prison,’ he told the programme. ‘I never in my own mind thought I’d end up in one.’ Kelly moaned about being put into a cramped cell ‘caged in like an animal’ with other prisoners, some accused of murder.
He said: ‘I knew I wouldn’t be seeing friends or family for a very long time. ‘I wish I could go back to boring old England. I had it all. But that’s the end of it. That’s my dream totally shattered.’ He claims he was attacked by a guard with a baton when a fight broke out in the prison. Three of his teeth were knocked out and he said he thought he was going to die.
Kelly’s fortunes changed when he received a visit from a British embassy official who told him he could return to the UK and serve the rest of his sentence there. He described it as ‘getting out of hell’. Kelly was released in 2014 after serving three years and four months in prison. He now lives near his brother in Watford, Hertfordshire where he has become a pub darts champion. Banged Up Abroad airs on Thursday night at 9pm on the National Geographic channel.
Others convicted of offences – many of whom are sentenced to death – face living shackled inside overcrowded prisons where HIV is spread among inmates and they are denied food and medicine.
This systemic torture of suspects has been laid bare in a devastating new report by Amnesty International.The country’s drug laws border on archaic and possession of even a small amount of narcotics can end in anything from a long jail sentence to death.
After 2014’s military coup, the state also enacted sweeping laws allowing the military to hold suspects for seven days without legal representation. Current and former suspects have now come forward to describe the litany of horrors they suffered at the hands of police and military officers.
Some described having their genitals electrocuted, while others were savagely beaten or told their families would be killed if they did not confess to crimes.
Note: Often the actions of law enforcement officials are accused of violating human rights but what happened in Thailand as experienced by Jimmy Kelly really violates human rights GG
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