BANGKOK -- A labor activist and former magazine editor was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for insulting Thailand's king, the latest in a string of convictions under the country's strict lèse-majesté law, and an additional year for libeling a senior general.
The case of the activist and editor, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, 51, stood out because Mr. Somyot directly challenged the lèse-majesté law in court, saying it violated the right to free expression. The law makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent.
Thailand's constitutional court swept aside that challenge last month and laid out the justification for the law, saying the king deserves "special protection" because he is the "center of the nation."
"The king holds the position of head of state and is the main institution of the country," the court ruled. Insulting the king, the court said, "is considered an act that wounds the feelings of Thais who respect and worship the king and the monarchy."
Mr. Somyot did not write the two articles that the court said violated the law, but as the editor of the magazine, The Voice of Taksin, he was responsible for their content, the court said. The magazine is now defunct, and the author of the articles -- Jakrapob Penkair, a former government spokesman -- has fled to Cambodia.
As in a case decided last week, in which an antigovernment protester was sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the king, the two articles in The Voice of Taksin never actually mentioned the king.
The first article was a jumbled tale about a family that plots to kill millions of people to maintain its power and quash democracy. The court ruled on Wednesday that it was clear that the writer was describing the Chakri dynasty of Thailand's current king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The second was a fictional story about a ghost who haunts Thailand and plots massacres. The court ruled that the author was comparing the ghost to King Bhumibol.
"There is no content identifying an individual," the court said. "But the writing conveyed connection to historical events."
International groups immediately criticized the verdict on Wednesday. Human Rights Watch said it would "further chill freedom of expression in Thailand."
Amnesty International called the ruling a "regressive decision" and said, "Somyot has been found guilty simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and should be released immediately."
The European Union issued a statement saying the ruling undercut "Thailand's image as a free and democratic society."
The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, criticized the "extremely harsh" jail sentence as a setback for protection of human rights in Thailand and expressed her support for moves to amend Thailand's lèse-majesté laws.
Mr. Somyot's sentence "sends the wrong signals on freedom of expression in Thailand," Ms. Pillay said in a statement released in Geneva on Wednesday, noting "a disturbing trend in which lèse-majesté charges are used for political purposes."
Ms. Pillay also criticized the lengthy detention of Mr. Somyot -- he has been denied bail since he was arrested in 2011 -- and his appearance in court in shackles.
"People exercising freedom of expression should not be punished in the first place," she said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.