UK protester freed in Thailand hails miracle

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A British former royal porter convicted in Thailand after being filmed inciting people to burn down a shopping centre today said it was "miracle" he had been freed.

Jeff Savage, 48, originally from Tonbridge, Kent, will be deported within days after pleading guilty to breaching an emergency decree imposed to halt bloody anti-government protests.

He was originally jailed for three months but a Thai court judge today halved the sentence and ruled Savage could be freed immediately.

Savage, who has lived in Thailand for nine years, was captured on video urging protesters to set fire to the Central World shopping centre in central Bangkok, days before it was torched and destroyed during the Red Shirt protests.

He was filmed wearing a bandana and saying of Central World: "We're gonna loot everything, gold, watches, everything, and then we're gonna burn it to the ground."

The video was widely distributed on the internet.

Savage, who worked intermittently as a general porter in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace during a five-year period from 1993, initially denied any involvement in the destruction of the shopping centre and said he was being "stitched up" when he was arrested and taken to a Bangkok remand prison.

But today, following judge Yutthana Sawaisuwanwong's ruling, Savage broke down in tears.

"It's a miracle. I am surprised. There is justice in Thailand. I want justice for all, the dead, Red Shirts and even Yellow Shirts," he said, referring to a rival protest group.

Judge Sawaisuwanwong said the sentence was halved because Savage is not a Thai national and had no political stake in the protests.

The judge ruled Savage, who is reported to have been living with his elderly parents in the beach resort of Pattaya, could be released immediately having already served time in custody since his arrest in May.

Savage will be taken to immigration services and detained for at least four working days, lawyer Prachaya Vijitpokin said.

British Embassy officials are working with the Immigration Police to arrange his deportation.