Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall Indictment Decision Due 24th August 9am

The Bangkok South Criminal Court on Charoen Krung Road in Bangkok yesterday adjourned until 24th August at 9am a final ruling on whether to indict Mr. Andy Hall, MWRN international affairs advisor, on charges of computer crimes and criminal defamation brought by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. 

The charges were brought in relation to the publishing and dissemination by Finnwatch of a Finnwatch branded report on conditions at Natural Fruit Factory that the company alleged caused it damage to its reputation and financial security. Andy Hall simply researched parts of the report for Finnwatch. 
This indictment decision relates only to the first of 4 criminal and civil charges brought against Andy Hall by the Natural Fruit Company Ltd. One charge of criminal defamation was dismissed by Prakanong Court in October 2014 but the dismissal has been appealed by the Attorney General and Natural Fruit. Two $14 million civil defamation cases remaining outstanding.  

The charges in this latest case for which the indictment ruling is due on 24th August carry a penalty of a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.

Human Rights Watch Statement July 19 2015 – Thailand: End Case Against Migrant Worker Activist Andy Hall

https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/19/thailand-end-case-against-migrant-worker-activist
JULY 19, 2015

Thailand: End Case Against Migrant Worker Activist

Effort to Gag Critic Andy Hall, Criminalize Supply Chain Investigations

(Bangkok) – Thai authorities should drop charges against a prominent migrant worker rights activist, Human Rights Watch said today. The charges violate the free expression rights of the activist, Andy Hall, and undermine his research into labor rights abuses by companies in Thailand.
Following a final preliminary hearing on July 20, 2015, a Bangkok criminal court will decide whether to indict Hall, an adviser to the Migrant Worker Rights Network, on charges of criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crime Act brought by the Natural Fruit Company and government prosecutors.
“This prosecution is all about gagging Andy Hall to deter serious reporting about alleged abuses against migrant workers, and about intimidating others who might look closely at Thailand’s corporate supply chains,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The government should recognize that freedom to investigate corporate abuses is critical to ensuring compliance and accountability under Thai law and international human rights standards.”
The Natural Fruit Company Limited sued Hall in February 2013 in response to an investigative report by the organization FinnWatch, which included information about alleged labor rights violations at the company’s factory in Prachaub Kirikhan province. If convicted, Hall faces up to seven years in prison. Natural Fruit also has filed two civil defamation lawsuits against Hall seeking damages of over 300 million baht (US$8.7 million).
The Natural Fruit Company Limited, whose workforce in the Prachuab Kirikhan factory consists mostly of migrant workers from Burma, asserted that Hall defamed and damaged the company by “broadcasting false statements to public media.” Government prosecutors joined the case, in which Hall was also charged under the Computer Crimes Act.
The FinnWatch report, which Hall wrote, “Cheap has a high price: Responsibility problems relating to international private label products and food production in Thailand,” investigated the production of food sourced from Thailand and sold in Finland. Based on field research and interviews collected in November 2012 from employees of the company’s Prachaub Kirikhan factory, the report alleged that Natural Fruit Company Limited had committed serious labor rights abuses, including poor working conditions, unlawfully low wages, confiscation of workers’ official documents, use of child labor, and excessive overtime. FinnWatch stated that it had contacted representatives of the Natural Fruit Company Limited repeatedly during the course of the research to discuss preliminary findings, but that the company did not respond to these requests.
Human Rights Watch believes that criminal defamation laws should be abolished, as criminal penalties are always disproportionate punishments for reputational harm and infringe on free expression. Criminal defamation laws are open to easy abuse, resulting in very harsh consequences, including imprisonment. As repeal of criminal defamation laws in an increasing number of countries has shown, such laws are not necessary to protect reputations.
The human rights and labor rights of migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos living and working in Thailand have been regularly violated with impunity over the years. Human Rights Watch’s research shows that migrant workers often receive little or no protection from Thai labor laws despite Thai government assertions that all legally registered migrant workers are covered by those laws. The research also shows that migrant workers who raise complaints against Thai employers frequently face retaliation.
Government requirements that migrant workers remain with employers with whom they register except in exceptional cases facilitates impunity for abusive employers. Weaknesses in Thailand’s labor protection system and lack of accountability by government officials who aid and abet exploitation of migrant workers means they remain extremely vulnerable to labor exploitation, physical and sexual violence, and trafficking.
“Seeing Andy Hall hauled before the courts for investigating labor rights abuses should concern any international firm sourcing products from Thailand,” Adams said. “Companies buying Thai exports should call on Bangkok to act to ensure respect for workers’ rights and accountability from its export industries, including by ending criminal offenses for activists researching supply chains.”

Region / Country Asia Thailand

Topic Free Speech

Finnwatch Press Release 19th July: Thailand Must End Harrassment of Researchers and Human Rights Defenders

FINNWATCH PRESS RELEASE 19th July

Thailand must end harassment of researchers and human rights defenders

Around 30 NGOs and trade unions are demanding Thailand to end harassment of researchers and human rights defenders in the run-up to the final preliminary hearing in a criminal defamation and computer crimes case, brought by Natural Fruit against researcher and activist Andy Hall, on 20th July. The undersigned organisations are also disappointed to learn that Thailand’s Attorney General is trying to get another, already dismissed, case against Andy Hall re-opened.

– Attorney General’s appeal against a case that has already been thrown out of a court has no grounds whatsoever. Thailand is continuing to harass a human rights defender despite a court decision and its obligation to uphold freedom of speech, said Finnwatch Executive Director Sonja Vartiala.

Natural Fruit has filed multiple criminal and civil cases against Andy Hall since February 2013 as a result of his contribution to a Finnwatch report published in 2013. The report revealed serious human rights violations at Natural Fruit’s pineapple juice production facilities on the basis of workers’ interviews. Natural Fruit refused to comment on the research findings before the publication of the report.

– The allegations against Andy Hall who interviewed workers for the report, are ridiculous. Finnwatch bears the responsibility for the publication and contents of the report, not Hall, said Vartiala.

For example the Thai Ministry of Labour has confirmed the findings of the workers’ interviews in its own inadequate investigation. The findings have also been confirmed by a Natural Fruit employee who gave testimony in court. To date no one has been held responsible for the human rights violations at the Natural Fruit plant.

– Thai authorities must show that they do not turn a blind eye to illegalities. We demand the Thai government to take Natural Fruit to court for labour rights violations, said Vartiala.

Natural Fruit has brought altogether four separate cases against Andy Hall. After Monday’s final preliminary hearing on the criminal defamation and computer crimes case, the court will decide whether to indict Andy Hall or not. If the court decides to indict him, Andy Hall will be arrested and detained pending bail. He then faces a trial and if found guilty and convited, up to seven years in prison.

The US State Department downgraded Thailand to a Tier 3 ranking in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The TIP-report recommended that Thailand cease prosecuting criminal defamation cases against researchers or journalists who report on human trafficking, and recognise the valuable role of NGOs and workers’ organisations in uncovering the nature and scope of human trafficking in Thailand.

– The actions of the Thai authorities go clearly against the recommendations in the US government report on human trafficking, said Vartiala.

The undersigned organisations also want to draw attention to the role of Natural Fruit in Thailand’s pineapple industry. The owner of Natural Fruit is the president of one of the two pineapple industry associations in Thailand, the Thailand Pineapple Industry Association TPIA. In response to earlier calls on other TPIA members to urge Natural Fruit to drop charges against Andy Hall, TPIA issued threats of further legal action instead.

– The continuing leadership position of Natural Fruit in Thailand’s pineapple industry should be a cause of concern also for all customers of other TPIA member companies. By siding with Natural Fruit, the other TPIA members have shown great disregard for human rights and freedom of expression – a worrying attitude to have as an employer in a sector rife with labour rights violations, said Vartiala.

The undersigned organisations have also written an Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand on the case. The letter is available at: http://finnwatch.org/images/OpenLetter_PMThailand_AHCase_July2015.pdf

Signatories:

International
1. Fortify Rights
2. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
3. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
4. International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF)
5. UNI Global Union
6. International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)
7. Walk Free Movement to end modern slavery
8. Word Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Asia / Pacific
9. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
10. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), Cambodia
11. Equitable Cambodia
12. State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC), Thailand
13. Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore
14. Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

Europe
15. Burma Campaign UK, United Kingdom
16. Fairfood International, Netherlands
17. Finnish Food Workers’ Union (SEL), Finland
18. Finnish League for Human Rights
19. Finnwatch, Finland
20. Industrial Union TEAM, Finland
21. Kepa, Finland
22. Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, Poland
23. Service Union United (PAM), Finland 24. Trade Union Pro, Finland
25. Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), Finland
26. Trades Union Congress (TUC), United Kingdom
27. Union of Health and Social Care Professionals (Tehy), Finland North America
28. Fair World Project, United States
29. International Labor Rights Forum, United States

More information:
http://www.finnwatch.org/en

State of Play: Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall

Below is a summary of the state of play in Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall  criminal and civil prosecutions.

Case 1 Attorney General/Natural Fruit vs Andy Hall: Aljazeera Yangon interview criminal defamation charge petitioned originally by Natural Fruit at Bangna police station and accepted for prosecution by Attorney General and Prakanong Public Prosecutor (max. 1 year imprisonment as sentence if convicted) – trial complete 2nd to 10th September 2014 Prakanong Court, 29th Oct 2014 court then dismissed case due to unlawful prosecution. Attorney General and Natural Fruit appealed decision already to Appeals Court reportedly in December 2014, decision on appeal expected late 2015 or early 2016, no further hearings expected prior to decision on appeal

Case 2 Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall: Finnwatch report Computer Crimes Act and criminal defamation charges petitioned at Bangkok South Criminal Court (max. 7 years imprisonment as sentence if convicted) – 5 main preliminary hearings already took place at Bangkok South Criminal Court on 17th Nov 2014, 2nd Feb 2015, 16th Mar 2015, 20th April 15 and 14th May 15. Accused was not in attendance at hearings but lawyers represented the accused at the hearings. Natural Fruit is able to produce its own witnesses to the court during preliminary stage hearings to try to convince the court to indict the defendant and hear the case in full. Defense lawyers have the opportunity to cross-examine prosecution witnesses if they desire. So far in 5 preliminary hearings Natural Food has called factory management, owners, staff, migrant workers, academics and other concerned parties. Next 6th preliminary hearing of case scheduled for 20th July 15. Decision on whether to indict the defendant or not expected perhaps from Aug to Dec 15 following which if the court proceeds with the case, the accused would be formally indicted, charged and detained, can apply for bail and then case would eventually begin hearing perhaps in 2016.

Case 3 Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall: Finnwatch report 300 million baht civil defamation/damages claim case – negotiation between 2 parties failed on 30th Oct 2014, court postponed consideration of case until verdict of Case 2 given as case concerns substance similar

Case 4 Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall: Aljazeera Yangon interview 100 million baht civil defamation/damages claim case – summons reportedly not lawfully delivered to defendant, 21st Nov 2014 hearing took place and scheduled next hearing in case for Mar 23rd 2015. In May 2015 the hearing again took place and court/prosecution reportedly informed that the summons documents had not yet been successfully served on the accused in Myanmar. The court adjourned the next hearing on the case to 16th Nov 2015 to allow adequate time for the summons and documents to be formally served on the defendant.

No more new cases yet….

Summary Current State of Play in 4 Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall prosecutions

http://www.freshfruitportal.com/2015/03/19/thailand-andy-halls-fourth-case-set-to-begin-next-week/?country=others

Thailand: Andy Hall’s fourth case set to begin next week

Proceedings for the fourth case of migrant worker rights campaigner Andy Hall are due to begin on Monday (March 23), while the preliminary hearings for the second case are ongoing.  

Andy-Hall-photo-2-2-MWRN-panorama-sq

Four cases have been filed against Hall by Thai pineapple processor Natural Fruit Company, relating to allegations made in a report he co-authored that was published by human rights group Finnwatch, and an interview with Aljazeera correspondent Wayne Hayes.

The report, titled “Cheap has a high price”, alleged serious human rights abuses on the part of the Thai company, including accusations that it employed underage labor and confiscated the passports of migrant workers from Myanmar.

The Prakanong Court in Bangkok dismissed the first case against Hall – which has since been appealed by Natural Fruit Company – and preliminary hearings are underway for the second case which relates to the Computer Crimes Act and criminal defamation charges.

Hall told http://www.freshfruitportal.com the preliminary hearings for the second case had continued on Monday (March 16), which involved the final cross-examination of the Thai company’s vice president.

“He’s the first witness that was brought by the prosecution in the preliminary hearing to put the case to the court as to why I should be indicted for the computer crimes and criminal defamation case,” Hall said.

“So he spent a lot of time talking about how I was to blame for all this, and things about how I was involved in putting stuff in computers, distributing it, defaming the company and doing so in a malicious way.

“They don’t seem to have a clear understanding of the difference between Finnwatch and myself.”

The second case’s next preliminary hearing is set to continue on April 20, which will involve testimonies from Natural Fruit Company’s president and other staff members.

After that the court will decide whether or not to indict Hall. If indicted, he would be brought into custody and could then apply for bail.

He believed the second case would probably end up going to full trial, but was optimistic about the final outcome.

“Generally the courts accept most of these cases for indictment because they often see it as some kind of issue that needs to be judged,” he said.

“It will be very tiring and exhausting, but I’m sure at the end we will be successful as we were in the first case.”

The fourth case set to begin next week is a 100 million baht (US$3 million) case relating to civil defamation charges in relation to his Aljazeera interview.

The third case involving civil defamation charges has been postponed pending the verdict of the second case as it contains the same substantive issues.

Hall also mentioned that over the last couple of weeks the Thai Ministry of Justice has been ‘very active’ in its witness protection, in part after concerns were raised by the British Ambassador.

The human rights activist alleged there had been threats made to one of the key witnesses in the case but the government had previously done very little to protect them.

Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall Computer Crimes Case Hearing to Continue on Mar 16th

February 3rd, 2015

The preliminary hearing of British human rights activist Andy Hall is set to continue in mid-March, after the one planned for yesterday (Feb. 2) was cut short due to a court scheduling conflict.

The charges in this second case of four brought against Hall by pineapple processor Natural Fruit Company relate to the Computer Crimes Act and criminal defamation charges.

The first defamation case which took place last year was dismissed in the Prakanong Court in Bangkok, however the fruit manufacturing company has since appealed the decision.

Hall told http://www.freshfruitportal.com the preliminary hearing that was initially scheduled for a full day on Monday only ended up taking place from 9am until 12pm, and largely involved the cross-examination of the Natural Fruit senior management representative.

The next preliminary hearing is due to take place on March 16.

The campaigner last week said this second case was ‘quite confusing‘, as it appeared he was being charged for actions taken by Finnish civic organization Finnwatch.

“The strange thing from what we’ve seen is that they’re charging me with the Computer Crimes Act…it seems they’re charging me in terms of the Finnwatch report and letters that Finnwatch published on the internet; I never published any of those letters on the internet,” Hall said.

The third case involving civil defamation charges has been postponed pending the verdict of this second case as it contains the same substantive issues.

http://www.freshfruitportal.com/2015/02/03/thailand-andy-halls-preliminary-hearing-to-continue-in-march/?country=others

SEE ALSO:
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/464528/activist-hall-back-in-court-in-2nd-fruit-firm-defamation-case