19th October 2015: Andy Hall to plead not guilty and face detention in Natural Fruit Case

Andy Hall will soon be summoned to appear at the Bangkok South Criminal Court on 19th October 2015 to plead on the charges of computer crimes and criminal defamation that were accepted for trial by the court in a ruling issued on 24th August 2015.

The charges by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. against Andy Hall, filed in February 2013 and carrying a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment, relate to writing and publication of a Finnwatch research report highlighting findings from interviews with workers claiming to be from Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

Andy Hall publicly announced on 24th October following the courts acceptance of all the charges that he will plead not guilty to all the charges against him at the Bangkok South Criminal Court and will then face detention pending consideration of any bail application he chooses to submit to the court.

Hall said today:’I respect the courts decision, but I am at the same time disappointed at the courts decision. I will fight these cases respectfully through the Thai criminal justice system and am confident of victory in the end.’

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Guardian UK: British rights activist charged with defamation in Thailand

Andy Hall could face seven years in jail over report alleging human rights and labour abuses at Thai fruit producer

Andy Hall
Andy Hall arrives for his trial at the Bangkok south criminal court. Photograph: Narong Sangnak/EPA

The Bangkok south criminal court decided on Monday to indict the migrants’ rights researcher in a case that has been condemned as an attempt to gag the messenger rather than deal with labour rights in the south-east Asian nation.

Natural Fruit has filed four cases against Hall following the publication of the report he researched for the Finnish NGO Finnwatch, released in January 2013 and titled Cheap Has a High Price.

The report was based on information gathered through interviews with the workers of a Natural Fruit pineapple processing factory and exposed violence against employees, forced overtime, the use of underage labour and the confiscation of passports of Burmese migrant workers.

Natural Fruit denies all allegations.

Hall told the Guardian that while he respects the court’s decision, he is disappointed and will plead not guilty. “It’s not my report. I didn’t disseminate it,” he said on the phone from the court.

In Thailand, defamation can be a criminal offence. Hall was also indicted on Monday under the Computer Crimes Act, which bans online material considered a threat to national security. Separately, he is facing two civil defamation cases where Natural Fruit is asking for damages of 400,000,000 baht, around £7m.

“The criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act case, to which today’s decision to indict relates to, is the most severe of all the cases filed against Andy Hall, and carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment,” Sonja Vartiala,
executive director of Finnwatch, said after the indictment.

“At this point, the prospects for Andy Hall to receive a fair trial are looking grim,” she said.

Hall, 35, is from Spalding, Lincolnshire, but has lived in Thailand for a decade and speaks the language fluently. With a PhD from Cardiff University, Hall has worked in Burma and Thailand on migration policy issues. He is also supporting the defence of two Burmese migrant workers accused of murdering two Britons on the Thai island of Koh Tao last year, saying he is working to ensure a fair trial.

On Monday, the court ordered Hall to appear on 19 October to make a plea. He will then face detention, official charging and can request bail.

“I will comply with all court orders,” Hall said. “I will plead not guilty.”

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PRESS RELEASE 24th Aug: Thai court’s decision to indict migrants’ rights activist a blow to human rights

PRESS RELEASE

Thai court’s decision to indict migrants’ rights activist a blow to human rights

The Bangkok South Criminal Court decided today on Monday 24 August to indict migrants’ rights researcher and human rights defender Andy Hall in a criminal defamation and computer crimes act case filed against him by a pineapple processing company, Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

– The Bangkok South Criminal Court had an opportunity to put an end to a saga of intimidation already lasting 30-months aimed at nothing but gagging a human rights defender. Regrettably the Court chose instead to press on with a trial of these unfounded charges, said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch.

Natural Fruit has filed altogether four cases against Andy Hall following the publication and dissemination of a Finnwatch report ‘Cheap Has a High Price’ in early 2013. The report, which Andy Hall contributed research to, was based on information gathered through interviews with the workers of a Natural Fruit Company Ltd. pineapple processing factory and exposed labour rights violations at the plant.

Natural Fruit did not comment on the research findings prior to the publication of the report, although given ample opportunity to do so.

The criminal defamation and computer crimes act case, to which today’s decision to indict relates to, is the most severe of all the cases filed against Andy Hall, and carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

Following todays decision, Andy Hall is expected to be summoned to appear at the court. He will then be detained awaiting trial. He will have an opportunity to seek release on bail.

– To equate someone’s reputation with another person’s liberty is always disproportionate. Thailand  should abolish its criminal defamation laws as they infringe on freedom of expression, said Vartiala.

– At this point, the prospects for Andy Hall to receive a fair trial are looking grim, she addded.

Of the other three cases, one is for criminal defamation and the other two are civil defamation cases where damages of 400,000,000 baht are being claimed by Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

Prakanong Court heard the first criminal defamation case already in 2014. The hearings were marred with the procecution’s failure to make full disclosure to the defence of all evidence available to them, Thai authorities’ failure to provide critically important information to the defence when requested and witness intimidation among other issues. Subsequently, the Prakanong Court dismissed the charges. The Office of the Attorney General has appealed the decision, urging the case to be reopened. A decision on this appeal is expected on 25 September 2015.

The hearings for the civil defamation cases have not been scheduled yet.

To date no one has been held accountable for the labour rights violations at the Natural Fruit pineapple processing plant.

For more information please contact:

Andy Hall
+66(0)846119209
@atomicalandy (Twitter)
andyjhall1979@gmail.com

Sonja Vartiala
Executive Director Finnwatch
+358(0)445687465
sonja.vartiala@finnwatch.org

Appeals Court to Rule on Aljazeera Interview Natural Fruit Criminal Defamation Charges Against Andy Hall: 25th Sept 9am

An official criminal court summons has been sent to Andy Hall to appear in person at Prakanong Court in Bangkok at 9am on 25th September 2015 to hear the Appeal Court’s ruling on an appeal by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. and the Attorney General on the Prakanong Courts dismissal of the criminal defamation charges filed against him by the two mentioned parties relating to an interview he undertook with Aljazeera English news in Yangon, Myanmar in April/May 2013.
Prakanong Court previously dismissed all charges originally filed against Hall in this case at Bangna Police Station in July 2013 as a result of an unlawful police and prosecution investigation process but Natural Fruit Company Ltd. and the Attorney General appealed the dismissal ruling to the Appeals Court.
Andy Hall on 24th August 2015 will also attend Bangkok South Criminal Court to hear that courts official ruling on whether to indict him for more serious computer crimes and criminal defamation charges Natural Fruit Company Ltd. filed also against him at this court in relation to Finnwatch’s publishing and dissemination of a report into conditions at Natural Fruit Company Ltd. facilities in January 2015.
Together the two sets of criminal charges against Hall carry a penalty of a maximum of 8 years imprisonment and exist alongside two civil defamation cases filed by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. at Nakhon Pathom and Prakanong Courts claiming around US$14 million (400,000,000 Baht) in civil damages.

 

Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall Indictment Decision Due 24th August 2015 9am

The Bangkok South Criminal Court on Charoen Krung Road in Bangkok yesterday adjourned until 24th August 2015 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