Thailand’s top court dismisses criminal defamation case against Finnwatch researcher Andy Hall
Thailand’s Supreme Court today rejected the Attorney General and Natural Fruit Co Ltd.’s appeal in a criminal defamation case against Finnwatch researcher Andy Hall. The charges in this case related to an interview Hall gave to Al-Jazeera in Myanmar in April 2013 concerning his earlier criminal prosecution by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. This particular case had already been dismissed twice by courts of both first and second instance (Prakanong/Appeals Court) on the grounds of flawed unlawful interrogation processes during police investigation of the case and given the allegedly defamatory act was committed in Myanmar.
In a statement issued today following the ruling, Hall said: ‘Following dismissal of the case, I have no choice but to now launch counter litigation against Natural Fruit, the Prosecutor, Police and the Attorney General for unlawful prosecution and for perjury. I do so with deep regret and not at all in anger or through any desire for personal retribution. It is necessary to launch these counter prosecutions simply because I must defend myself fully against judicial harassment by Natural Fruit that shows no signs of abating.’‘The Supreme Court’s ruling is of course a huge relief but it does not vindicate Hall’s earlier conviction and suspended prison sentence in a case also brought by Natural Fruit less than two months ago. However, the campaign of judicial harassment that has been waged against Andy Hall for almost four years now has already sadly been successful. As many have feared, this campaign has also had a negative impact far beyond the case of Andy himself. We have heard from a number of migrant workers and activists how they are now deeply afraid to speak out on abuse workers face from Thai employers after Andy Hall’s recent conviction,’ said Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director of Finnwatch.
‘A real stain has been placed on Thailand’s reputation, in particular as an acceptable country to do business in. Companies which source from Thailand need to think really hard whether they can be confident that they can adequately monitor their supply chains when the voices of workers and those who defend them are being chillingly silenced,’ she added.
Less than two months ago on September 20th 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court found Andy Hall guilty in the other criminal case on charges of criminal defamation by publication and Computer Crimes brought by Natural Fruit against him. He was subsequently sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, reduced by one year and suspended by two years and ordered to pay a fine of 200, 000 baht reduced to 150,000 baht. Once the fine was paid to the Court by Thai Union Group, the Thai Tuna Industry Association and Finnwatch, Andy Hall was released from temporary detention, his passport returned and restrictions on his freedom of movement removed. The surprise guilty verdict drewstern criticism from around the world including from the UN, the ILO, the European Parliament and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
Andy Hall and his legal team are currently preparing to appeal the Bangkok South Criminal Court conviction on grounds of both fact and law but have yet to receive a written copy of the verdict to be used as the basis of the appeal. The Supreme Court ruling in this Aljazeera interview case on 3rd November will have no impact on the suspended prison sentence Hall was given on 20th September.
Two civil defamation claims for damages of 400 million baht brought by Natural Fruit Company Ltd against Andy Hall are still pending resolution of the two criminal cases. Natural Fruit filed all four cases against Hall following publication of the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price in January 2013. Hall coordinated field research and conducted migrant worker interviews for the report which outlined migrant worker interviewee allegations of serious labour rights violations at the company’s pineapple processing plant.
For more details, see the Q&A Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall (last updated in October 2016) available at: http://finnwatch.org/images/QA_October_2016_updated.pdf
1. Sonja Vartiala, executive director, Finnwatch +358(0)445687465 and sonja.vartiala(a)finnwatch.org
2. Andy Hall, researcher and activist +66(0)846119209 and andyjhall1979(a)gmail.com
3. Nakhon Chompuchat, Andy Hall’s head lawyer +66(0)818473086 and nakhonct(a)gmail.com
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