FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 15TH MAY 2018: SECOND THAI COURT DISMISSES ANDY HALL’s NATURAL FRUIT COUNTER CRIMINAL PROSECUTION
Today (15th May 2018), Prakanong Court in Bangkok, Thailand issued its first instance judgement dismissing the counter criminal prosecution case filed by British migrant worker rights activist Andy Hall against Thailand’s Natural Fruit Company Ltd. and two of its senior executives.
According to Hall’s legal defense team who attended the verdict at Prakanong Court this morning, the court, in dismissing Hall’s counter criminal prosecution case, ruled that none of those individuals or officials named in Hall’s counter criminal prosecutions including Natural Fruit’s executives, police officers and state prosecutors had acted unlawfully nor had they sought to unfairly persecute Hall or cause him any damage or loss in launching a criminal defamation prosecution against him which the Supreme Court of Thailand, Thailand’s highest Court, ultimately ruled in November 2016 was an unlawful prosecution.
The court also ruled in today’s judgement that, based on all the evidence before it, all of those aforementioned individuals and officials prosecuted by Hall merely had the good faith intention in launching a criminal defamation prosecution against Hall to bring him, as an accused criminal, to trial for an alleged unlawful act he had committed. That unlawful act concerned an interview that Hall gave to an Aljazeera journalist that allegedly defamed Natural Fruit Company, which when broadcast and distributed, caused the company and its owners alleged damage also.
Hall’s legal defense team is now considering today’s ruling of Prakanong Court in detail so as to prepare to appeal the decision to the Appeal’s Court and then onto the Supreme Court if necessary.
The ruling of Prakanong Court today follows a previous ruling on 25th September 2017 by the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Dusit District of Bangkok likewise dismissing Hall’s other or second counter criminal prosecution case against ten State Officials (prosecutors and police) concerning the same unlawful defamation prosecution against him.
On 18th January 2018, Hall’s legal defense team appealed this decision of the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases not to accept Hall’s counter criminal prosecution case against State officials for a full trial. Hall’s appeal against this decision of the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases argued that the Court should accept the judicability of Hall’s counter criminal prosecution case against state officials so as to allow detailed judicial consideration of the unlawful nature of the previous criminal defamation prosecution filed by Natural Fruit Company and jointly prosecuted by Thailand’s Attorney General against Hall.
A ruling on Hall’s appeal against this decision of the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases is still pending.
On 5th November 2016, the Supreme Court of Thailand, affirming decisions of both Prakanong Court and the Appeals Court, ruled that a July 2013 criminal defamation prosecution against Andy Hall by Natural Fruit Company, concerning an interview Hall gave to Aljazeera English in Myanmar, was an unlawful prosecution.
This prosecution by Natural Fruit was initially filed as a criminal complaint at Bangna Police Station, recommended for prosecution by the police before then being accepted by Prakanong Prosecutor and finally taken up by Thailand’s Attorney General also.
This ruling of Thailand’s Supreme Court in favour of Hall provided his legal defense team the legal option to launch two sets of counter criminal prosecutions against Natural Fruit company, it’s executives and State prosecution officials on his behalf in order to try to defend Hall from ongoing judicial harassment he was facing in the country prior to his departure in late 2016.
‘I am continuing to pursue these counter litigations consisting of two sets of criminal prosecutions today with a heavy heart and not out of anger or with any desire for revenge. It is regretful that things have reached this stage. However, it is necessary to continue to pursue these litigations as I must defend myself against an unlawful prosecution and sustained judicial harassment waged against me that continues unabated,’ said Andy Hall from Kathmandu in Nepal.
‘I was encouraged to initiate these litigations by migrant workers whom I continue to support in Thailand. After both my criminal and civil convictions, many workers and rights defenders in Thailand and even globally told me they hesitate to voice concerns on exploitation or report fully on abuses due to fear of negative repercussions. It’s imperative that these two sets of criminal prosecutions claim space back for victims of rights abuses, exploited workers and human rights defenders to speak out with confidence about unlawful conduct by business and state actors without repercussions,’ said Hall.
‘I also continue to pursue these counter criminal prosecutions because of the advice and support provided to me by a committed team of
human rights lawyers. My legal team and I aim to contribute through these litigations towards reform of the Thai justice system that is being wrongly utilized to harass human rights defenders like myself. Such reform of the Thai justice system through pressure from litigation such as mine can hopefully enhance the rule of law and ensure meaningful accountability for victims of the unlawful and unacceptable abuse of state police investigatory and prosecutorial powers in Thailand,” Hall added today.
For more information on today’s judgement and Andy Hall’s counter prosecution cases, contact Andy Hall on +977 9823486634 and Andyjhall1979@gmail.com OR Nakhon Chomphuchat, head of Andy Hall’s legal team on +66(0)818 473086 and firstname.lastname@example.org
More detailed information on the two separate counter criminal prosecutions against Natural Fruit Company executives and Thai state prosecution officials that Andy Hall’s legal team filed in May 2017 is outlined below.
For more updated and detailed information on the Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall saga including detailed information on the numerous other criminal and civil cases involved, see the April 2018 Finnwatch Q&A PDF at http://finnwatch.org/images/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_April2018.pdf?utm_source=Andyn+kontaktilista&utm_campaign=21ba7517fa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_23&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_16dcaaec6c-21ba7517fa-200426829 OR the Andy Hall vs. Natural Fruit blog site www.andyjhall.wordpress.com
Background on Andy Hall’s Counter Criminal Prosecutions
On 31st May 2017, as outlined in the below Finnwatch press release (dated 30th May 2017), Andy Hall’s legal defense team in Thailand submitted to the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Dusit District of Bangkok ten criminal prosecutions against Thai State prosecutors and police (case Or Thor 286/2560 – counter prosecution case one).
This prosecution of state prosecution officials occurred alongside criminal prosecutions filed also against four Natural Fruit Company Ltd. officials and lawyers in a separate counter criminal prosecution case filed by Andy Hall’s legal team at Prakanong Criminal Court (case Or 2248/60 – counter prosecution case two).
More information on these two separate counter criminal prosecution cases filed by Hall and the progress of these cases within the Thai justice system is outlined below.
These two sets of counter criminal prosecutions were filed by Hall’s legal defense team on his behalf once Hall had left Thailand previously on 7th November 2017 citing intolerable judicial harassment. These prosecutions were also filed following the final dismissal by the Supreme Court of Thailand on 5th November 2016 of a criminal defamation case filed against Andy Hall in July 2013 by Natural Fruit Co Ltd. and prosecuted by the Company together with Thailand’s Attorney General, which the Supreme Court ultimately ruled was an unlawful prosecution.
This dismissed criminal defamation prosecution filed by Natural Fruit and prosecuted by Thailand’s Attorney General against Hall concerned an interview Hall gave to Aljazeera English news channel in Yangon, Myanmar in April 2013 whilst he was resident in Myanmar advising the Myanmar Government on migration issues. The interview, broadcast on Aljazeera and widely shared online, included Hall’s comments and response to the criminal and civil prosecutions Natural Fruit had filed against Hall in February 2013.
Natural Fruit had filed these original prosecutions against Hall in early 2013 as a result of the research he had conducted into migrant worker conditions in Natural Fruit’s pineapple factory for Finnish rights watchdog Finnwatch in late 2012.
This research, ‘Cheap Has a High Price,’ authored and published by Finnwatch in January 2013, reported that migrant workers alleged serious labour and human rights violations in Natural Fruit’s pineapple processing factory in Southern Thailand.
Whilst the other two leading tuna export companies covered by this report engaged Hall and Finnwatch regarding the research findings constructively, Natural Fruit instead began what has become already a six year campaign of intense judicial harassment against Hall, who was only a researcher and not the author of the Finnwatch report, for which Finnwatch assumes entire responsibility. Natural Fruit claimed this Finnwatch report and Hall’s role in researching the report caused the company major losses and damage to its business, financial stability and reputation.
The criminal defamation charge filed by Natural Fruit against Hall in July 2013 concerning the Aljazeera interview was originally recommended for prosecution by Bangna Police Station in mid 2014 prior to being jointly prosecuted by the Prakanong Prosecutor and then Thailand’s Attorney General in mid 2014 once the extra-territorial nature of the case came to the attention of the prosecutor.
The Supreme Court finally dismissed this defamation case as an unlawful prosecution on 5th November 2016 following two sets of appeals by Natural Fruit and the Attorney General against the Prakanong Court’s original October 2014 dismissal of the case. Prakanong Court’s dismissal of the case as unlawful followed a full 6 day criminal trial held in September 2014.
On 26th March 2018, Prakanong Court also found Hall guilty of defamation in a separate 100 million Thai Baht civil damages case filed by Natural Fruit Company against him concerning this Aljazeera interview. The court ordered Hall to pay 10 million baht plus numerous legal and court fees to Natural Fruit Company.
An appeal being prepared by Hall’s legal defense team against this March 2018 ruling, which requires around 420,000 Thai Baht to be deposited with the Court in order for the appeal to be considered, has seen leading Finnish conglomerate S Group as well as a number of international civil society, anti-slavery and human rights defender organisations donate funds to support Hall’s legal defense costs and
required Court fees so as to allow Hall’s appeal to be submitted and considered.
The campaign of judicial harassment against Hall that has been instigated by Natural Fruit Company has been widely condemned by the international community. Statements and resolutions condemning this harassment have been issued by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation, the European Parliament, EU Trade Comissioner Cecilia Malmstrom as well as leading international human rights groups and trade unions including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and the International Trade Union Confederation.
The judicial harassment against Hall, which in November 2016 also saw a second Thai company, chicken farm Thammakast Company Limited, launch its own criminal prosecutions against Hall, has been widely seen as providing stark evidence of the challenges Thailand and Thai businesses face in complying with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In particular, Thailand’s government and Thai businesses have faced strong international criticism concerning the failure to protect and respect the role human rights defenders in the country as well as concerning the ongoing and systematic nature of labour and human rights violations against migrant workers.
Detailed Counter Prosecution Case Information
(A) Case Or Thor 286/2560 – counter prosecution case ONE against state officials
In regards Andy Hall’s prosecution case against ten State Officials (prosecutors and police) in the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Dusit District of Bangkok, Hall claimed these officials had acted unlawfully and in breach of their duty as state officials in prosecuting a case against him which the Supreme Court ultimately ruled was an unlawful prosecution. On 25th September 2017, this Corruption Court rejected the prosecution as having no legal grounds, stating that officials only acted in accordance with their legal duties in prosecuting and appealing the unlawful case against Hall. On 18th January 2018, Hall’s legal defense team appealed this dismissal decision of the corruption court not to accept the case for a full trial for detailed consideration of the nature of the unlawful prosecution to the Supreme Court of Thailand and a ruling on this appeal is still pending.
(B) Case Or Thor 2248/2560 – counter prosecution case TWO against Natural Fruit
In regarding the criminal prosecution cases filed by Andy Hall against Natural Fruit Company Ltd, two members of its management and the company’s lawyer, the Prakanong Court held two preliminary hearings concerning the case in July and August 2017 when Hall’s head lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat gave evidence in support of the prosecution. The Prakanong Court on 5th September 2017 ruled to accept for a full criminal trial: (a) The criminal charges filed by Hall against (i) the Natural Fruit Company Ltd., (ii) the President/owner of the company Mr. Wirat Piyapornpaiboon and (iii) the Vice President/senior management official Kachin Komneeyawanich for reporting false information intentionally to the police; and (b) The criminal charges filed against (i) the Natural Fruit Company and (ii) Mr. Wirat Piyapornpaiboon for intentionally launching a false prosecution. All three defendants pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges filed against them on 24th Oct 2017 and both company executives put up 100,000 Baht bail each in advance of this hearing at Prakanong Court following which they were both temporarily released from detention on bail pending the judgement of the court following a full criminal trial. The full criminal trial in this case took place on 2 days between 22-28 March 2018 and a verdict in the case was announced today, 15th May 2018. Additionally concerning this counter prosecution, the Prakanong Court on 5th September 2017 dismissed as ineligible for a full criminal trial: (a) The criminal charges filed by Hall against Natural Fruit lawyer Mr Somsak Torugsa for intentionally launching a false prosecution; and (b) All other criminal charges hall filed against Natural Fruit Company and its officials and lawyers relating to false testimony and related offences. Hall’s legal team advised him not to appeal this case prosecution dismissal decision so as to allow the full trial of Natural Fruit executives to commence as scheduled in March 2018.
PREVIOUS MEDIA REPORTING ON COUNTER PROSECUTIONS 30th MAY 2017
Reuters – British rights activist sues Thai authorities http://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN18R0TZ
RFA – Labor Activist Prosecutes Thai State Officials – “I am launching this litigation today consisting of two sets of criminal prosecutions today with a heavy heart and not out of anger or with any desire for revenge.” – Andy Hall, labor activist https://t.co/o3hjPSvoK0
PREVIOUS FINNWATCH PRESS RELEASE ON COUNTER PROSECUTIONS 30th MAY 2017
FINNWATCH PRESS RELEASE
30th May 2017
Migration activist Andy Hall to launch litigations against Thai state prosecutors, police and Natural Fruit Company
Lawyers representing Andy Hall, a British researcher and labour activist specialising in migrant worker rights, will tomorrow on 31st May at 9:00am (GMT+7hrs) file criminal litigation against Thailand’s Office of the Attorney General, nine Thai state prosecution officials and one senior police officer at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Dusit District of Bangkok, Thailand. Hall’s lawyers will then proceed to file further criminal litigation at Prakanong Court in Prakanong District of Bangkok against Natural Fruit Company Ltd., a board member with legal authority to act on behalf of the company, a senior company management official and the company’s lawyer, altogether four additional persons.
These litigations concern a criminal defamation charge relating to an interview Hall gave to Aljazeera English in Myanmar. The charge was filed against him by Natural Fruit at Bangna Police station in Bangkok in July 2013. The Office of the Attorney General, in the role of investigator of the complaint, assigned the criminal investigation of the case to Bangna police and later recommended the case for prosecution. Following this, prosecution officials prosecuted Hall who was then in May 2014 indicted for a full criminal trial at Prakanong Court.
Hall’s passport was confiscated following his indictment during temporarily release on bail pending trial and his freedom of movement overseas was curtailed. Natural Fruit requested to become a joint prosecutor in the case alongside the Office of the Attorney General. In October 2014, following a 6-day trial, Prakanong Court dismissed the prosecution by the Office of the Attorney General and Natural Fruit as unlawful on the grounds of flawed police investigation and interrogation procedures.
Despite the dismissal, judicial harassment against Hall continued as both Natural Fruit and state prosecution officials, as the two case plaintiffs, continued to pursue this case appealing the legality of the dismissal first to the Appeals Court and then onto the Supreme Court. In November 2016, Thailand’s Supreme Court delivered its final verdict on the appeals dismissing the case once and for all on both procedural and investigatory grounds. The Supreme Court reasoned that the prosecution was unlawful as the case couldn’t lawfully be tried in Thailand’s courts given that the nature of the alleged offence and the location where the alleged offence was committed lay outside the country.
“I am launching these litigations consisting of two sets of criminal prosecutions today with a heavy heart and not out of anger or with any desire for revenge. It is regretful that things have reached this stage. However, it is necessary now to launch these litigations as I must defend myself against an unlawful prosecution and judicial harassment waged against me that continues unabated,” said Andy Hall from Brussels in Belgium.
“I was encouraged to initiate these litigations by migrant workers whom I continue to support in Thailand. After my criminal conviction, many workers and rights defenders in Thailand and even globally told me they hesitate to voice concerns on exploitation or report fully on abuses due to fear of negative repercussions. It’s imperative that these two sets of criminal prosecutions claim space back for victims of rights abuses, exploited workers and human rights defenders to speak out with confidence about unlawful conduct by business and state actors without repercussions,’ said Hall.
“I also chose to launch these litigations because of the advice and support provided to me by a committed team of respected human rights lawyers. My legal team and I aim to contribute through these litigations towards reform of the Thai justice system. Such reform through litigation can enhance the rule of law and ensure meaningful accountability for victims of the unlawful and unacceptable abuse of state police investigatory and prosecutorial powers,” Hall added.
Andy Hall continues to fight his previous conviction on criminal defamation and computer crimes charges, also initiated by Natural Fruit, in which he was found guilty and handed a suspended 3-year prison sentence in September 2016. This guilty verdict met with wide-ranging international criticism from civil society, trade unions, business enterprises and the UN, ILO and EU. Both Natural Fruit and Hall have appealed the conviction with the company seeking an immediate custodial sentence against Hall and Hall seeking to have the conviction fully overturned.
Another Thai company, Thammakaset Farm, has also filed additional criminal defamation and computer crimes charges against Hall. This escalating harassment, in addition to his September 2016 conviction, forced Hall to leave Thailand after 11 years in November 2016 to live in Europe.
Tomorrow’s launch of criminal litigations by Hall coincides with the Thai Prime Minister’s launch of Thailand’s National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights. NAPs are UN recommended tools for UN Member States to promote the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within each state.
According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, states must ensure that their “courts are independent of economic or political pressures from other state agents and from business actors, and that the legitimate and peaceful activities of human rights defenders are not obstructed”.
In Thailand, statistics on prosecutions under the Computer Crimes Act have exploded in the past two years. According to critics, the provisions in this law have been used by authorities and private companies to silence human rights defenders, journalists and others. Civil society organisations have called for both the repeal of provisions in Thailand’s Penal Code that criminalise defamation and for the Computer Crime Act to be amended in compliance with international standards regarding freedom of expression.
Natural Fruit has initiated altogether four criminal and civil prosecutions against Hall stemming from his contribution to the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price, published in 2013. The report reported serious allegations of human and labour rights violations at Natural Fruit’s pineapple juice production facilities.
Although Finnwatch is not involved in the litigations launched by Hall, the organisation continues to support Hall’s appeal against his September 2016 conviction. In all proceedings bought by Natural Fruit against Hall, Finnwatch alongside the Thai Tuna Industry Association and Thai Union Group contributed towards his legal fees, fines and bail costs. At his trial hearings, Finnwatch alongside Finnish conglomerate S Group and Thai seafood associations and companies also testified in Hall’s defence.
“Andy has been unwavering in his support for the rights of migrant workers in Thailand for over a decade. He has dedicated his life to this work. This ongoing campaign of judicial harassment against him, which has entered its fifth year, has taken a heavy toll and should end,” said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch.
“It is the duty of businesses and governments to cease judicial harassment against human rights defenders working on issues of business and human rights. Work done by researchers like Andy on working conditions in global supply chains is valuable also for the companies trading in Thailand,” she reminded