Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Court finds Bri­tish ac­tivist guilty of defama­tion

A Thai court found a Bri­tish la­bor ac­tivist guilty Tues­day of de­fam­ing a fruit can­ning com­pany, and gave him a sus­pended prison sen­tence in a case that has raised se­ri­ous con­cerns among hu­man rights work­ers and free speech ad­vo­cates.

The Bangkok South Crim­i­nal Court found Andy Hall guilty of crim­i­nal defama­tion against Nat­u­ral Fruit Com­pany Ltd. in con­nec­tion with a 2013 re­port he re­searched for the Fin­nish con­sumer or­ga­ni­za­tion Fin­nwatch that al­leged la­bor abuses at the com­pany’s fa­cil­i­ties.

The case has un­der­lined com­plaints by crit­ics that Thai­land’s puni­tive crim­i­nal defama­tion laws can be used to si­lence whis­tle-blow­ers and so­cial crit­ics. The law car­ried a max­i­mum penalty of seven years im­pris­on­ment.

Hall has been ac­tive for sev­eral years in Thai­land in la­bor rights ad­vo­cacy, es­pe­cially in­volv­ing mi­grant work­ers, who lack pro­tec­tions both in prac­tice and un­der the law.

He was also found guilty of vi­o­lat­ing the Com­puter Crimes Act be­cause the in­for­ma­tion was posted on the in­ter­net.

Hall was given a sus­pended sen­tence of three years with a pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod of two years, and a fine of 150,000 baht ($4,300). He said he will ap­peal the rul­ing. He was al­lowed to go free after his fine was paid.

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