Defama­tion case crit­i­cised

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

A Thai court has found a Bri­tish labour ac­tivist guilty of de­fam­ing a fruit can­ning com­pany but gave him a sus­pended prison sen­tence.

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

The case has been seen by crit­ics as an ef­fort to in­tim­i­date hu­man rights work­ers and labour ac­tivists. Hall has been ac­tive for sev­eral years in Thai­land in labour rights ad­vo­cacy, es­pe­cially in­volv­ing mi­grant work­ers.

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

He was given a sus­pended sen­tence of three years with a pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod of two years, and a fine of 150,000 baht (Dhs16,000). He is ex­pected to ap­peal the rul­ing, but will be in the court’s cus­tody un­til the fine is paid. Two civil suits by the com­pany against him are pend­ing.

The court originally sen­tenced Hall to four years in prison and a 200,000 baht fine, but re­duced the sen­tence be­cause he co­op­er­ated with the court and had no prior crim­i­nal record.

Lawyers and right groups have long been crit­i­cal of Thai­land’s crim­i­nal defama­tion law, which is seen as in­hibit­ing free speech. In a state­ment ear­lier this week, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional called on Thai author­i­ties to re­move crim­i­nal penal­ties for defama­tion and “en­sure that such charges are not used to re­strict the right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion”.

And Sonja Var­tiala, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Fin­nwatch, said: “This is a sad day for free­dom of ex­pres­sion in Thai­land.

“We fear that many other hu­man rights de­fend­ers and vic­tims of com­pany abuse will be scared to si­lence by this rul­ing.”

GUILTY: Sup­port­ers shower Andy Hall with flow­ers at court yes­ter­day

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