British rights worker to stand trial for defamation

19 January 2016
British rights worker to stand trial for defamation
British lawyer and migrant workers' rights activist, Andy Hall poses for photo with flowers from supporters after he arrives for his trial on the official indictment in the charged over computer crimes and criminal defamation case at the Bangkok South Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand, 18 January 2016. Photo: Narong Sangnak/EPA

British human rights activist Andy Hall will stand trial in a Thai court charged with defaming a Thai fruit company and violating computer laws, which could lead to seven years imprisonment if found guilty.
Natural Fruit, Thailand's largest producer of canned pineapples, claims Hall defamed the company and violated computer laws in a report published in 2013 by Finnwatch, a Finland-based human rights group, reports Reuters.
Hall, in a response on his Facebook website, said, “I respect but strongly disagree with the court's decision to indict me in the #naturalfruit case for a Finnwatch- authored report I didn't write and publication of this report on a Finnwatch website to which I have no personal access.
“Criminal defamation and computer crimes laws are bad laws being poorly abused within Thailand's criminal justice system. Freedom of expression and the ability to assist migrant victims of abuse, trafficking and exploitation is being seriously curtailed by the threat of use of these laws and the use of these laws against rights activists and against people like myself in such high profile and threatening ways.”
Human rights groups have criticized Thailand's defamation and computer crimes legislation, which they say allows politicians and corporations to intimidate critics.
"I only collected raw data and took no part in analyzing the data. Finnwatch officials were responsible for that," said Hall after the indictment.
Hall was released on bail and has had his passport confiscated. He was previously acquitted by a court last year on a defamation charge pursued by Thailand’s Attorney-General. Natural Fruit, the company at the heart of the dispute, has filed a string of its own criminal and civil cases against Hall,
Officials from the British and Finnish embassies were in court to monitor the case.