Arisman given one year for defamation

Speeches against Abhisit had 'dishonest intent'

The Criminal Court has sentenced red-shirt co-leader Arisman Pongruangrong to one year in prison for defaming Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Red shirt co-leader Arisman Pongruangrongis releasedonbail of200,000 baht after the Criminal Court found him guilty yesterday of defaming Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and sentenced him to one year in jail. SURAPOLPROMSAKANA SAKOLNAKORN

Mr Arisman was granted bail after posting surety of 200,000 baht as he intends to lodge an appeal.

Mr Abhisit filed a defamation charge against Mr Arisman on Nov 12, 2009, after the red-shirt co-leader made several speeches between Oct 11-17, 2009, accusing the Democrat chief of traumatising the King, seizing power from the people, ordering troops to kill protesters, and corruption in several projects.

Mr Abhisit said Mr Arisman's comments tarnished his reputation and stoked public resentment against him.

The court ruled yesterday that although the defendant is a political rival and has the right to criticise Mr Abhisit, who was prime minister at the time, Mr Arisman's comments could have been construed as truth despite him being unable to prove how Mr Abhisit's work could be linked to the King's ailments.

The court also said Mr Arisman showed dishonest intent by repeatedly airing an audio clip of Mr Abhisit, even though authorities had proved the clip was doctored and Mr Arisman knew this.

The clip features the voice of Mr Abhisit and could lead the public to believe Mr Abhisit ordered troops to harm red-shirt demonstrators in 2009.

According to the court, Mr Abhisit assumed the prime minister's post through democratic means, as did former prime ministers Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat, so the defendant's remarks about Mr Abhisit seizing power from the people were false.

The court said Mr Arisman admitted he led a group of supporters who threw blood in front of Mr Abhisit's house. That stirred public hatred against Mr Abhisit, which led to social unrest.

The court sentenced Mr Arisman to one year in jail. The sentence was not eligible for suspension because his remarks touched upon the beloved institution of the monarchy, the court said.

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