Appeal Court tosses Natural Fruit suit vs activist Hall

Appeal Court tosses Natural Fruit suit vs activist Hall

British migrants workers-rights activist Andy Hall (centre) arrives for a hearing in his trial at the Phra Khanong Court in Bangkok Sept 18. The court dismissed the case, ruling that prosecutors nor Natural Fruit had a legal right to sue in Thailand. (EPA photo)
British migrants workers-rights activist Andy Hall (centre) arrives for a hearing in his trial at the Phra Khanong Court in Bangkok Sept 18. The court dismissed the case, ruling that prosecutors nor Natural Fruit had a legal right to sue in Thailand. (EPA photo)

The Appeal Court on Friday upheld last year’s lower-court dismissal of defamation charges against migrant-rights activist Andy Hall over a press interview he conducted in Myanmar, saying neither state prosecutors nor a pineapple-processing company had grounds to sue in Thailand.

The court unanimously ruled that neither the Office of the Attorney General nor Natural Fruit had a legal right to prosecute Mr Hall as his allegedly defamatory remarks were made during an Al-Jazeera network interview outside the kingdom. The court also ruled that police should not have even investigated the interview and that the case was not appealable to the Supreme Court.

"Al-Jazeera interview defamation case officially closed," Mr Hall tweeted following the decision Friday.

The Appeal Court decision was read at the Phra Khanong Court, the same venue that dismissed the original criminal-defamation case on Oct 29, 2014 citing a flawed police investigation that did not include a Thai state prosecutor from the outset.

"We are relieved and glad about today's court decision and that the legality of the previous dismissal has been upheld. Case is now closed," said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of right-watchdog group Finnwatch, for whom Mr Hall authored a report.

The case was just one of four brought by Natural Fruit against Mr Hall. Hearings in the other cases will continue on Oct 19 when the activist will be indicted formally for criminal defamation and violation of the Computer Crime Act related to publication of a Finnwatch report that exposed labour-rights violations at a Natural Fruit pineapple-processing plant. If found guilty, Mr Hall faces up to seven years in prison.

In addition to two criminal cases, National Fruit has also filed two damages claims against the activist.

Following the dismissal of the appeal bid, Mr Hall said on Twitter he would now be preparing to bring his own lawsuits against both Natural Fruit and government prosecutors.

He tweeted that he plans to bring perjury charges against Natural Fruit management "for false statements made in court" and an allegedly false police report filed with Bang Na police; and against the OAG for wrongful prosecution. He added that he also will request the National Anti-Corruption Commission investigate public prosecutors in the case.

Ms Vartiala said Finnwatch and hundreds of other civil-society organisations have appealed for the criminal proceedings against Mr Hall to be dropped as well as "bring Natural Fruit to justice for the alleged labour rights violations at their pineapple processing plant".


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