'Facebook 8' remain in jail

'Facebook 8' remain in jail

Officials escort the suspects to the military court to seek the first detention on Friday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Officials escort the suspects to the military court to seek the first detention on Friday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The military court has denied bail for the eight Facebook administrators arrested on Wednesday after approving the first detention of seven days.

The eight suspects were represented by lawyers from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Center who put up sureties of 100,000 baht each.

The eight suspects were Harit Mahaton, Natthika Worathaiyawich, Noppakao Kongsuwan, Worawit Saksamutnan, Yothin Mangkhangsanga, Thanawat Buranasiri, Supachai Saibut and Kannasit Tangboonthina.

They ran the "เรารักพล.อ.ประยุทธ์" (We Love Gen Prayut) Facebook page and were charged with violating the 2007 Computer Crime Act and with inciting unrest under Section 116 of the Criminal Code. All, except Mr Kannasit, denied the charges.

The Facebook page, which categorised itself as a "comedian" with 70,000 likes as of Friday, shows memes and doctored photos of the prime minister with satirical quotes. 

The arrests of the "Facebook 8" are part of a broader campaign by the military regime to crack down on dissent ahead of the referendum on the draft constitution.

Authorities are also gathering evidence to support the arrest of prominent figures in the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and their allies.

In their detention request for the Facebook administrators, investigators cited violations of Section 116 on national security of the Criminal Code and Section 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act.

Notably, the lese majeste charge police said they would file against Mr Harit and Ms Natthika for their private conversation in Facebook Messenger was not mentioned.   

The investigators claimed they had yet to finish background checks and questioning of 15 more witnesses. The suspects were flight risks, they said.

The suspects' lawyers argued the investigators had talked to all of the accused and they were no flight risks. They knew where they lived and their every move before making the arrests so they could ask them to appear for more questioning anytime.

Winyat Chartmontri from the volunteer lawyers' group offered to be the guarantor for a number of suspects. The others would use the money from the Resistant Citizens Fund.

Around 3.30pm, the court denied them bail saying that police procedures had not been completed and the case carries a heavy penalty for violations that are set out in elaborate detail.

During the hearing Kansith Tangboontina, the only suspect who confessed at the police briefing on Thursday, told the court he would recant and the court explained the trial had not begun yet.

Mr Kannasith told reporters later that the lawyer provided by authorities did not give him any advice. He was the first to be asked by deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul and he was nervous and confused.

Earlier on Friday, the Criminal Court turned down a petition for the release of four of them as their lawyer claimed the arrests had been made before warrants were issued.

The court said the arrests had been made during the day by military officers and while the  Order No. 13 of National Council for Peace and Order chief Prayut Chan-o-cha, which grants officers acting on his behalf sweeping power to arrest, was in effect.

Investigations also showed the detainees might have committed offences against national security. Moreover, they have not been detained more than seven days allowed under the NCPO chief's order, the court said.


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