Global protests to support Andy Hall and 'vigorously defend free speech' -

Global protests to support Andy Hall and 'vigorously defend free speech'

Fairfood International will stage a protest outside the Thai Embassy in the Dutch political capital next week in support of human rights defender Andy Hall, with many other demonstrations due to be held throughout the world. Andy-Hall-photo-2-2-MWRN-panorama

The non-profit organization has invited journalists, civil society groups and other interested parties to join the protest in front of Thailand's diplomatic mission in The Hague on Oct. 29, the day before Hall's trial is due to continue.

The British lawyer and human rights campaigner may face up to seven years' jail time in Thailand and up to US$10 million under defamation charges for alleging serious and widespread worker abuses from Thai company Natural Fruit.

There will also be protests organized by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) in Washington D.C., Finnwatch in Helsinki, along with SumOfUs, the U.K.'s Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Walk Free in London.

Fairfood International said the Thai Ambassador to the Netherlands had been invited to receive the protesters, when a letter on behalf of numerous NGOs from across the globe would be handed over to him.

In this letter, the group will ask the Thai Government to investigate the alleged serious breaches of human and workers' rights committed by the Thai pineapple processor Natural Fruit Co.

Fairfood claimed during Hall's investigations into the Thai food industry, he allegedly uncovered 'poor working conditions, unlawfully low wages,the  confiscation of official documents, child labor and excessive overtime'.

The organization is also calling upon the Thai Government to introduce effective measures to stop violations of workers' rights in the pineapple sector.

Furthermore, it said the government should ensure free speech was respected for those that spoke out on human rights abuses, so that they could continue their work without the fear of judicial harassment.

Since it is also Andy Hall's birthday, Fairfood will be offering the Thai Ambassador an upside-down pineapple birthday cake to symbolize the current state of imbalance, where one man highlighting alleged human rights abuses is persecuted while the 'powerful company' accused of committing them is defended.

The non-profit group also said Hall was the 'typical victim of a strategic lawsuit against public participation case', and successful prosecution would have 'a chilling effect on investigative journalism and NGO work' in Thailand.

It added NGOs had an obligation to fight such cases and 'vigorously defend free speech'.

Since the charges were brought against Hall earlier this year, a number of prominent organizations throughout the world have come out in support of the human rights campaigner, including the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) which unites more than 1,300 European retailers, importers and brand companies.

A petition for the charges to be dropped had also received more than 300,000 signatures by the end of August.

The demonstration outside the Thai Embassy in the Hague will take place on Wednesday from 10 am to 12 pm.

If you would like to support him with what look to be some fairly high legal costs, has set up a page where donations can be made. The site includes Hall's contact details if you would like to directly offer him support.

To see our full and in-depth coverage of the Andy Hall case, click here.