Thai Supreme Court dismisses criminal defamation case against Andy Hall
Thailand's Supreme Court has rejected the Attorney General and pineapple processor Natural Fruit Company's appeal in a criminal defamation case against Finnwatch researcher Andy Hall.
The charges in this case related to an interview Hall gave to news outlet Al-Jazeera in Myanmar in April 2013 concerning his earlier criminal prosecution by Natural Fruit Company.
This particular case had already been dismissed twice by courts of both first and second instance (Prakanong/Appeals Court) on the grounds of flawed unlawful interrogation processes during police investigation of the case and given the allegedly defamatory act was committed in Myanmar.
Hall has been fighting legal battles in Thailand for more than three years, and in September was found guilty of defamation in another case over his investigation into alleged human rights abuses at Natural Fruit Company and given a suspended three-year prison sentence.
"Following dismissal of the case, I have no choice but to now launch counter litigation against Natural Fruit, the Prosecutor, Police and the Attorney General for unlawful prosecution and for perjury," Hall said in a statement following the ruling.
"I do so with deep regret and not at all in anger or through any desire for personal retribution. It is necessary to launch these counter prosecutions simply because I must defend myself fully against judicial harassment by Natural Fruit that shows no signs of abating."
Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnish civic organization Finnwatch, said the Supreme Court's ruling was "of course a huge relief'', but she added it "does not vindicate Hall's earlier conviction and suspended prison sentence".
"However, the campaign of judicial harassment that has been waged against Andy Hall for almost four years now has already sadly been successful," Vartiala said.
"As many have feared, this campaign has also had a negative impact far beyond the case of Andy himself. We have heard from a number of migrant workers and activists how they are now deeply afraid to speak out on abuse workers face from Thai employers after Andy Hall's recent conviction."
She said a 'real stain' had been placed on Thailand's reputation, 'in particular as an acceptable country to do business in'.
"Companies which source from Thailand need to think really hard whether they can be confident that they can adequately monitor their supply chains when the voices of workers and those who defend them are being chillingly silenced," she added.
Hall's conviction two months ago drew stern criticism from around the world including from the United Nations, the International Labor Office, the European Parliament and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
Andy Hall and his legal team are currently preparing to appeal the Bangkok South Criminal Court conviction on grounds of both fact and law but have yet to receive a written copy of the verdict to be used as the basis of the appeal, according to Finnwatch.
The Supreme Court ruling in this Al-Jazeera interview case on Nov. 3 will have no impact on the suspended prison sentence Hall was given on Sept. 20.
Two civil defamation claims for damages of 400 million baht (US$11.4 million) brought by Natural Fruit Company Ltd against Andy Hall are still pending resolution of the two criminal cases.
Natural Fruit filed all four cases against Hall following publication of the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price in January 2013.
Hall coordinated field research and conducted migrant worker interviews for the report which outlined migrant worker interviewee allegations of serious labour rights violations at the company's pineapple processing plant.