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British human rights activist Andy Hall will face a defamation suit brought against him by Thailand’s Natural Fruit Company, after Bangkok South Criminal Court decided on Monday to indict him on charges that could incur a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
The charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes were filed against him by the pineapple processing firm after Hall’s alleged involvement in as 2013 report titled ‘Cheap Has a High Price’, which detailed a litany of labour abuses at the Thai company’s factory, including the exploitation of under-age workers and appalling work conditions. Many of the workers interviewed for the report were migrants from Burma. Natural Fruit has denied the allegations.
In a written ruling, judges at the Bangkok court on Monday said that they would accept the case brought by Thai prosecutors after earlier preliminary hearings.
Judges dismissed the first of four defamation charges in October, noting that the incident in question – an interview given to Al Jazeera – had occurred abroad, and therefore Thailand’s attorney-general should have been involved in the investigation. As he was not, the prosecution had therefore not proceeded within the law, it was ruled.
The next court hearing will be on 19 October, when Hall will be arraigned and detained pending bail.
Finnwatch, the NGO who produced the ‘Cheap Has a Price’ report, called Monday’s verdict “a blow to human rights”.
Speaking to DVB after his appearance in court on Monday, Hall said, “I am disappointed in the court’s decision but I respect it, and I will fight the case to the best of my ability, supported by the best legal team around.
“I am confident in winning the case following a fair and transparent trial as this is not my report, I didn’t disseminate it on Finnwatch’s website. I am merely a researcher carrying out my duty to promote and protect migrant rights in Thailand.”
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