June 27, 2018
A Thai court sentenced a human rights lawyer to 16 months in prison on Wednesday, finding him guilty of sedition for material he posted online but dropping charges of royal defamation.
Prawet Prapanukul had been indicted on 10 royal defamation charges and three sedition charges. He has said he would not appoint a lawyer to defend himself in the case he called “a political issue, not a legal one.”
The Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok sentenced him to five months for each sedition count and an additional month for refusing to let officials take his fingerprint identification, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said.
Prawet had been a lawyer for supporters of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006. He was arrested last year in connection with material he had posted on Facebook about Thailand’s 1932 revolution, which turned the country from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional one. Thailand’s current military government declared safeguarding the monarchy a top priority.
Critics of the lese majeste law covering royal defamation, which carries a punishment of three to 15 years’ imprisonment, say it is used to silence political dissidents. The legal aid group said last week at least 162 people have been charged under the lese majeste law since the military seized power again in 2014. Prawet’s was a rare case of an acquittal.
27 June 2018 Bangkok
The Criminal Court found Prawate, a lawyer and political activist who allegedly committed 3 counts of offense under sedition law (section 116 of the Criminal Code) by posted messages of his personal Facebook in a manner to provoke the public to campaign against the current political system of Thailand, guilty and sentence him to 5 months in prison for each count in total 15 months in prison. The court also found him guilty for refusing to let a police take fingerprints under decree of Council for Democratic Reform no.25/2006 (Council for Democratic Reform was a name of military regime that staged a coup in 2006) and sentence Prawate to a month in prison. In total, Prawate is sentenced to 16 months in prison. In the rendering of a verdict today, the court did not mention to allegation under lèse majesté law that Prawate was charged by prosecutor for 10 counts.
After hearing the verdict Prawate claimed that he still not recognized legitimacy of this trial as well as his detention. He also stated that “One day in the future history of the world will judged them” Prawate’s relatives who presented at the court today seems to satisfy with a verdict as Prawate will soon reunite with the family. Prawate was remanded in custody at the Bangkok Remand Prison since 3 May 2017 for 420 days or roughly 14 months, he then had about 2 more months to serve. Regardless the next move of public prosecutor, Prawate will be release immediately after his 16 months sentence is complete. If the public prosecutor decided to appeal the case Prawate will be summon to the court only when the Court of Appeal render its verdict.
Prawate’s case began in the late April 2017, he was arrested by military in the same time with other 5 individuals. All were detained and inquired in a military camp from 29 April and were brought to the court on 3 May 2017 with accusation under lèse majesté law and Computer-related Crime Act. Prawate and other 5 individuals have never known each other before. While other 5 individuals were accused under lèse majesté law for sharing facebook status of Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a former historian lecturer who is now living in exile, Prawate was accused under lèse majesté law for 10 counts of offense by his own facekook status. He also faced 3 additional accusations under sedition law for posting status that deemed to be a provocation to the public with regard to the current political system and the need of change.
Prawate was remanded in custody since 3 May 2017, he seek for bail was rejected by the court on the ground that circumstance of the case was severe. 5 individuals who had been arrested in the same time with Prawate were released after the public prosecutor issued a non prosecution order while Prawate was still remanded in custody as the public prosecutor proceed the case to the court.
Prawate’s trial commenced in May 2018, the trial was announced to be close to the public due to its sensitivity. Prawate however decided to make statement that he will not recognize legitimacy of this trial on the ground that he did not trust in the judicial system. Prawate claimed that the court had already found him guilty before the trial even began when it denied his right to bail on the ground that circumstance of the case is severe. Moreover, Prawate also claimed that since circumstance of this case is online offense, his detention then prevent him from access to necessary evidences while the prosecution had fully access, it is thus against principle of equality of arms.
The trial in May 2018 last only for a couple days as Prawate neither conduct cross examination against prosecution’s witnesses nor had witness testify on his behalf. The court initially set to render a verdict of this case on 23 May 2018 but the previous schedule was postponed to today as the court has not concluded its decision at that time.
(ILaw English Facebook, 27/6/18)