Supreme Court on Thursday cleared a British labour rights activist of defamation in relation to a lawsuit filed by Natural Fruit, a pineapple processing company.
The court threw out the charges which related to an interview given by Andy Hall to broadcaster Al-Jazeera in Myanmar in April 2013 concerning a prosecution case brought against him by the Natural Fruit Company.
The judges ruled that they had no jurisdiction over offences committed in Myanmar. Natural Fruit launched four separate criminal and civil cases against Hall, including two defamation claims for damages of Bt400 million (US$11.5 million), after he wrote a report in 2013 alleging that company abused migrant workers.The lawsuit relating to the interview was one of the criminal cases.
"I feel very happy about the verdict as this case was an injustice tome," said Hall after the verdict. Court officials said Thursday's ruling in Hall's favour was final with no possibility of an appeal.
The 2013 report, commissioned by Finland-based NGO Finnwatch, alleged the company used underage labour, discriminated against migrant workers, confiscated workers' passports, provided unsafe working conditions and failed to pay for overtime.
In the second criminal case, a Bangkok court in September sentenced Hall to four years' imprisonment, reduced by one year and suspended two years, and ordered him to a pay a fine of Bt150,000 after convicting him of criminal defamation and violation of a computer law by publishing defamatory content online.
"The Supreme Court's ruling (on Thursday) is of course a huge relief it does not vindicate Hall's earlier conviction," Finnwatch executive Director Sonja Vartiala said.
“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," Vartiala added. Hall still faces the two civil defamation cases brought by the fruit company and his suspended prison sentence still stands. *