Somyos faces criminal court trial

The Criminal Court decided yesterday to take up two lese majeste cases against Red Power magazine editor Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who insists he is innocent.

Somyos was quietly taken from Bangkok Remand Prison yesterday morning, where he had been detained for the past three months, to be presented to the Criminal Court.

Suwit Thongnuan, his defence lawyer, told The Nation that Somyos ought to be given bail now that his case had been taken up by the court.

Suwit said the case was "not ordinary for any lawyer" as it involved serious allegations that could land Somyos in jail for as long as 30 years.

He is accused of allowing two articles written by someone using the pen name of 'Jit Polachan' - who produced a fictitious character in the articles construed by the now-defunct Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) as being a defamatory reference to His Majesty the King - to appear in the magazine.

"It is about the interpretation of the written words," Suwit said.

Somyos has refused to reveal the true identity of 'Jit' who wrote the two articles published by the now-banned Voice of Taksin magazine in February and March 2010.

According to Suwit, Somyos was not even the registered editor and publisher by law.

This person, the lawyer alleges, is a former Thai Rak Thai MP for Uthai Thani, Prasaeng Mongkolsiri, who was not charged by CRES.

The court will examine the lists of evidence and witnesses on September 12 in the case, which Suwit expects will last at least a year.

A number of labour rights groups abroad have campaigned for the release of Somyos, who's a former labour activist. Protesters in South Korea were the most recent to demonstrate in front of the Thai Embassy.

In a related development, on Sunday, what appeared to be a ruling statement by the Constitution Court on whether the trial in secret - in camera - of Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (aka "Da Torpedo") by the Court of First Instance was constitutional or not, appeared on the Court's website prior to the ruling scheduled for October 17.

The ruling, first reported by online newspaper, stated that the secret trial over lese majeste charges against Daranee was constitutional since it did not affect the essence of rights and liberty in a significant manner.

Earlier this year, on February 9, the Appeals Court reviewed the original ruling of the Court of First Instance and questioned whether a trial in camera could be constitutional or not. The Constitution Court's ruling added that such a trial did not severely affect the proceedings since both the defendant and her lawyer were present during the trial.

No members of the public were allowed to observe it, however. The trial by the lower court ended with Daranee receiving an 18-year jail term for lese majeste speeches.

Reactions following the early posting of the verdict scheduled for October by readers on Prachatai news website were swift and full of resentment.

"Strange but true, the judicial process dares not conduct its trial openly and dares not allow the public to know that they are so just," wrote a poster in Thai language.

Yesterday, a writer on by the name of Elizabeth Fitzgerald wrote a note in English asking whether the Constitution Court's ruling was sound or not.

"It is worth asking what it means when the public is excluded from observing a trial - in a democracy, or a state which claims to be one, is the public not relevant and involved party to a court case?"


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