Court overturns conviction in the murder of activist
The Appeals Court yesterday overturned a murder conviction in relation to the killing of environmental activist Charoen Wataksorn.Charoen, gunned down in broad daylight in 2004, was campaigning against the construction of a coal-fired power plant in his home province of Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The court yesterday contradicted the lower court's verdict and acquitted one of the five defendants, citing insufficient evidence. The lower court had already acquitted two of the defendants, while the other two died ahead of the judicial review.
Charoen's wife, Korn-uma, said she anticipated this verdict, especially after the alleged gunman died.
She called on the public prosecutors to prove themselves and deliver justice to her family. "But based on the Appeals Court's decision, I find it difficult to place hope on the [final] verdict from the Supreme Court," she said.
The five defendants, Saneh Lekluan, Prachuab, Thanu, Manot and Jua Hinkaew, were accused of conspiring to put a contract on Charoen's life. The prosecution contended that Thanu, Manot and Jua had hired Prachuab and Saneh to kill Charoen following a feud over the construction project.
In 2008, the lower court ruled that even though Prachuab and Saneh had died before trial, the prosecution presented credible arguments about their motives. It also handed down a guilty verdict for Thanu and sentenced him to execution by shooting.
In the same verdict, Manot and Jua were acquitted due to insufficient evidence. But under court order, Jua has remained in remand pending appellate review. Manot was freed.
According to the high court, the prosecution only had statements from the two dead defendants to implicate Thanu. There was no other physical evidence or witnesses to corroborate the two statements.
Furthermore, the statements did not link Manot and Jua to the case. The appellate ruling acquitted Thanu and confirmed the acquittals of Manot and Jua.
Emerged from the court session, Thanu just smiled but refused to talk to reporters.