The Criminal Court yesterday sentenced red-shirt activist Jatuporn Prompan to six months in jail and fined him Bt50,000 for defaming Abhisit Vejjajiva, the opposition Democrat Party leader, and inciting public hatred against him by taking to the red-shirt
The jail term was commuted to two years and then suspended on grounds that Jatuporn, a former Pheu Thai party-list MP and core leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, had never served time before.
The court did not find Jatuporn guilty of libel for accusing Abhisit of draft-dodging, saying the documents presented by Abhisit in his defence were suspect.
In his defamation suit filed on March 15, 2010, Abhisit said that from January 29-February 15 of that year, Jatuporn addressed the red-shirt rally, which was televised across the country by the People Channel, and accused him, who was prime minister at the time, of ordering the killing of people.
The defendant’s speeches had caused public misunderstanding that Abhisit was a man of ruthlessness for ordering the killing of the innocent, the Democrat leader said, adding that the slander had also brought shame and insult to him.
The suit also stated that on January 29, 2010, Jatuporn had alleged that Abhisit must be disqualified as prime minister because he used falsified documents to apply as a lecturer to the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. The suit said the accusation had misled the public into believing that Abhisit had no credibility or grace to continue as prime minister since he had evaded military conscription.
The court said that although Abhisit testified that he was a student under the supervision of the Civil Service Commission and received a Sor Dor 41, which is an exemption for military draft, he could not produce the document in court.
Although Abhisit argued that he once showed the Sor Dor 20, the list of people exempted from military draft, with his name as the third on the list, to Parliament, the Sor Dor 20 cannot be used as an official draft exemption. Only the Sor Dor 41, which is countersigned by the Interior Ministry, is the legitimate document.
Abhisit also could not back his claim with solid evidence that he never used fake documents in applying to the academy.
The court said Jatuporn, who was then an opposition MP, had the right to check on the PM’s integrity over military conscription before Abhisit assumed the post and Jatuporn also made the comment with an honest intention.
However, the court said Jatuporn made an unfounded accusation without evidence that the plaintiff chaired a meeting to order a crackdown on protesters. The court said Jatuporn made the statements at the red-shirt rallies to provoke hatred against Abhisit.
Jatuporn was also ordered to publish the court verdict in two local newspapers for seven days.
Abhisit’s lawyer Bandit Siripan said his client would appeal the ruling on the draft-dodging issue and warned the ruling party not to use the matter to its political advantage because the lower court decision was not final.
Winyat Chatmontri, Jatuporn’s lawyer, said his client would appeal against the libel conviction.