From the TUC

European Parliament latest to slam Thailand for harassing Andy Hall

17 Oct 2015, By

UPDATE 19 Oct 2015: the indictment hearing was adjourned again today because papers had not been properly served, and the hearing has been rescheduled for 18 January. Assuming Andy’s persecutors don’t stuff up again!

Andy Hall, the British-born, Thailand-based migrant and trade union rights advocate, is back in court on Monday, 19 October. The latest court hearing is to decide whether to indict him for criminal defamation by publication (carrying a possible maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment) and computer crimes (with a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment) relating to the publication by Finnish human rights NGO Finnwatch on their website of a report from 2012 covering three factories, the owners of only one of them (Natural Fruit) having demanded the charges be laid.

As the court cases rumble on, with yet another victory for Andy and defeat for his persecutors in September, the European Parliament has now got involved, thanks to his parents’ local MEP and leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Glenis Willmott.

Glenis took Andy’s case up at the request of the TUC and Andy’s parents over the summer, pressing the European Commission to back Andy’s case more forcefully, and arranging for his case to be raised in a European Parliament debate on 8 October when her fellow Labour MEP Anneliese Dodds argued that Thailand should stop the abuse of its judicial system to persecute human rights defenders like Andy. Glenis said:

“Andy’s parents, Des and Pat are based in Lincolnshire and approached me approached me via the TUC, as their local MEP.  I was shocked to learn that Andy had such outrageous charges brought against him by a Thai company for simply undertaking research that showed abuses of their workers’ rights.

“I have written to the EU High Representative and have demanded to know what the EU is doing to protect Andy and to ensure that the trial is held in accordance with international human rights conventions.

“I hope that the Thai Authorities will listen and will end this circus that Andy has been subjected to.”

Other MEPs joined in the call: social democrats from Austria and Romania, and Heidi Hautala, a Green MEP from Finland. She reported on her blog that:

“The Parliament asked the EU delegation in Thailand to continue to follow Hall’s legal situation closely and to attend his trial. I already appealed to the delegation with a letter in August. I was pleased to hear Commissioner Stylianides confirming today that the EU delegation will be there. EU presence may be crucial to the fate of the human rights defender.

“The EU should also condemn on a higher level, by the high representative, the judicial harassment of Hall and demand Thailand to investigate the allegations against Natural Fruit. Andy Hall’s court process should be given EU’s financial support directed to human rights defenders, same way as happened in 2013.”

Responding to the debate, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides agreed to continue following Andy’s case and attending trial hearings, and to raise concerns with the Thai authorities. You can follow the progress of the case on twitter (the hashtag is #freeandyhall) or on his website.