Spalding human rights defender Andy Hall is celebrating a landmark victory after a court in Thailand dismissed a criminal defamation charge against him.
Andy (35) co-wrote a report for a Finland-based watchdog, Finnwatch, alleging labour abuses against migrant workers by a Thai pineapple company, Natural Fruit, and other companies – and found himself facing a series of court cases with the threat of eight years in jail and fines totalling £8million.
Today Andy’s supporters are lobbying Thai embassies in four countries, including the UK, and his parents, Des and Pat, have joined activists outside the Thai embassy in London in a bid to have further lawsuits dropped.
The first of Natural Fruit’s four lawsuits against Andy was thrown out by the court due to an “unlawful interrogation process”, according to Finnwatch.
Andy told the Spalding Guardian: “I’m delighted at today’s court ruling. It’s a real victory for migrant workers, labour rights, rule of law (and) freedom of expression in Thailand.”
But another court case is due to start tomorrow (Thursday).
Finnwatch – and the protesters outside Thai embassies in the UK, the United States, Finland and The Netherlands – are asking the Thai Government to step in and have all of the cases against Andy dropped.
Andy told the Spalding Guardian he deeply appreciates the “global solidarity” shown with the embassy protests.
Finnwatch executive director Sonja Vartiala said: “Finnwatch demands Natural Fruit now drop all of the charges against Andy Hall. Instead of allowing companies to bring human rights activists to court, Thailand needs to prosecute companies like Natural Fruit, who are violating labour rights.”
During Andy Hall’s trial, the court heard evidence that Natural Fruit was hiring under-aged children and paying unlawfully low salaries to its workers.