Delay in activist’s human rights abuse libel trial

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A firm which claims it has been libelled by a Spalding human rights activist has been given longer to prepare its court case against him.

Andy Hall was due to appear at court in Bangkok last Wednesday to face criminal charges relating to claims he has made about Thai company Natural Fruit.

The company claims Mr Hall’s allegations of human rights abuses against its workers have resulted in a “significant loss of reputation” and that it has been “loathed and looked down upon by the public and overseas persons who received knowledge of the defendant’s claims”.

Mr Hall claims his research shows violations of workers’ rights, including the use of child labour, lower than minimum wage pay and refusal to allow workers days off and bonuses in line with the law.

Natural Fruit is one of Thailand’s biggest pineapple exporters.

It has issued criminal and civil cases against Mr Hall (33), who could face a prison term and damages of US$10million.

Mr Hall did not attend the court hearing last Wednesday when Natural Fruit’s lawyer asked the Bangkok South Criminal Court for permission to postpone the next case hearing to July 8 to allow time for further preparation.

Last month Mr Hall wrote on his blog that he is willing to face the court as soon as Natural Fruit provide him with 
documentation of its case against him.

He said: “At this point, my legal team and I cannot prepare because we don’t know the case against us. That’s why we are not attending any of the hearings at court.

“Once we find out the case against us, we can prepare a counterclaim and sue the Natural Fruit Company.

“The research we conducted and reported is completely true.

“There’s clearly no intention for me to defame them or do anything wrong, just to present the truth in the public interest and to protect the workers in the factory.

“I certainly have all the documents and evidence to show that there is abuse going on at the factory, so there is no doubt that we will win the case because what we have said is true.”