D-Day for Spalding human rights activist Andy

Andy Hall
Andy Hall
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Migrant rights campaigner Andy Hall will tomorrow morning (Tuesday) find out his fate in a Thai court – where he could be jailed for as long as seven years.

At 9am local time (3am in England), Bangkok South Criminal Court will announce its verdict in a criminal case brought by Natural Fruit Company against the human rights activist from Spalding.

He has been accused of criminal defamation and computer crimes charges in court hearings stretching over almost four years.

The case involved 24 defence and prosecution witnesses and follows submission of closing statements in the case last month.

The verdict will be read in room 405 of the Court on Charoen Krung Road with EU, UK and Finnish government observers in attendance.

The charges in this case carry a maximum combined penalty of seven years imprisonment as well as fines, should Mr Hall be found guilty.

He will attend the hearing alongside his legal defence team.

Mr Hall has been pursued through the courts in Thailand relentlessly since early 2013 in a series of cases brought by Natural Fruit Company, after he exposed allegations of labour abuses at the global fruit juice business.

Thai-speaking Mr Hall (37) has lived in Thailand for 11 years and is one of the country’s most prominent campaigners for the rights of migrant workers in the seafood and agricultural industries.

His retired parents, Patricia (70) and Desmond Hall (68) still live in Spalding.

Mr Hall’s work has earned him many admirers in Thailand and two seafood industry associations there have helped fund his bail as they backed his work to improve labour conditions.

But Natural Fruit, one of the world’s largest juice exporters, has lodged four separate criminal and civil cases that could result in huge damages awards and several years behind bars if he is convicted.

The most serious case is criminal defamation and computer crimes for allegedly uploading the information online.

His legal troubles follow his work as a freelance research for Finnwatch, a Finnish campaign group, investigating working conditions for migrant workers in Thailand.

The report, Cheap Has a High Price, published in 2012, disclosed allegations of abusive conditions, illegally low pay and discrimination made by Burmese labourers at the Natural Fruit canning facility.

The company denied the allegations and lodged defamation cases within weeks.

Mr Hall could be jailed for two years on the criminal defamation charges, while the computer crimes charges carry a maximum sentence of another five years.