“I do not want to go to jail, but I will not negotiate with those who unfairly prosecute me.”
Time is running out for a Spalding human rights activist defending Burmese workers in Thailand whom he says are being abused producing goods for shops in Europe and the United States.
Andy Hall (33) has been issued with criminal and civil libel suits by Thai company Natural Fruit, of Pranburi – one of the country’s biggest pineapple exporters – and faces jail and damages of US$10 million.
He said: “They can arrest, prosecute and imprison me as they choose. Maybe I will or maybe I won’t claim bail if they do. But there is no doubt on one thing. I will win the case.
“I have never run away from the case, but my lawyers have no idea what Natural Fruit is claiming as they never delivered the documents to me.”
Mr Hall was one of a team who produced a report on companies employing immigrant labour for the watchdog organisation Finnwatch. But, rather than sue Finnwatch, Natural Fruits chose to sue Mr Hall personally after they gathered information he had presented to a meeting at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
Since a warrant for him to appear in court on Thursday was issued, Mr Hall’s sister, Joanne Clay, has been in touch with Spalding MP John Hayes in the hope the British government can intervene.
Joanne, whose parents Pat and Des Hall also live in Spalding and are currently in Thailand with Andy, said: “I have great faith in my brother - he’s done nothing wrong. He’s just a quiet human rights activist who has been working for over a decade to help poor people.
“But we can’t afford to wait. I’ve been trying to get the Government to protect him, but they are not doing anything.
“I’m so scared - I just want something done about it.”
This week Mr Hayes has been chasing up the Foreign Office to see what can be done to help Mr Hall.
Mr Hayes said: “I want to assure Mrs Clay I will do all I can to establish through British authorities what the position is on the case.
“I understand Mrs Clay’s anxiety - who wouldn’t be worried? We will see what can be done to alleviate her concerns.
“A British citizen abroad should expect to be treated justly and fairly through the legal system anywhere in the world - our relationship with other countries depends on that.”
Residents can show their support to Mr Hall on an Act Now protest launched by LabourStart.
More than 7100 global labour activists are petitioning Natural Fruit and the Thai government for the prosecutions to be dropped.
Mr Hall said: “Thank you to all who are supporting me. Supermarkets in Spalding, like across the UK, purchase huge amounts of products from factories in Thailand that abuse workers - particularly prawn, pineapple, juices, fish and coconut milk.
“It’s time the UK government and its people took a position on this exploitation.
“Instead, they stay silent and reap benefits, such as cheap supermarket prices, of the abusive conditions that condone many migrants to a life of slavery, debt bondage and exploitation in Thailand.”
To add your support, visit http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=1765