On 31 Oct, the Criminal Court acquitted Suraphak Phuchaisang of lèse majesté charges, and released a summary version of the verdict to reporters. Here is a translation of the official summary verdict:
The prosecutor accused the defendant of creating a personal e-mail account, email@example.com, and using it in the capacity as the owner to create a Facebook profile titled, ‘I shall reign by staging coups’. The defendant wrote messages deemed insulting, defaming and threatening to His Majesty the King, and imported those messages, or false computer data, into a computer system. The prosecutor asked [the court] to punish [the defendant] according to Sections 33, 91, and 112 of the Criminal Code and Sections 3, 14, and 17 of the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act, and confiscate all evidence.
The defendant pleaded not guilty.
[The court] considers that, according to evidence shown to the court by the prosecutor, it does not appear that the defendant has the e-mail account firstname.lastname@example.org or the password for the Facebook account ‘I shall reign by staging coups’ which was registered in the system. It was learned that the password which the defendant wrote for police officers was merely the password to open the defendant’s notebook computer, and was the same one for the defendant’s e-mail account email@example.com and Facebook account. Normally, an account user would keep secret his passwords for e-mail or Facebook accounts to prevent access by other people. But after the defendant was arrested and detained, the e-mail account firstname.lastname@example.org continued to be active.
According to the prosecutor, the fact that the password for an e-mail address is found in the computer of an individual and that the e-mail address is used to log in to a Facebook account is evidence that that individual owns that Facebook account. This is merely the understanding of prosecution witnesses, without other corroborating evidence being presented. On examination, the computer files InboxLight.htm, which logs the use of the email account email@example.com, and home.htm, which refers to the Facebook profile ‘I shall reign by staging coups’, were [allegedly] found in the defendant’s notebook computer which has been seized as evidence, and it was found that the email and Facebook accounts were accessed on 2 and 8 January 2011, respectively, which predated the postings of the messages as charged by the prosecutor by several months. If the notebook computer was really used to post the messages, logs of computer use should have been found to match the time of the postings, but nothing has been found, and no connection has been found between the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and the Facebook account ‘I shall reign by staging coups.’
Furthermore, such computer files can be copied from other computers in less than a second, and the defence argued that the computer files could never be found in the computer’s normal data storage, were not created during internet use, but were produced and imported into on the seized computer. The properties of the files are found to be irregular in terms of time. During the trial, defence witnesses showed the court how the copying of such files could in fact be done. Considering in detail the forensic report on the seized computer, the court found many irregularities as had been attested by the defence.
The court has to take into account the credibility of how the original data was preserved, because each start-up of the computer results in certain automatic changes and data can be easily altered or modified. It appears that after the defendant was detained and his notebook computer was seized by the police, the computer was started up on 2 September 2011 at 20.13.44 hrs and on 7 September 2011 at 21.12.07 hrs, before the computer was sent to the forensic police officer for examination, and this could allow modifications of the data of the seized computer. Therefore, the results of the examination of the computer are flawed and unreliable, and it cannot be clearly concluded that the data pertaining to the use of the email account email@example.com and Facebook account ‘I shall reign by staging coups’ results from the use of the defendant’s notebook computer.
The evidence attested by the prosecutor contains reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant committed the alleged offences. The court decides to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt according to Section 227, Paragraph 2, of the Criminal Procedure Code.