Junta sues lawyer of Bike for Dad plot suspect

The Thai junta’s law officers have filed a criminal defamation complaint against the lawyer of a Bike for Dad plot suspect while the lawyer alleged that the authorities intimidated her and pressured her client to change his attorney.

Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng, the head of the law office of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), and Col Burin Thongprapai, a member of the military Judge Advocate General’s Department, on Tuesday, 8 December 2015, filed a criminal defamation charge against Benjarat Meetian, a lawyer for Thanakrit Thongngernperm, a suspect in the Bike for Dad terrorist plot.

The complaint was filed with Pol Lt Col Athiluck Wangsiriworakun, a special investigator of the Royal Thai Police.

The military officers filed the complaint against Benjarat after she filed a complaint on 29 November 2015 under Articles 172, 173, 174, 181, and 328 against Maj Gen Wicharn and Pol Gen Sriwarah Rangsipramkul, the Deputy Police Chief, for allegedly filing false charges and defaming her client.

The military and police accuse Thanakrit of being one of the nine suspects in a terrorist plot around Bike for Dad, a cycling rally to honour HM the King on 11 December 2015. Rumour has it that the prime target of the foiled terrorist plot was Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister.

Thanakrit, however, has been detained for more than a year since shortly after the 2014 coup d’état as he is one of the 26 suspects in the ‘Khon Kaen Model’ uprising case. Despite the fact that the he has been in detention, the police claimed that Thanakrit contacted other suspects via mobile phones from the prison cells.

Thanakrit during an interrogation denied the police allegation, saying that he could not use a personal mobile phone to contact others outside the prison cells since it is the rule of all correctional facilities nationwide.

Last week, Krit Wongvech, the Director of the Central Correctional Facility of the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, confirmed Thanakrit’s statement, saying that it is strictly forbidden for inmates to use personal mobile phones and illustrated that a signal would ring immediately if the prison phone interception devices detect phone signals coming from the cells.    

“In addition, there are phone interception devices installed in the prison that could cut off phone signals, so it is very difficult for the 4,000 prisoners in this detention facility to contact others outside,” said Krit, the prison director.

Benjarat said earlier that it is impossible for Thanakrit to be involved in the Bike for Dad plot with eight other suspects all of whom have also been accused of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Code, for contacting each other online to stage an attack on the upcoming auspicious event for the King.

The lawyer also alleged that she was intimidated by the military while she was in the 11th Circle Army Base to visit four other suspects of the Bike for Dad plot on 30 November 2015. She reported that after talking to the suspects, she was briefly detained by a military officer who said that she had to see his superior despite the fact that she had to rush to the Criminal Court. The officer locked the door and forced her to wait, saying that he would contact the court for her.

Benjarat added that the authorities also pressured Thanakrit to change his attorney on the case. She said that after Thanakrit signed a document to appoint her as his lawyer for the second time, he was later forced by the authorities to sign a document to appoint a new lawyer.

The complaint filed against the military and police officers for allegedly filing false charges against Thanakrit would be dropped if Benjarat no longer represented him, Benjarat said.

Benjarat also revealed that earlier this week the military also released Chatchanok S., the twin brother of Chatchai S. one of the Bike for Dad plot suspects, after detaining him incommunicado for several days.

Chatchanok refused to discuss details of his detention. He reported that he is still being followed and monitored closely by military officers.

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