Bike for Dad plot lawyer retaliates against junta with suit

A lawyer representing a Bike for Dad plot suspect has sued the Thai junta’s law officers and a police officer after they launched a criminal defamation complaint against her.  

Benjarat Meetian, the lawyer for Thanakrit Thongngernperm, a suspect in the Bike for Dad terrorist plot, on Tuesday, 15 December 2015, filed lawsuits at the Criminal Court against Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng, head of the law office of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Pol Lt Col Mingmontree Siripong, an investigative officer.

The lawyer accused the two officers of defaming her and propagating false charges against her.

The Criminal Court has scheduled the deposition hearing on the case for 2 May 2016.

On 8 December 2015, Maj Gen Wicharn and Col Burin Thongprapai, a member of the military Judge Advocate General’s Department, filed a criminal defamation charge against Benjarat.

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 Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy Police Chief, for allegedly filing false charges and defaming her client.

The military and police accuse Thanakrit of being one of nine suspects in a terrorist plot around Bike for Dad, a cycling rally to honour HM the King on 11 December 2015. It has been rumoured 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 phone 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 the authorities pressured Thanakrit to change his attorney in the case. She said that after Thanakrit signed a document to appoint her as his lawyer for the second time, the authorities attempted to force him to sign a document to appoint a new lawyer.

The officers also persuaded Thanakrit to withdraw the complaint against them in exchange for not having to face trial in the Khon Kaen Model case, Benjarat added.   

The lawyer also alleged that she was intimidated by the military while she was at the 11th Army Circle to visit four other suspects in 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.

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