Lawyer accused of defying police orders denies charges

A human rights lawyer for the 14 well-known anti-junta youth activists detained in June and July 2015, has denied charges that she refused to cooperate with police officers.

Sirikan Charoensiri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), met police officers at Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok on Tuesday, 9 February 2016, to hear the charges against her after she received a summons from the police station last week.

According to the summons, Pol Col Suriya Jamnongchok, an investigator in the case of 14 anti-junta youth activists detained for about two weeks in June and July last year, accused Sirikan under Articles 172 and 368 of the Criminal Code of propagating false accusations against investigating officers and disobeying police orders.

The police filed the charges against Sirikan for objecting to a search of her car by officers on the night of 27 June 2015 in front of the Military Court of Bangkok after the 14 activists were arrested and taken to the court.

The police then wanted to confiscate the mobile phones of some of the activists which were in Sirikan’s car, but she refused, claiming that the police did not have with them a warrant to search her car.

Sirikan Charoensiri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), in front of Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok on Tuesday, 9 February 2016 (courtesy of New Democracy Movement) 

The next day, she went to Samranrat Police Station at around 1 pm to file a complaint against the police under Article 157 of the Thai Criminal Code, malfeasance in office, pointing out that officers unlawfully confiscated her car for the search.

Pawinee Chunsri, another lawyer from TLHR, reported that at the police station today Sirikan denied the charges, adding that the police did not have the warrant with them when they wanted to search the car and that the circumstances surrounding the search were suspicious because they wanted to search the car in the middle of the night.

At around 12:30 pm, after the discussion with the officers ended, Sirikan said that she merely acknowledged the charge under Article 368, adding that it is unclear as to why she is also charged under Article 172 for propagating false accusations against officers.

Sam Zarifi, Asia Director of the International Commission of Jurists and officers from Amnesty International came to observe the hearing at the police station together with several TLHR lawyers and many other pro-democracy and human rights activists.  

Article 172 states that whoever gives false information concerning a criminal offence to public prosecutors, officials conducting cases, inquiry officers or any official who has the power to investigate criminal cases, which may cause injury to another person or the public, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding two years, or fined not more than 4,000 baht, or both.

Article 368 stipulates that whoever disobeys the orders of an official according to the authority invested by law, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding ten days, or fined no more than 500 baht, or both. If such orders are authorized by law and require a person to assist in carrying out activities in the function of officials, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding one month, or fined not more than 1,000 baht, or both.