Lawyer of lèse majesté suspect faces additional criminal defamation charge

A Thai police officer has filed an additional criminal defamation charge against an embattled defence lawyer.

On 3 June 2016, the Criminal Court held a conciliation hearing between Benjarat Meetian, the lawyer for Thanakrit Thongngernperm, a suspect in the alleged Bike for Dad terrorist plot who is also charged under the lèse majesté law, and Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng, head of the legal office of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Pol Col Mingmontree Siripong, a police investigation officer, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

Maj Gen Wicharn and Pol Col Mingmontree did not attend the hearing. Therefore, no agreement has been reached between the two parties.  

However, Benjarat told TLHR that Pol Col Mingmontree filed an additional criminal defamation charge under Article 328 of the Criminal Code against her over one of her interviews.

The additional charge was filed at Phaholyothin Police Station and she has been summoned to report to police investigators at the station on 8 June 2016, TLHR reported.

The military and police officers filed a criminal defamation complaint against Benjarat after she filed a complaint on 29 November 2015 under Articles 172, 173, 174, 181, and 328 of the Criminal Code 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 the nine suspects in an alleged 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 almost two years 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.

In addition to being charged for reported involvement in the alleged Bike for Dad terrorist plot, Thanakrit is also accused of offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for allegedly defaming the Thai monarchy in a conversation with other inmates in prison.

According to Benjarat, eight other suspects in the alleged terrorist plot are also accused under the lèse majesté law, and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Code, for contacting each other online to stage an attack on the auspicious event for the King.

The Criminal Court has scheduled another conciliation hearing between the two parties on 15 June and will hold another hearing in the case on 17 June.

Benjarat Meetian, the lawyer for Thanakrit Thongngernperm, a suspect in the alleged Bike for Dad terrorist plot who is also charged under the lèse majesté law (file photo)

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