Appeal court to bring back charges against prominent anti-junta activist

Overturning an earlier verdict, the Appeal Court has ordered a lower court to reconsider dismissing charges against a prominent anti-junta activist.      
On 11 October 2016, the Pathumwan District Court in Bangkok read the Appeal Court’s order over the case of Apichat Pongsawat, a 27-year-old prominent anti-junta activist.
 
Apichat is indicted with violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits any political gathering of five or more persons.
 
On 11 February 2016, the Court of First Instance dismissed charges against Apichat on grounds that the prosecution did not present documents on the division of authority among public officers to sufficiently affirm that police officers from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) had the authority to interrogate Apichat.
 
The Appeal Court, however, has now ordered the lower court to reconsider its earlier ruling, reasoning that the CSD police officers had the authority to interrogate the suspect.
 
After the judge read the Appeal Court’s order, Apichat was detained in the cell under the court basement briefly, but was later released on bail.
Apichat, a former graduate law student of Thammasat University, was among the first group of people to be arrested by coup-makers in the immediate aftermath of the May 2014 coup d’état.
 
On 23 May 2014, one day after the coup, he was arrested by military officers in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in central Bangkok holding a flyer reading “I will not accept barbaric power” and shouting pro-democracy slogans such as “return power to the people”.
 
The military detained him for seven days under the martial law then in force, before transferring him to Bangkok Remand Prison for another 23 days in detention. Before his release, Apichat’s family offered bail of 1,000,000 baht (about 27,751 USD) four times but the court rejected repeatedly, citing flight risk.
 
Besides violating the junta’s ban on assemblies, the prosecutors also indicted Apichat for offenses under Articles 215, 216, and 368 of Thailand’s Criminal Code.
 
During the first hearing on the case in November 2015, the judge told Apichat and his lawyers that the case was not serious. Even if he was proven guilty, the sentence would not be heavy. Apichat maintained that he would fight until the end to prove his innocence even though doing so might result in a heavier sentence.

Apichat arrested by a military officers after participating in an anti-coup protest in central Bangkok on 23 May 2014 (file photo)