Court postpones academic’s hearing after editor’s no-show

The Supreme Court has postponed the hearing in the case of Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an academic accused of contempt of court for the publication of an article in the Krungthep Turakit newspaper, after the co-accused news editor did not appear at the hearing on 9 September 2019.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), representing Sarinee, she submitted her statement to the court, denying the accusation of contempt of court. She accepted that she was the author of the article criticizing the court’s jurisdiction. However, she said she wrote the article in good faith and with good intentions, in order to improve the Thai justice system.

In submitting the statement, she wanted to apologize if some words may be deemed harsh or may cause damage to the court's reputation. However, she insisted that her written article was not a violation of contempt of court under Section 32(2) of the Thai Civil Code, which states that contempt of court charges against such potentially-influential publications are warranted only “during the  trial of a case up to final judgement” and where the said influence “appears likely to prejudice the fairness of such case.”

She also called for an opportunity to prove her innocence by summoning other witnesses to testify in court and to guarantee her right to a fair trial according to Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), before the court adjudicates the final decision which cannot be appealed.

Sarinee was accused of contempt of court for the publication of her article “The danger of excessive rule by law (again): the case of MP candidates’ media shares” ("อันตรายภาวะนิติศาสตร์ล้นเกิน (อีกที) กรณีหุ้นสื่อของผู้สมัครส.ส.") in Krungthep Turakit on 14 May 2019, which has since been taken down from the paper’s website.

The civil case was filed by Supradit Jeensawake, Secretary of the Supreme Court’s Election Cases Division, who said that the article criticized the Supreme Court, saying that the Court was careless in its interpretation of the law preventing individuals with shares in media companies from running as MP candidates and that this interpretation is dangerous.

Supradit also said that the article accused the Election Cases Division of the Supreme Court of using the law incessantly and interpreting it without considering the facts and the spirit of the law. Supradit thinks that Sarinee did not criticize the Court’s ruling with pure intentions, but is attacking the Court.

The editor of Krungthep Turakit, who was accused along with Sarinee, allegedly did not receive the summons and did not appear at the hearing. The Court therefore ordered the summons to be re-issued and delivered to the paper’s office.

The news editor is to appear in court to submit a statement on 26 September, when there will also be an examination of the accusers. Another examination of Sarinee and witnesses will be held on 1 October and the court will rule on the case on 11 October.