19 September protest defendants announce withdrawal of legal representation

22 people facing charges relating to the protests on 19 – 20 September 2020, including 7 protest leaders facing lèse majesté charges, have withdrawn their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.  

A part of Anon Nampa's written declaration saying "Denial of the process of injustice." 

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, following the examination of evidence on Thursday (8 April) at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, 22 out of 23 defendants in the case declared that they intend to withdraw legal representation on the ground that the regulations and practices they experienced during the trial procedures do not facilitate a fair trial.

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat  Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

All of the defendants with the exception of Patiwat, requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties. The court has yet to rule on this request.

TLHR said that the defendants have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials. The names of the lawyers and defendants who are part of each hearing are strictly checked. Lawyers who would like to speak individually with the defendants have also been assaulted or had their telephones seized. Several defendants who are being detained pending trial and others who have been granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other.

Despite a request by Anon and Jatupat that the court order prison officials to respect their rights, the court said that it would do what it sees as appropriate and did not order prison officials to act with respect to the rights of the defendants or the lawyers.

There are also measures keeping family members and other individuals from observing the proceedings. TLHR said that those who came to observe the 8 April hearing had to register their names and ID numbers with court officials. The defendants’ family members were initially forbidden from even entering the court building and were told by court police that they do not have permission to enter the courtroom and it would be a waste of their time to try.

They were later told to wait in the arraignment room, so some of the relatives sat down on the stairs in front of the court building to express their disagreement. They had to wait for a long time before they were allowed up to the 7th floor, where the hearing took place. Panupong’s mother, who arrived after the others had already gone up, had to wait in front of the court while security guards radioed for permission for her to join them. She was also not allowed to give her son the glasses she had brought him and had to send them through prison officials.

The women’s bathroom on the 7th floor was also closed to everyone but court officials, and the area around the elevator was fenced off from the rest of the floor while court officials and guards patrolled the area inside and outside the courtroom. The relatives were also not allowed to sit in a nearby room, where there were chairs and air conditioning.

During the hearing on 7 April, the shops under the court building were closed, so food could not be bought for the detainees. Other defendants were not allowed to go downstairs to eat but officials brought food and drink to the court room due to Covid-19 restrictions. On 8 April, the defendants were taken downstairs to eat, but their families were not allowed to buy food for them.

These measures have been implemented despite the court not having ordered the case to be heard in secret, and the defendants and lawyers said they do not facilitate a fair and open trial.

Anon also wrote a declaration to the court saying that he would like to withdraw all legal representation on the ground that he has been denied bail and treated in ways which are degrading, that he cannot participate in a judicial process which is “carried out with fear and without taking human dignity into account.” He also wrote that the law has been used to silence the demands of the younger generation, that violence has been used to suppress protests, and that their detention will lead to fear in society and no one will dare to speak the truth.

“In this trial, our right to fully fight the case has been violated,” he wrote. “The courtroom has been made into a prison.” He then went onto say that the process is unconstitutional, and that the defendants and lawyers agreed that if they continue to participate in the procedure, they would be promoting a process of injustice.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.

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