Trial of Thai webmaster ends, verdict set for 30 April

[Original title: Trial of Thai webmaster ends, verdict set for 30 April]

The trial of Thai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn, facing criminal charges as an intermediary under the Computer Crime Act (CCA), ended on Thursday, 16 February after hearings that went on and off stretching over a year. The verdict is now set for 30 April 2012.

“It is all over now,” Chiranuch, director of Prachatai alternative news website, told Media Defence – Southeast Asia. “My main personal responsibility in the trial is now completed.”

She said she felt that she had been given a good chance to present her case at the criminal court. “I hope that other defendants will be given such an opportunity as well.

Her trial resumed Tuesday with three defence witnesses taking the stand. Another witness testified on the following day and the last gave her statement on Thursday.

Chiranuch’s defence lawyers said they would now start working on a closing statement for submission to the court in one month.

Judge Kampol Rungrat then announced that he set 30 April for announcing the verdict.

The trial of Chiranuch, who was arrested by police on 6 March 2009 and charged by prosecutors a year later, started on 4 February 2011 but adjourned after continuing for five days in that month. It resumed in September and October, but then adjourned again due to last year’s catastrophic flood in Thailand. It resumed for its last sessions of hearings this week.

Altogether, the prosecutor produced 10 witnesses while the defence team called in nine persons.

Chiranuch, 44, is being charged under Sections 14 and 15 of the Computer Crime Act as an Internet service provider, or intermediary, for 10 different postings, alleged to be defaming the monarchy, that appeared on Prachatai’s web boards at different periods of time between April and November 2008.

Only two of those postings, however, appeared on the web board’s open space provided for visitors to debate issues of their interests, more than a few days – one for 11 days and the other 20 days, according to the prosecutor’s complaint.

It has been established during the hearings that Chiranuch herself was not the person who composed or imported those statements onto the web boards.

But the law says any service provider “intentionally supporting or consenting” to posting of unlawful content could be subject to the same penalty imposed on the poster, which is a maximum imprisonment of five years.

Under the law, there is no rule how long unlawful content need to stay on the Internet before deletion that it can constitute that the service provider intentionally supports or consents to the posting of such content.

As Chiranuch is being charged for 10 such postings, or 10 counts, the combined jail term is 50 years. However, under the sentencing rules of the Penal Code, she would face only a maximum jail term of 20 years if found guilty.

Read this report on Chiranuch’s testimony. 

For a report on the February hearing, read SEAPA’s summary here.

By Sinfah Tunsarawuth 
Media Defence – Southeast Asia (a partner of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance)