The court found Mr Hall guilty for defamation, and sentenced him to four years in prison and ordered him to pay a B150,000 fine. Imprisonment will be suspended for two years.
Andy Hall will appeal the ruling and apply for bail, reported Finnish civil society organisation Finnwatch.
The charges Mr Hall was found guilty of related to a Finnwatch report titled “Cheap Has a High Price”, published in 2013.
The report outlined allegations of serious human rights violations at Natural Fruit’s pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
“We are shocked by today’s verdict,” said Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director of Finnwatch.
“The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it. Andy has been made a scapegoat in order to stifle other voices that speak out legitimately in support of migrant worker rights,” she said in a release issued today.
“This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand. We fear that many other human rights defenders and victims of company abuse will be scared to silence by this ruling,” Ms Vartiala added.
“Thailand’s laws that allow for criminal punishment and even imprisonment for defamation are in clear breach of Thailand’s international human rights obligations. Instead of allowing companies to take human rights defenders to criminal courts for alleged defamation, Thailand needs to thoroughly follow through on allegations of violations of migrant workers’ rights.”
In October 2014, the Prakanong Court in Bangkok dismissed another criminal defamation case brought by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall on the grounds of a flawed prosecution that was in breach of the Thai Criminal Procedure Law.
Appeals in this case, submitted by both Natural Fruit and Thailand’s Attorney General, are currently being considered by Thailand’s Supreme Court after the Appeals Court threw out an initial appeal in September 2015.
In addition to the two criminal cases, Natural Fruit has also filed two civil claims for damages against Andy Hall totalling B400 million (about 10 million euros). These cases have been but on hold until the corresponding criminal cases have been concluded.