Thai court dismisses defamation case against UK activist Andy Hall

Image caption Mr Hall still faces more charges, including one of violating Thailand's computer crimes act

A Thai court has dismissed a criminal defamation case against a British labour activist who criticised conditions in the food industry.

A Thai pineapple company brought the case against Andy Hall after a report he wrote which alleged labour abuses by the firm and others.

The court said the investigation into the case did not meet certain legal requirements.

Mr Hall faces more charges of violating Thailand's computer crimes act.

Last year, Mr Hall authored a report for Finnwatch, a Finland-based watchdog, alleging poor labour conditions in seafood and pineapple export companies in Thailand.

The allegations include wages below the legal minimum, long working hours at factories and illegally confiscating passports.

Natural Fruit, which brought the charges, was one of the companies named and denies the findings of the report.

The defamation charges relate to an interview Mr Hall gave to the Al-Jazeera network on the allegations in the report while in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

Image caption Supporters of Mr Hall gathered outside the court on Wednesday
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Hall, an activist from Spalding, Lincolnshire, authored a report exposing labour abuses in Thailand

"Hall gave the interview outside of the Kingdom of Thailand therefore the investigation into the case had to include a team of police and officials from the attorney-general's office," a judge said.

"However, there was only one police officer at the time of his interrogation, therefore we deem the investigation to be incomplete."

On Finnwatch's Facebook page Mr Hall said: "I'm delighted at today's court ruling. It's real victory for migrant workers, labour rights, rule of law, freedom of expression in Thailand".

A lawyer for Natural Fruit said the company would appeal against the decision. Mr Hall also still faces a number of other civil and criminal defamation cases brought by the firm.

He has also been charged with violation of the computer crimes act, which holds a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says Thailand's treatment of migrant workers has come under ever increasing international scrutiny.

Thailand imports migrant labour from neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar for farming, fishing and construction jobs.

However, many work without official permits and are paid below minimum wage.

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