Author Topic: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings  (Read 2065 times)

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Offline Johnnie F.

Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« on: February 06, 2011, 07:55:25 PM »
Day One - Free speech on trial in Thailand

The trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, nicknamed Jiew, opened on Friday at Bangkok’s Criminal Court, the venue changed to Courtroom 701. A larger courtroom was needed due to an unprecedented number of observers from numerous Thai and foreign NGOs, local and international media, and foreign embassies.

Chiranuch is a founding signer to Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) and an activist with Than Netizen Network.

The public prosecutor opened Thai government’s case against Chiranuch, webmaster of Thailand’s only independent news portal, Prachatai.com.

Chiranuch has been charged with ten violations of the country’s draconian and unconstitutional Computer Crimes Act which was the first law to be passed by Thailand’s military coup legislature in 2007. Each charge carries a sentence of five years in prison. However, Thailand’s Constitution carries specific protections for free expression which cannot be amended by any lesser law.

However, Chiranuch has not been charged for making such comments herself. Rather, she faces prison stemming from pseudonymous postings and comments to Prachatai’s public webboard in mid-2008, although she was not arrested until March 2009.

Chiranuch has been charged because it is alleged she failed to delete the lèse majesté comments quickly enough from Prachatai, allowing them to remain eleven days in total.

The morning session opened with the first prosecution witness, Aree Jivorarak, chief of Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology’s IT Regulation Bureau. The chief judge, the prosecutor and the witness all spoke in subdued tones without amplification as the content of the postings were read aloud by the witness, nearly inaudible in the public gallery.

Repetition of lèse majesté by anyone is, of course, also lèse majesté and often courts are cleared of the public in such trials. In this case, we were not able to hear them anyway.

The witness seemed frequently confused by the questions posed by the prosecution who seemed on many occasions to lead or direct the MICT censor in his replies.

Thailand’s chief censor smiled and waved to Chiranuch in the dock whom he acknowledged he had consulted frequently and noted that she had always been cooperative and receptive in removing such comments from the Prachatai webboard. Aree also acknowledged that, during the period which is the subject of this trial, MICT had not informed the webmaster about the offending comments.

These charges also resulted in the closure of Prachatai’s public web forum in July 2010. Prachatai was the only forum where netizens could express an opinion on issues of the day. Now we have none.

The judges were all quite young and Chiranuch’s supporters had hope that they might have some Internet experience. However, questions from the bench were required of Aree as to the working definitions of URL, IP address, DNS and ISP. The youth of the judges and a single public prosecutor belied the serious weight Thai government gives to this case.

The afternoon session was given over to the defence bar, a team of three experienced human rights advocates. Even the judges laughed aloud when trial observers broke into spontaneous applause when the sound system was turned on so we could finally hear the proceedings.

Defence cross-examination elicited some surprising testimony from the government’s witness. The ICT ministry, for example, seemed unaware that Prachatai is governed by the directors of a foundation consisting of numerous prominent academics.

When questions were posed about who in government exactly decides content is illegal and what criteria are used to judge such content as lèse majesté, the witness became increasingly vague. Aree stated such decisions were made in committee from various ministries and the Royal Thai Police. However, he was unable not only to name the committee members or their specific agencies but was unsure of the agencies represented themselves.

Thailand’s chief censor also exhibited confusion over what content was considered ‘inappropriate’ and which content was clearly illegal by precise legal definition. Aree stated that there was little oversight over MICT’s censors who would know lèse majesté when they saw it!

There were numerous direct questions posed to the bureaucrat regarding the exact context of lèse majesté. Aree failed to reply to several of these defence questions and sat mute, with no direction the court to answer.

The MICT censor chief also questioned the intentions of the public participants in Prachatai’s web forum. Aree said he also found many of Prachatai’s news articles to be ‘inappropriate’ and solely intended to criticise Thai government.

The witness also relied overwhelmingly on presumption as all ten comments alleged to be defaming the monarchy were cast in indirect terms. He stated that any reader would know that reference to “the blue whale” would know the code for Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, whose Royal colour is blue. That any Thai would know “the blind father” referred to His Majesty King Bhumibol who is sight impaired from youth.

However, when Aree was shown ten pages of comments from Prachatai’s webboard and asked by the defence to mark those he considered lèse majesté, he marked only three items which were not disclosed by the court.

MICT’s bureaucrat also acknowledged that the ministry had tracked the posters of the pseudonymous comments to Prachatai by IP address but only one of them had been charged. This may well be the netizen acquitted last week.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met with members of the Thai Netizen Network in December 2009 and stated the Computer Crimes Act would never be used to suppress citizen media or free public expression.

He has commented publicly at least three times on the Prachatai case, stating the arrest of Chiranuch was the ‘most regrettable’ of his tenure, promising to look into the case and, finally expressing surprise the case against Chiranuch had not been dropped.

The government has had more than two years to drop these spurious charges. The prime minister lies. Under his administration, Thailand has chosen to make the Internet its enemy. We are the Internet generation and Thailand is making war on its people.

Thailand’s iLaw Foundation found in December 2010 that 185 people had been charged under the Computer Crimes Act in a four year period. Thai government is systematically using this law to arrest Thai netizens. Academic Dr. David Streckfuss estimates any lèse majesté charge carries a 98% conviction rate which has resulted in sentences up to 18 years. He estimates 172 such arrests in 2009 alone.

Furthermore, Thailand has blocked 425,296 web pages during the period of martial law April 7 to December 22, 2010 by emergency decree. Prachatai was among the first websites blocked. Not one of those websites has been unblocked since the expiration of emergency powers. iLaw estimates that this number is rising by approximately 690 new blocks per day.

The government plans to call 14 witnesses as does the defence. It is highly unlikely Chiranuch’s trial will be completed in the eight days allotted by the court.

Chiranuch’s case is a landmark for the climate of free expression in Thailand. What is decided by this court will determine whether we live in a democracy governed by human rights and civil liberties or whether we are governed by a military junta at their whim.

For further background see “Overview of Chiranuch’s free speech trial” at http://facthai.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/overview-of-chiranuch’s-free-speech-trial-thai-netizen/.

Unfortunately, Chiranuch’s trial was not the only lèse majesté case starting trial in Bangkok’s Criminal Court today. NorPhorChorUSA webmaster Tantawut Taweewarodomkul, nicknamed Kenny, was also facing lèse majesté charges under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act as well as similar Criminal Code charges.

Kenny has been held without bail since April 2010. NorPhorChor is an acronym for the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, commonly known as the Redshirts. The atmosphere in Courtroom 906 was far more serious.

If reason does not prevail in Thailand, we have no hope for freedom in our future.

The trials resume Tuesday, February 8, at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya), On Ratchadapisek Road opposite Soi 38, Lat Phrao MTR station. Chiranuch’s trial is in Courtroom 701 on February 8-10 and 11-17 and probably longer. Tantawut’s trial will continue in Courtroom 906.

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sicho

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Re: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2011, 08:59:25 AM »
I'm confused by this article. The case seems clearly to be about an alleged lese majeste offence. There are laws specifically for that offence but the article suggests that the prosecution is under the Computer Crimes Act.

The Computer Crimes Act provides punishments for those convicted of stealing or using stolen passwords to gain access to computer data, stealing data, using stolen data, corrupting computer data by unauthorised means and so on.

Here's an unofficial translation  of the Act. Do you know of anyone who might be successfully prosecuted?

http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/117
 

Offline Johnnie F.

Re: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2011, 10:08:08 AM »
Well, I do know of a farang offender under the Computer Crime Act and Lese Majeste in Korat who presumably intended to frame a webmaster with his offending posts. His posts had been removed without delay and his offences most likely committed for harassment have been reported for that offense to the police with the identifying data of the proxy service and the device used by him. Since the said suspect recently was sending invitations for 'stumbledupon' to people not interested in any contacts with him he either has an internet connection in jail or hasn't been prosecuted and incarcerated yet. But I've heard of cases where it took the authorities three years before they unexpectedly arrested. In any case he must be dying to remimd his victims of his offences and "put fire into the community" again. ;)

In Isaan the clocks might run a little slower and it might take more than just two years to arrest and prosecute. Also the Thai government usually keeps  the press from reporting about Lese Majeste trials, i. e. repeating Lese Majeste. So we just might not have heard of him having been put in the slammer.

As to the admin of prachatai she is accused of repeating Lese Majeste by not having removed those Lese Majeste posts in time. The offences have been committed via computer and internet what makes the Computer Crime Act applicable.

I assume this in the article could mean that one of the posters of the alleged Lese Majeste on Prachatai has already been convicted under the Computer Crime Act:

Quote
MICT’s bureaucrat also acknowledged that the ministry had tracked the posters of the pseudonymous comments to Prachatai by IP address but only one of them had been charged. This may well be the netizen acquitted last week.



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Offline Johnnie F.

Re: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2011, 08:39:16 AM »
Thailand: Free speech on trial (day two)

Day Two: Thailand’s chief censor continues in Prachatai trial

The second day in the lèse majesté trial against Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of Thai independent news portal, Prachatai, using the Computer Crimes Act began Tuesday.

Chiranuch, nicknamed Jiew, was charged over ten comments to Prachatai’s public webboard which Thai government says she was not prompt enough to delete. Each charge carries a potential sentence of five years. Chiranuch is facing 50 years in prison for being a journalist. Bangkok’s Criminal Court was once again filled with local and international supporters, media and foreign diplomats.

The defence cross-examination of Aree Jivorarak, chief of Thailand’s ICT ministry and Thai government’s chief censor, continued from Friday.

At today’s hearing, Chiranuch’s defence sought to examine each of the alleged comments insulting Thailand’s monarchy. The defence questioned the indirect phraseology used by the commentators.

Some examples were, does it insult His Majesty the King or Her Majesty the Queen to suggest that they supported the Thai military’s coup d’etat in 2006? Can the use of the pronouns he and she definitively be taken to mean the King, Queen or Heir Apparent? Is any discussion of Thailand’s monarchy, its meaning and duties, demeaning the institution?

One poster asked Prachatai readers to “understand” the King’s own words. Aree repeatedly applied the word “inappropriate”. Of course, inappropriate does not mean illegal!

A posting to Prachatai’s web forum included a hotlink to a Mediafile.com audio file of of a speech made from a Redshirt stage by Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, nicknamed Da Torpedo. Darunee was torpedoed with an 18-year sentence for this instance of lèse majesté in which she called for abolition of the Royals.

The audio file was not enough for our MICT. The file was transcribed and added to the police charges against Chiranuch. However, Mediafile was not blocked and no prosecution was initiated against the file’s uploader.

This raises a crucial legal question as yet untested. Does the Computer Crimes Act criminalize hotlinks?

The MICT chief censor stated that his ministry could not pursue prosecutions but merely recommend their investigation to the Royal Thai Police. The police also are in charge of tracing IP addresses suspected of illegality. In Thailand, ISPs always connect to Internet users via a telephone line which, of course, has an owner and a fixed address.

When asked if the ICT ministry was pursuing a vendetta against Prachatai, the witness stated he did not want to answer, even when directed by the judge. In fact, Aree continued to be evasive of defence questioning. This writer counted at least 34 instances in which he answered, “I’m not sure”, “I don’t remember”, and “I’d have to check”.

He also stated that the law does not have any notice-and-takedown provision. However, Aree said Chiranuch uniformly cooperated in every instance with MICT when they requested deletion of her.

Thailand’s chief censor also explained that his ministry only censors using Google Search and does not filter web fora. When asked if such filtering is done in other countries, Aree stated, “Only in China.”!

On redirect examination by the public prosecutor, the MICT censor admitted to participation in the draft of the draconian computer law promulgated by the military coup legislature. Again today, the prosecutor asked questions of this prosecution witness which contained the right answers.

On defence redirect questioning, Thailand’s censor chief also stated that he had seen banned books on sale from Prachatai. However, he could recall no specific titles and was unsure whether or not banning had taken place. He had not only not tried to buy any of these so-called banned books but wrote no report as to their sale on the website.

Although Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act requires application of a court order to block web pages, often pages were blocked months before. At least 425,296 web pages are blocked in Thailand under martial law until December 22, rising at a rate of around 690 per day.

The principles of freedom of expression as a basic human right also constitutionally protect what Thai government calls lèse majesté. What is at issue is the intent to defame. Another crucial consideration in defamation is whether the statements written are true or not.

It is clearly impossible for someone who did not write the posting to be guilty of any illegality. If government wants to censor our Internet, then it must also police the Internet. It is not the responsibility of webmasters to do government’s dirty work of censorship for them.

Chiranuch’s trial resumes Wednesday, February 9, at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya), on Ratchadapisek Road opposite Soi 38, Lat Phrao MTR station. Chiranuch’s trial is in Courtroom 701 on February 9-11 and 14-17 and probably longer.

Alleged NorPhorChorUSA webmaster Tantawut Taweewarodomkul, nicknamed Kenny, is also facing lèse majesté charges under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act as well as similar Criminal Code charges.

Kenny has been held without bail since April 2010. NorPhorChor is an acronym for the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, commonly known as the Redshirts. Tantawut’s trial will enter its second day Wednesday, February 9 in Courtroom 906.

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Offline Johnnie F.

Re: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 08:41:44 AM »
Thailand: Free speech on trial - day three

Day Three - MICT’s legal advisor testifies: “Freedom has its limits.” (Day one and day two trial)

The third day for prosecution witnesses in the trial of Prachatai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn opened in Bangkok’s Criminal Court Wednesday.

We have written that Chiranuch is facing 50 years on ten charges under Thailand’s draconian Computer Crimes Act. If convicted, Chiranuch could be sentenced to 50 years, five years on each count, but in fact the maximum she could serve is 20 years.

The second witness for the prosecution, Thanit Prapathanan, a legal advisor to Thailand’s ICT ministry since 2005, testified that he had personally seen all ten comments to Prachatai’s public webboard which resulted in Jiew’s charges. The postings and comments to this forum were made anonymously. Chiranuch is charged with lèse majesté because she failed to delete them promptly.

Thanit is designated a “competent official” under the CCA with sole responsibility for protecting Thailand’s monarchy from insult. Lèse majesté is considered a threat to national security.

Thanit received the Prachatai material from the first prosecution witness, MICT’s chief censor, Aree Jivorarak, in the form of documents, DVDs, VCDs and audio CDs for his review. He forwarded these to the Ministry of Justice for their comments and then sought a court order to block Prachatai.

The material included an audio CD of a speech made from the Redshirt stage by Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, nicknamed Da Torpedo, who received an 18-year sentence for lèse majesté. A comment to one of the posts included a hyperlink to this speech on a third-party site. Although the speech was never hosted on Prachatai, MICT is alleging Prachatai is also guilty of repeating its lèse majesté and included a police transcript of the speech in their evidence against Chiranuch.

MICT’s lawyer stated that any intermediary shares the same criminal liability as the poster. Creating a hub for people to communicate and share information made Prachatai liable for all its webboard’s users.

This statement alone reinforced Thai government’s mission in this trial—to intimidate webmasters and stifle free expression among netizens. Government draws its line in the sand but never tells netizens where it is so we never know when we are crossing into criminality.

Thanit expressed concern over defence cross-examination. However, the chief judge reassured him he could reserve his answers.

The lawyer stated he knew of public opposition to the Computer Crimes Act drafted by the ICT ministry and passed by the military coup’s legislature. He said he was aware that free speech was guaranteed by the Thai Constitution—no lesser laws may restrict that right. However, Thanit said that parts of the CCA did just that. He also said he knew that lèse majesté charges have been used to silence political opponents.

In the afternoon session, MICT’s Thanit said the computer law permits prosecution of Internet intermediaries. Such charges do not require any proof of intent to defame. Such content is criminal even if only momentary on the website.

Defence lawyers pointed out that the ICT ministry’s website itself linked to media hosting lèse majesté content. The witness stated that MICT could not delete content from third parties so was, therefore not liable for their content. This appears to contradict his statements of Prachatai’s liability for postings, comments and hyperlinks not their own.

Thanit clearly stated, however, that web hosts cannot be held criminally liable for hyperlinks. A website would only be charged if it refused to delete such links at government “request”.

He said, if a web forum is public and not moderated, it can easily violate the computer law. Webmasters knowingly take that risk if they do not censor their boards in a timely fashion. However, there is no time limit—when illegal content is posted, a webmaster is guilty even if such content in promptly removed.

The MICT lawyer stated that he assessed lèse majesté on the basis of the topic, the post and comments to the post when viewed as a whole.

Thanit said it was easier for MICT to prosecute Prachatai as “IP addresses can be manipulated and posters may be hard to find”.

One of the postings for which Chiranuch is charged was titled “Ratchadamnoen, Pantip and Jae Da”. (Pantip is a highly-regulated, moderated and self-censored web forum requiring users to sign their names and provide government identification. Ratchadamnoen was Pantip’s political forum which it closed due to user comments. Jae Da refers to Darunee, Da Torpedo.) The witness stated MICT regards any reference to Da Torpedo to be illegal!

Thanit stated “the uneducated” will believe the comment, “The Queen was behind the military coup.” When the defence asked how the Queen was defamed because 2006’s was regarded as a ‘good coup’. the witness replied, “Because the coup overthrew the government and Constitution.”

Contradicting the testimony yesterday by MICT’s chief censor, Thanit said he found no evidence banned books were sold by Prachatai.

The defence cited a December 2010 report from the iLaw Foundation which found websites hosting alleged lèse majesté content had increased from 900 in 2007 to 35,000 in 2010. The witness thinks their purpose is to abolish Thailand’s monarchy.

Today’s witness closed with a rather chilling statement: “Freedom has its limits.”

Chiranuch’s trial resumes Thursday, February 10, at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya), on Ratchadapisek Road opposite Soi 38, Lat Phrao MTR station. Chiranuch’s trial is in Courtroom 701 on February 10 &11 and 14-17. The case is certain to go overtime but another courtroom slot is unavailable before December.

Alleged NorPhorChorUSA webmaster Tantawut Taweewarodomkul, nicknamed Kenny, is also facing lèse majesté charges under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act as well as similar Criminal Code charges.

Kenny has been held without bail since April 2010. NorPhorChor is an acronym for the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, commonly known as the Redshirts. Tantawut’s trial will enter its second day Thursday, February 10 in Courtroom 906.

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Jazz

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Re: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2011, 08:57:15 AM »
Quote
A posting to Prachatai’s web forum included a hotlink to a Mediafile.com audio file of of a speech made from a Redshirt stage by Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, nicknamed Da Torpedo. Darunee was torpedoed with an 18-year sentence for this instance of lèse majesté in which she called for abolition of the Royals.

Yesterday the Appeal Court annulled the Criminal Court verdict that sentenced Da Torpedo to 18 years in jail for lese majeste. The verdict was quashed because the trial was held in camera and not in public, which was unconstitutional. The charge has not been dismissed. The prosecution can request a fresh trial before the Criminal Court.

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Offline Johnnie F.

Re: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2011, 06:05:58 PM »
Day four: MICT and police lawyers testify

The trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, independent news portal Prachatai’s webmaster continued Thursday in Bangkok’s Criminal Court. Two further prosecution witnesses were called to testify.

The morning session was devoted to MICT lawyer Somsak Supajirawat. He testified to cooperating with the Royal Thai Police after they issued search warrants for the Prachatai offices and an arrest warrant for Chiranuch on March 6, 2009.

Crime Suppression Division police seized six computer’s and Chiranuch laptop. When Jiew was in police custody, her laptop disk was copied in her presence. Of course, all the information—evidence!—recovered was already on the World Wide web.

Following this arrest Chiranuch was charged with four counts of lèse majesté using Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act, each carrying a potential five-year sentence. Somsak was aware of the MICT order to block Prachatai.

However, the MICT lawyer raised serious doubts regarding the continuity, maintenance and integrity of physical, forensic and digital computer evidence as it was monitored, investigated, examined and circulated within the ICT ministry and among several police divisions.

Somsak remembered Jiew well from her arrest. It added a surreal touch to the proceedings to see another prosecution witness smile and greet Chiranuch in the courtroom while attempting to lock her up. Such sincere antics remind observers, “This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around.”

A very real person who is dedicated solely to serving the online community is fighting for her life. The adversarial justice system treats this as a game—the prosecution “wins” when a defendant goes to prison.

The afternoon session saw prosecution witness Pairat Yawong, a private Bangkok lawyer partner of the firm Law Hom 999. A police lieutenant with Crime Suppression Division at Hua Mark police station retained Pairat for the police to examine a single posting to determine its legal status.

The witness declined to provide the officer’s name, citing legal confidentiality even though he had been paid with public funds. When questioned by the defence, Pairat refused to answer if his association with this lieutenant was in regards to the 2004 disappearance of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaichit. Somchai’s disappearance has been linked to Thai police and is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings. This case is still unsolved.

The lawyer found the posting to Prachatai’s webboard by ‘Bento’ referred to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, as well Chitralada Palace, the Royal residence, in an oblique manner. The post mentions the Queen’s attendance at the October 12, 2008 funeral for a 28-year old Yellowshirt woman killed in clashes between police and protestors. This is simply factual reporting but was widely seen as symbolic of the Queen’s support for the PAD.

Although many social activists were killed over the six decades of this Royal family’s sovereignty, no other funeral was ever attended by a member of the Royal family. Although her attendance merely states a fact, Pairat characterised this mention as lèse majesté as it could lead the public to believe the Queen was interfering in Thai politics.

Lawyer Pairat stated that he had no opinion regarding lèse majesté (perhaps the only one in Thailand!) or any suspected movement against the monarchy but that he sometimes turned to Prachatai for news.

The witness testified that the only web fora in which he had participated were regarding legal matters and that his posts always appeared immediately suggesting no monitoring or moderation of posts.

As Pairat stated ‘Bento’’s post insulted the Queen, he said that repetition of lèse majesté could manipulate public opinion against the monarchy “because there is already a climate of public suspicion.”

Jiew’s trial is not a trial for lèse majesté because none of the posts expressed her own opinions. A free press, a free Internet and lèse majesté prosecutions are on trial in this case.

Not only Chiranuch’s freedom but the future of a free Internet is at stake.

Chiranuch’s trial resumes Friday, February 11, at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya), on Ratchadapisek Road opposite Soi 38, Lat Phrao MTR station. Chiranuch’s trial is in Courtroom 701 on February 11 and 14-17, although the judge may postpone next week to allow a schedule to hear all 28 witnesses. The case is certain to go overtime but another courtroom slot is unavailable before December.

The trial of alleged NorPhorChorUSA webmaster Tantawut Taweewarodomkul, nicknamed Kenny, also facing lèse majesté charges under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act as well as similar Criminal Code charges finished today. A judgement will be rendered on March 15 and it appears the prosecution case is rather weak.

Kenny has been held without bail since April 2010. NorPhorChor is an acronym for the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, commonly known as the Redshirts.

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Offline Johnnie F.

Re: Thai webmaster facing 50 years for lèse majesté postings
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2011, 09:09:15 AM »
Day Five - Police scientist testifies for prosecution

The fifth day of trial continued on Friday for independent news portal Prachatai’s webmaster, Chiranuch Premchaiporn independent news portal Prachatai’s webmaster in Bangkok’s Criminal Court.

Chiranuch is charged with ten violations of Thailand’s draconian Computer Crimes Act for alleged lèse majesté. Each count carries a potential sentence of five years imprisonment.

Lieutenant Dr. Wiwat Sittisoradej is a police scientist and has a doctoral degree in physical sciences from Chulalongkorn University appearing for the prosecution.

He copied Chiranuch’s laptop hard disk seized by the police on March 6, 2009 for forensic analysis. Using software developed for the US FBI, he discovered eight modified photos of King Bhumibol to provide the monarch a monkey face which had been deleted from the trash.

These photos must have come from a YouTube video insulting the king. In any case, Chiranuch is not charged with these photos but they were used to set the stage for her accusers.

The police scientist also found eight postings to Prachatai in two folders named ‘Prachatai Webboard’. Although the laptop disk arrived with an evidence sticker, it was unsigned, making verification and continuity of evidence impossible.

Furthermore, the transfer disk provided Wiwat was unsealed, suggesting it was not a new disk and raising the possibility it may have been used in other investigations leaving potentially incriminating artifacts.

The lieutenant worked alone without supervision from other police. Normally, police evidence is printed to use as evidence in court. However, Dr. Wiwat felt such copying would put him in violation of lèse majesté laws himself. He also declined to repeat this information in his report.

He found no evidence that either the deleted images or the eight postings had been created or posted from Chiranuch’s computer.

The most interesting part of the police scientist’s testimony was regarding the way email works. Thunderbird, an offline email client similiar to Microsoft’s Outlook application was found on Jiew’s laptop. As offline clients are set to default save incoming emails and their attachments to disk.

Dr. Wiwat readily conceded the probability that the images and postings were received by Chiranuch in email and were not redistributed by her.

The police witness was shown a report from a lèse majesté seminar held at Thammasat University in 2008. Dr. Wiwat also conceded that statements calling for amendment or repeal of Thailand’s lèse majesté laws used in postings may have come from this document.

Although the police scientist found some of the postings to contain language he considered impolite, he found no direct mentions of the monarchy. Lt. Wiwat said that a computer user could not be in violation for simply receiving these emails.

The witness also found no links to Prachatai by IP address meaning Jiew’s laptop was not the server for Prachatai’s webboard.

Pol. Lt. Dr. Wiwat was the fifth government witness, leaving nine more for the prosecution. As it became obvious trial would not be completed by the end of next week, a decision was made to adjourn for a later date.

Chiranuch’s trial will resume Thursday, September 1st and continue on Sept 2nd, 6th through 9th, 20th and 21st to hear nine remaining prosecution witnesses. The defence will begin on Tuesday, October 11th through 14th to hear eight witnesses.

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