Detained activist’s family protest ‘unlawful’ verdict

The family of detained activist Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, along with other activists and academics, filed a petition with the Supreme Court yesterday (13 November) in protest at the Criminal Court’s sentencing Sopon to jail for using a sound amplifier without permission.

Activists gathering at Government House to file the petition after going to the Supreme Court. One is holding a poster with a picture of Sopon and the message "Free Sopon, our friend." (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Sopon was charged with royal defamation and using a sound amplifier without permission for a speech he gave at a protest on 22 April 2022. On 23 August, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison for royal defamation and 6 months for using a sound amplifier without permission. However, under the Advertisement by Using Sound Amplifiers Control Act, the maximum penalty for the second charge is a fine of 200 baht. Sopon was subsequently denied bail and has been detained pending appeal for over 80 days.

Yesterday (13 November), Tepdaroon Surariddhidhamrong, Sopon’s father, filed a petition with the Supreme Court protesting the verdict, as the sentence given to Sopon exceeds the maximum penalty as stated in law. The petition also said that Sopon’s speech does not constitute an offence under the royal defamation law, because he was using second-person pronouns and could only be interpreted as referring to those present during the speech, such as police officers deployed at the protest.

The petition asked the Supreme Court to launch an inquiry into whether the verdict was in line with the law. If there has been a mistake, the petition says, the court should quickly correct it so that justice will be upheld, as such action severely affects people’s fundamental rights.

The petition was co-signed by Somchai Preechasilpakul, lecturer at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Law; Eakpant Pindavanija of Chulalongkorn University’s Social Research Institute; Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross-Cultural Foundation; and Benjarat Sutjakul, lecturer at Navamindradhiraj University. It was also submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister.

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