By JUTHATHIP LUCKSANAWONG
Decision pending whether to send campaigning case to prosecutors.
THE MILITARY Court yesterday dismissed a police request for a second round of detention for 13 students and labour activists, resulting in seven of them being released from prison, while the remaining six were not required to place bail for their continued freedom.
The court said it did not see any reason to detain the activists further as requested by police, the activists’ lawyer Krisadang Nutjaras said.
The activists were detained for allegedly violating a ban on political gatherings and allegedly campaigning against the draft charter. They were caught handing out leaflets carrying information on the draft charter on June 23 in Samut Prakan province.
After the arrest, six of them sought release on bail, while the other seven refused to acknowledge the charge. The seven have been under detention since.
Police investigators from the Bang Sao Thong Police Station sought to hold the activists for a second 12-day period on grounds that the case was being considered by the station’s chief and that it would have to be forwarded to the military court’s prosecutors.
The police team also said the witness interrogation process has been completed.
The activists’ lawyers filed a counter petition saying the activists would not interfere in the police investigation, and were not likely to flee. Hence, the team said the request for further detention should be dismissed.
Rangsiman Rome, one of the seven detained activists set free, said the time behind bars had presented some problems. He said he and his fellow activists are students and they had to study, plus some of them also had jobs. Rangsiman added that several members of the group had fallen ill or developed skin infections, adding that he himself had lost 13 kilograms and was feeling unwell.
The 24 year-old also insisted that all 13 of them were innocent as they were just taking part in political activities peacefully.
Their lawyer Krisadang said it was now up to the police to decide if their case should be forwarded to the prosecutors, adding that his team was also deliberating on whether it should file a complaint questioning the military court’s jurisdiction on this case.
Amnesty International Thailand had earlier yesterday called on the advocates of human rights to sign a petition calling on the authorities, including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, to immediately and unconditionally release the seven activists and revoke restrictions on the peaceful expression of opinions. The campaign will last until August 15.
Members of the agency also showed up outside the court yesterday morning to show support to the activists. Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan was also there to lend his support.
After pictures of the seven activists in prison uniform, chains and handcuffs being escorted to court went viral, National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit questioned prison policies to chain detainees whose only crime is to express themselves.
She pointed out that the detainees just thought differently from the junta, and were not likely to flee, so why treat them like serious criminals?
She said the pictures proved that such treatment infringed on the activists’ rights, adding that the agency would discuss this matter with the Justice Ministry and the Department of Correction, asking them to decide on a case-by-case basis as to whether detainees should be chained.